Have you heard the one about the husband who comes home to his wife of thirty years and tells her he wants a divorce?
“Honey,” the husband says, “this just isn’t working for me. I feel trapped and I need to get out of this marriage while I’m still young enough to enjoy my life.”
The wife, stunned, replies, “Are you kidding me? After all these years together you’re leaving me?”
“Yes, but don’t worry, it won’t be all that bad. I’ll still come over on weekends and we can see each other from time to time. You can keep the kids, I’ll take the dog. We’ll be able to see other people. It’ll be great. Oh, and by the way, can you please not change the locks on me? Otherwise, I won’t be able to get back in the house when I want, and I do so like this house.”
“Fuck you,” the wife screams at her husband.
“Honey, you don’t understand, it’ll be alright, you’re just overreacting. Let’s talk about this.”
“Fuck you,” the wife repeats to her clueless husband.
“Come on, now, calm down.”
“No, fuck you. Get out.”
“Is there anyway we can work this out?”
“What part of fuck you don’t you get?”
And that, my friends, is Brexit in a nutshell. The United Kingdom held a referendum in 2016 in which a majority of the population voted to leave a decades-old marriage to the European Union because it felt trapped. But then it had the audacity to believe it could dictate the terms of the divorce. And for the last three years, the E.U. has been telling the U.K. to take a hike; in other words, to go fuck itself. But the U.K. doesn’t seem to be getting the hint.
Theresa May tried twice to get a deal done with the E.U., to no avail. Now Boris Johnson has struck a deal to leave the Union, but like his predecessor, this deal also lacks the support to pass the British Parliament. Which underscores the difficulty with divorces; they tend to be messy. Both sides dig in their heals in an attempt to gain as much leverage as possible. And to complicate things further, that same majority who voted to leave the E.U. in 2016 appear to be having second thoughts.
According to David Frum, the “British people have told pollsters that they voted wrong in the Brexit referendum of June 2016.” Funny thing about single life: like the neighbor’s lawn, it always looks better than it really is. No matter how boring and predictable home cooking can be, it beats the hell out of canned soup and day-old bread, which is what the U.K. might’ve been stuck with had it exited the E.U. with a bad deal or no deal at all.
The lies that the pro-Brexit advocates peddled on a frightened and vulnerable population are finally starting to be revealed. And even though a majority of conservatives in Parliament continue to support leaving the E.U., many of them are starting to realize that they might have bitten off more than they can chew. It’s easy to start a divorce proceeding; it’s a lot harder to move out of a house you’ve lived in most of your adult life. Politics aside, it may be impossible to strike a deal with Europe without significant consequences to the British people.
And that brings me back across the pond. The same fear that drove millions of Britons to vote to leave a European Union that, despite all its flaws, has brought untold prosperity to them, was also responsible for the rise of Donald Trump in the States. His election the same year as Brexit was no coincidence.
Like Johnson and Nigel Farage, Trump’s entire campaign was based on a series of deceptions: the biggest of which was that he could return the country back to a time when American industry ruled the world and most people looked and sounded alike. As in Europe, immigration was made out to be the boogie man; an existential threat to the nation.
But the real threat, as it turns out, was Trump and his toxic brand of populism. His tariffs have hit many of the people who voted for him the hardest, and his rhetoric has exposed him for the racist he truly is. You can only shout fire in a crowded movie theater so many times before the audience begins to tune you out. Slowly but surely, people are growing tired of Trump’s rantings and his antics. He has never been terribly popular, despite a loyal base, and with the House of Representatives all but certain to impeach him for his conduct in the Ukraine scandal, his presidency remains in doubt.
If the U.K. decides to hold another referendum on Brexit, which I sincerely believe is a possibility, it is more than likely that a majority will vote to remain in the E.U. this time around. And if that does indeed happen, it could prove to be a bellwether for how things might go in this country in 2020.
As in all nationalist movements, there comes a point where the truth wins out over lies; fear is replaced with hope; light triumphs over darkness; and the people rise up against those who played them for fools.