The Autocracy Within Britain’s Democracy
Ever since Brexit, Britain has suffered a tumultuous political history as the nation’s political representatives fail to reach a deal with the European Union (EU).
Ever since Brexit, Britain has suffered a tumultuous political history as the nation’s political representatives fail to reach a deal with the European Union (EU). Recently, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been tasked with securing a deal to leave the EU.
However, after three years of indecisiveness, Johnson has already proposed a set of unorthodox ideas, claiming that he “would rather die in a ditch” than request for another Brexit delay. His “die-hard” methods have been contentious and garnered both support from the people and criticism from many Conservative Parliament members. In light of Britain’s current scramble, Johnson has called for snap elections on October 15, 2019 and plans to pull Britain from the Union on October 31. But here’s the catch. Johnson is willing to do so, with or without a deal. Considering the treacherous position this would place Britain in, it’s no wonder the decision has left many politicians concerned about Britain’s future. Amidst recent events of dismissing those in disagreement with him by calling for early elections to gain a parliamentary majority and proposing his new Brexit date to placate voters, Johnson’s leadership appears to benefit his own political interests more than his country’s, therefore undermining the purpose of his role as Prime Minister.
In response to his critics, Johnson ejected 21 lawmakers from his Party, called his colleagues derogatory terms, and continues to follow the path of a belligerent politician. This isn’t to say that belligerence is an inherent wrong in politics: At times, it may be necessary. However, Johnson’s task is one that requires compromise. The very notion of Brexit is one that has caused significant contentiousness in the UK with many accusing the result of the referendum as being a product of shrewdly, crafted campaigns rather than the country’s true belief. Even now, some polling suggests that a new referendum would actually reverse the decision. With this in mind, Johnson’s actions seem extremely counter-productive to the task of compromise. If there were any sign that could provide insight into the state of “compromise” that Johnson has brought, it would be the recent resignation by none other than Johson’s brother, Jo Johnson, who said that he was “torn between family loyalty and the national interest.”
Regardless of the nation’s current political position, it is undeniable that Britain’s relationship with the Union has earned the country many economic benefits. Britain’s trade interests are heavily reliant on the EU, as “more than 50 percent of [Britain’s] exports go to European countries.” Membership in the Union also grants countries to partake in free trade exempt from tariffs and other barriers. Additionally, Britain also benefited from financial services that were offered without restriction across the continent, and many British businesses have survived on European consumers. Thus, exiting the union without a properly drawn-out deal will leave the highly dependent country on its own. Without establishing a new and mutually agreeable relationship with the EU, Britain will essentially be stripped from its European ties which will heavily affect the economy. Yet instead of prioritizing the future of the nation, Johnson is more focused on lifting people from their doubt and appeasing the public. His Brexit pledge, a metaphorical “all-in” bet, has proven popular among citizens who may have originally lost faith in making Brexit a reality. Yet, actualizing Brexit without a deal is equivalent to forfeiting the purpose of the entire process. If the purpose of Brexit was to make the UK stronger, diving into a decision without a well sought-out plan will only harm the nation in the future.
No matter where people stand, Johnson should prioritize the security of the nation and have a clear vision of how to achieve that goal in the most effective way. Although a true authority figure should certainly listen to the public’s concerns, making rational decisions to help a country achieve its goals serves as a greater responsibility. Sometimes, these choices may not align with the public’s opinion because a citizen might not always foresee what’s best for the country; it is the leader’s duty to operate with a country’s long term interests in mind, not his or her own. However, in Johnson’s case, the public acts as his puppeteer and dictates his decisions instead. While a democracy certainly relies on the people, its primary goal is not appeasement.
In retrospect, Johnson’s tenure is counter-productive to the promises he has made to the British people. Although such a political system is predicated upon the people, it does not mean that a leader should seek immediate popularity. Not every decision needs to be ratified by the people, but the purpose of having a leader is so that he or she can determine the best way to reach a common objective. By forcibly pulling Britain out of the EU without a plan and an affirmed deal, Johnson’s appeal to the public puts Britain’s economy in jeopardy. Instead, he should be cooperating with his political counterparts—as opposed to driving them away—and working to prioritize Britain’s future in order to establish a true commonwealth system.