As much as nationalists talk about what they value unity, democracy and tradition, nationalism always turns out to be the most divisive, anti-democratic and disrespectful political principle imaginable.
The Brexit variety is no different. It was entirely predictable that it was not going to free a sovereign country from its so-called European shackles, but rather free a political elite from all restraint.
Now that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has fallen from grace and been exposed for what he is and what everyone knew him to be, there is a sense of relief in Brussels. And, of course, on the European continent there is a bit of schadenfreude (complacency for the misfortune of others) because he has finally received what he deserved.
However, no one is under any illusions that Johnson’s march from Downing Street will solve any of the underlying problems in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. The damage caused by the outgoing prime minister, with the project that he instrumentalized to reach power, endures.
An economic nonsense
On the economy, it persists to the point where even Labor finds it impossible to distance itself from the central issue now hurting Britain: Brexit itself. Trying to “make Brexit work”, the slogan used by Labor leader Keir Starmer when he rules out re-entering the EU in the future, could be a political imperative for at least another generation. But it is still an economic nonsense beyond all logic.
No adjustment to the practical details of Brexit can remedy the fundamental inconsistency it generates. Self-imposed isolation from the nearest and most important trading partner hurts UK small businesses when they try to trade with customers in neighboring countries, drives big business to look elsewhere to invest, and dismantles labor markets to the detriment of both employers and employers. as well as job seekers.
The self-destruction of democracy
As for the UK’s political relationship with the EU, I think – although I’ll be happy to be corrected if I’m wrong – that none of the names that sound in the Conservative Party for the candidacy for prime minister have had a much more constructive attitude than Johnson.
As for the geopolitical unity of the democratic West, make no mistake, there may not be an exact translation of the word schadenfreude, but the autocrats, from Moscow to Beijing, know what it is perfectly. They are enjoying every minute of the show, whose plot is not just the removal of the prime minister, but the self-destruction of one of the world’s leading democracies and the impact this has on their democratic alliances.
Last week, the Chinese embassy in Ireland trolled Johnson after he tweeted that the UK had fulfilled its obligations to Hong Kong. “We made a promise to the people of Hong Kong 25 years ago. We intend to abide by it,” Johnson boasted. The Chinese government sarcastically replied to his statement with the mockery: “Two years ago we made a promise with the Northern Ireland Protocol. We are determined to break it.”
Every policy has a global reach. The discredited, exhausted and fractured populist politics left behind by Johnson and the man he so admired, former US President Donald Trump, will haunt us all for years to come.
If anything positive can come out of the impending leadership contest, it would be a commitment from the next UK Prime Minister that he will resolve outstanding issues under the Northern Ireland protocol and abandon destructive bluster and actions that undermine the right international.
Citizens of continental Europe can only hope that the Conservative Party in the UK will once and for all turn its back not only on this man, but on his method. It is time for democracies to rise to the occasion.
Guy Verhofstadt is an MEP. In 2016, he was chosen by the European Parliament as the representative of the European Union in the negotiations for the UK’s exit from the EU. He was Prime Minister of Belgium between 1999 and 2008.
Translation of Emma Reverter