Tags: brexit | boris johnson | donald trump

Brexit: Boris Johnson as Trump's Brother in Arms

Brexit: Boris Johnson as Trump's Brother in Arms
Prime Minister Boris Johnson raises his arm as he leaves Fox Valley Shopping Park on September 13, 2019, in Sheffield, England. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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Friday, 13 September 2019 04:35 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The gravity of the Brexit political and legal crisis, the UK exit from the European Union, evokes for the British the question of their national identity and independence and for their European neighbors the viability of Europe as a supra-national governing body.

The green light for Britain to leave Europe came through a Referendum where a slight majority of the English public was persuaded to vote for Brexit by a campaign characterizing government elites, including the EU Commission in Brussels, as favoring globalization, immigration, and financial interest to the detriment and neglect of the English, hard-working middle class.

What was blamed for the English common man not benefitting from the overall economic expansion sounds curiously familiar to Americans.

The brazen and flamboyant spokesman for Brexit, Boris Johnson, who became prime minister following more than two years of failed efforts by Theresa May, his predecessor, to find an acceptable way to leave the European Union, is considered to have a lot in common with Donald Trump.

What is it about these men and the problems they are confronted with that can help bring light to the complexities of Brexit?

Both believe that they personally give expression to and therefore represent the national interest above and beyond what can be expected from established institutions. In the case of England, Boris knows better than his Parliament, even if he is a creature of Parliament. In the case of the U.S., Donald thinks that the country has been hamstrung by Congress and the too liberal courts. They both are aggressively and passionately against the elites and consider themselves the voice of the common man. The bedfellows of the upper most economic and social classes and what can be termed the populists (one might use the expression populace) is a similar phenomenon in England and the United States.

To defend and promote the national interest, especially by limiting immigration, both men in one way or another see themselves as taking on a predominant role vis-à-vis their respective parliaments.

Mr. Johnson is an outstanding member of the English upper classes who has devoted his life to politics whereas Mr. Trump had virtually no experience in politics or government and gained national recognition through prominence through his success as a real estate developer and his television program "The Apprentice" (no pun intended). Furthermore, as background, but nevertheless very important, Mr. Johnson owes his appointment as prime minister to his political party having gained the greatest number of parliamentary seats and not to a national election. This means that he is the chief of government but not the Chief of State, that glorious role belonging, with one brief exception in the 17th century, to the British monarchy.

Brexit began when in 2016 the Prime Minister David Cameron asked that there be a referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union and it was a shock when the referendum produced a slight majority in favor of leaving.

More than two years have gone by with the UK still in the Union and without resolution of the terms acceptable to the EU and the UK. Leaving did not prove easy because the referendum instructed the government to get out of Europe but left open the terms. Should, for example, the UK stay as part of the customs zone where goods and services are not taxed? And does maintaining acceptable terms mean that Great Britain should pay part of its estimated $100 billion owed to the EU as its part of the current and last budgets and amounts to be allocated for direct assistance to Britain?

Mr. Johnson, fed up with this endless negotiating process, finally declared that, irrespective of the success of negotiations, the UK would leave the European Union by October 31. This meant that without an agreement the Brexit would be hard, meaning Britain would be in a strange no man's land not knowing whether the significant trade with all of Europe would be taxed and also not knowing how to manage and govern frontiers. Northern Ireland which as part of the UK would be leaving Europe while The Republic of Ireland, an independent country would stay, and Scotland, as part of the UK, does not want to leave and risks to separate from the UK to be able to stay.

Boris taking over has meant confrontation and even conflict with the Parliament who refuses his usurping their power, and even some Boris fellow Tories have been forced to leave their seats and withdraw from politics. Boris’s moves, counter moves, and gambits include his going to the Queen to get approval to suspend Parliament for 5 weeks and proposing a general election where a new Parliament with more favorable members would revoke the present parliament refusal of a no deal exit. Some astute but cynical political analysts see the similarities and even warm friendship between Boris and Donald as indicating a behind the scenes understanding that the U.S. will afford the UK privileged trade status, allowing Europe to weaken to the advantage of a new and stronger Atlantic alliance.

In England the confrontation between the man who believes he was invested with some form of supreme power to represent the people above and beyond the elected institution turned into their Civil War in the 17th century, where Parliament ousted and beheaded Charles I. In the United States our violence took place in a geographical war between the North and South but forms of presidential abuse of power were relegated to the less violent path of impeachment.

The major question is whether the chief at the top, prime minister or president being right to consider institutions have not been fast, nimble, and flexible to face real problems, justifies their walk over or around the established processes that democracy requires.

One cannot but think back to one of the principle tenets of the Communist seizure of power and tyrannical abuse of human rights Russia and China: “The Ends justify the Means.”

But those who pretend to hold that there are greater truths can’t keep from repeating what Winston Churchill said:

"Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time (and have proven still worse.…)”

Mark L. Cohen has his own legal practice, and was counsel at White & Case starting in 2001, after serving as international lawyer and senior legal consultant for the French aluminum producer Pechiney. Cohen was a senior consultant at a Ford Foundation Commission, an advisor to the PBS television program "The Advocates," and Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He teaches U.S. history at the business school in Lille l’EDHEC. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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MarkLCohen
The gravity of the Brexit political and legal crisis, the UK exit from the European Union, evokes for the British the question of their national identity and independence and for their European neighbors the viability of Europe as a supra-national governing body.
brexit, boris johnson, donald trump
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2019-35-13
Friday, 13 September 2019 04:35 PM
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