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Brexit Is Our Concern Too

As Americans, we tend to look upon what is now happening in Britain as a far-off, complex problem which is something of secondary importance to us. However, we recently had friends visit us from the United Kingdom (UK) and to them, “Brexit,” as it is called, is a matter of deepening concern and a vital issue in determining the future of their country.

Our friends are Tories, which means “conservatives.” In this country, they would probably be described as moderate Republicans or conservative Democrats. In the vote three years ago on whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union (EU,) they voted to remain aligned with Europe.

However, now there are not so sure. They are a well-traveled couple and have lived in many places in the world. However, they are also cognizant that being a part of something like the EU is expensive, and they are reluctant to see a decline in British sovereignty. Nevertheless, they are also keenly aware of the long history of war and conflict in Europe and don’t want to see that happen again.

The politics in the U.K., like that in our country, has become very polarized and it is hard to find middle ground. There is a strong dislike for the British Labor Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has been viewed as a communist. On the other hand, the current Tory Leader, Boris Johnson, has been equated as a British Donald Trump, and so he is not a particularly unifying figure to rally around either.

In one of our many conversations on the subject, there seemed to be general agreement that much of the current crisis was brought on by the unneeded promise of former Prime Minister David Cameron to submit the whole matter of leaving the EU up to a popular vote. A lot of misinformation was decimated during the course of that referendum, and the British are just now discovering what it will cost them in money and national prestige if they depart and go it alone from the rest of Europe. The referendum was also a lesson that sometimes representative government can deal with complex problems better than can direct government by popular vote.

No matter how this all “shakes out,” we, as Americans, should not think that we will be immune from the consequences. We invested a lot in human life and treasure in two World Wars in the 20th century in resolving political differences in Europe. We have also invested a lot since World War II in helping establish organizations like the EU and NATO to deal with the security and prosperity of Europe. So, we should not have just a “ho-hum” attitude about what happens now in that part of the world.

The British don’t have a written Constitution like we do. However, they have a deeply engrained constitutional system which relies on tradition and past legal and political precedents. This controversy is straining and testing that system. In the end, that system should hold regardless of who the leaders are but, in the interim–the citizens of the UK are under stress as the saga plays itself out.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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