The current political turmoil in the UK is just a display of the failure of the winner takes all approach that marks most of the UK's political debate. The only road ahead for Prime Minister May is to make it work with a deal that both sides of the house of commons can live with. But this is certainly not a done deal.
While the whole world is watching the Brits themselves have already turned away from government undertakings, having no interest in any live broadcast nor summaries in newspapers as I discovered during my visit to our UK office last week. Most of the people have no confidence in their MPs, who have shown not to be able to make the right choices on their behalf. This disability was best demonstrated by the Referendum that was held almost two and a half years ago by the then Prime Minister David Cameron. It was an election promise easily made, winning him the popular vote, but not having counted todays losses. May is adament that there are only two options: revoking article 50 and remain EU member (which would not respect the outcome of the referendum) or have a deal and leave the EU in an orderly fashion. However, just as much as the speaker of the house fails to restore order, May is unable to build bridges across the aisle, with Jeremy Corbyn refusing to speak to her about a deal as he wants to see her go. There is just one consensus across the ailse: Leaving without a deal is not an option. May has to produce a real 'bloody Mary' to break the deadlock in British politics.
Just like this most favored drink in the UK, a mix of tomato juice and vodka, May aims to deliver a compromise to the British people, mixing Brexiteers' desires with Remainers' wish lists into a new deal with the European Union. On both sides of this political divide are uneasy marriages of Tories and Whigs. Labor remainers frantically calling for a second referendum trying to confirm the desire of the younger generation to remain in the EU and May refusing to give in, wanting to respect the will of the British people (even if that will is dated two and a half years back), as asking the British people again would present a failure of her government to deliver on the will of the people. At the same time populists amongst the conservatives playing their constituencies hoping for the British Empire to raise from the ashes with trade deals around the world, but not willing to consider a deal with the European Union that would prolong EU regulations to govern their actions. In the meantime white collars in neighbouring offices of financial firms and global corporates are waiting in the shadows to see how this dog-fight plays out. Some are already choosing with their feet opting for the Netherlands, where their liberal friend Prime Minister Mark Rutte is still in charge and has been navigating a lot of complexity in Dutch politics over the last decade, while keeping a good steer on the tax climate for multinationals.
Reasons for many brexiteers to escape the EU are linked to the desire for less regulation and more sovereignty. However, paradoxically a departure from Europe will require a spike in regulations in the UK to stay competitive in the global market. Hence, the British politicians are advised to be at the right side of the table when the terms of trade are being negotiated between the UK and the EU. As it turns out such is definitely not a done deal yet and could result in a real "bloody" Ma(r)y marking the end of her political career.
May would do well in taking an example in her Ethiopian colleague Abiy Ahmed, who has been able to bring opposites together in a rather hostile political environment in Ethiopia. With his own political party dominating Ethiopian politics for decades, he met with 81 opposition parties over the past week. Dealing with strong undercurrents in his own party he started to reach out to former enemies both domestically as internationally and aims to reconcile Ethiopians with each other and their neighbours while opening up to foreign investment and influence. Likewise, instead of delivering a Bloody Mary, Therese May could change course and become the 'Mother Theresa' of British politics. She could reach out to the Labor constituency in aiming to serve not just the British people but especially the poor Brits as well as those seeking refuge. That could change the discourse from a what is best for Britain to a what is best for the world and therefore benefits Britain. It could make people favour Britain again, not just as a destination for asylum seekers, but also for companies and economic migrants, filling holes in the social fabric while providing highly needed labour force for key-service delivery.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
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Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.