Tags: germany | gustav | haakon | norway | quisling | sweden

Queen Should Send Her Gov't Back to Brexit Drawing Board

queen elizabeth II of great britain

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II waits for the arrival by open carriage of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank following their wedding in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, near London, England, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. (Alastair Grant/AP Pool)

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Tuesday, 18 December 2018 10:57 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The extraordinary political impasse in the UK over Brexit may require an extraordinary solution. English tradition holds that monarchs must refrain from making policy decisions.

But Queen Elizabeth II may need to step in, overrule the referendum, the cabinet, and the prime minister, announcing that her country will not be leaving the European Union (EU) after all.

Although majorities in some parts of the country were opposed, a narrow majority of the total population voted in 2016 to leave the Union. But Prime Minister Theresa May has found it nearly impossible to negotiate divorce terms satisying both Union leaders and her own cabinet.

Several cabinet ministers have resigned, objecting to the deal she negotiated.

The House of Commons will probably reject it.

European leaders are reluctant to make the concessions that May needs to bolster support for Brexit back at home. If Brexit goes too smoothly for England, it might tempt other countries in the Union to go their own way.

Exiting the Union without a deal could be disastrous.

Modern economies are very interdependent and such a Brexit would disrupt international arrangements in manufacturing, banking, and other important parts of the economy.

Food may become scarce, medicines unavailable, travel to and from continental Europe snarled in red tape.

Some are demanding a second referendum to see if a majority still favors Brexit.

Others claim this would negate the will of the people expressed in the first referendum.

Why a second referendum would not be equally an expression of the people's will is never explained, and indeed it might be considered an "appeal from the public drunk to the public sober." Having learned what its actual consequences could be, many may now regret having supported Brexit.

The current situation is a colossal mess.

It seems almost impossible to combine Brexit, with or without a deal, with a satisfactory arrangement that preserves the open border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Elected politicians are unable to determine what to do; emotions have been aroused, reputations won and lost, and it's becoming harder and harder for leaders to talk sense.

A new prime minister or new elections probably wouldn't improve matters. But, as Prime Minister May recently noted, "The British people don't want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit."

What better time for Queen Elizabeth II — for the first time in her 65 years on the throne — to make an authoritative decision on her own, one that unties the knot that the politicians have twisted themselves into?

There are precedents for constitutional monarchs to take personal decisions during extreme emergencies. During World War II King Haakon VII of Norway threatened to abdicate if his cabinet agreed to German demands that he appoint Vidkun Quisling as prime minister. They didn't. (This is the subject of a fascinating recent film, "The King's Choice".)

King Gustav V of Sweden convinced his ministers to allow German troops to be transported through his neutral country by a similar threat to abdicate, perhaps out of fear that if Sweden rejected the demand Germany would invade.

Half a century ago I carefully studied the royal role in modern constitutional monarchies. My doctoral dissertation at Johns Hopkins University was "The Monarchical Institution in Constitutional Monarchy". (You can read it on-line here.)

I'm well aware that for Queen Elizabeth II to make a personal policy decision would violate the custom that constitutional monarchs must reign but not rule and that policy decisions must be made by ministers responsible to an elected parliament. Nevertheless, it appears to me that the current situation would justify an unusual action by the queen.

Here is how she could do it: She would address the nation on television, sketch out the problem, and note that the elected officials are unable to resolve the problem. Admitting that her action is highly unusual, she could say that it would be irresponsible for her not to act when the elected officials can't: "It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it."

The queen would announce that she has informed the European Union that the United Kingdom is not going to withdraw from it. If a future prime minister and cabinet were to start a Brexit process all over again, she would promise not to interfere, but given the discombobulation it would produce she would strongly advise against doing it.

The current emergency is the United Kingdom's biggest since World War II.

Queen Elizabeth II would be fully justified in forcing her government back to square one, giving it and the population time to reconsider the wisdom of pulling out of the European Union.

Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1966, and has been a National Merit Scholar, an NDEA Fellow, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and a Fellow in Law and Political Science at the Harvard Law School. His college textbook, "Thinking About Politics: American Government in Associational Perspective," was published in 1981 and his most recent book is "Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets." His columns have appeared in newspapers in Michigan, Oregon, and a number of other states. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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PaulFdeLespinasse
What better time for Queen Elizabeth II, for the first time in her 65 years on the throne, to make an authoritative decision on her own, one that unties the knot that the politicians have twisted themselves into?
germany, gustav, haakon, norway, quisling, sweden
877
2018-57-18
Tuesday, 18 December 2018 10:57 AM
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