There’ll always be an England, a point reinforced last week by the Conservative Party revolt against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempt to make an end-run around Parliament and leave the European Union on Oct. 31 on his own terms — without a deal to manage future relations between Britain and the European trade and customs union.
Enough of Johnson’s fellow Conservatives rebelled to block that plan, which many economists and others predict would be a disaster for Great Britain, perhaps leading to shortages of food, fuel and medicine as well as devastating some manufacturers. Johnson blithely dismisses this analysis as fear-mongering, but reports by his own government do not sustain that rosy view, according to The New York Times.
But perhaps more than the prospect of a catastrophic Brexit, what enraged the score of Conservatives who defected was Johnson’s attempt to circumvent consideration of the issue by suspending sittings of Parliament for five weeks before the end-of-October deadline. That amounted, in their view, to trampling on England’s unwritten constitution and overturning political norms, something they were unwilling to countenance, even from a Conservative government.
Johnson, who bears a striking political resemblance to President Donald Trump, retaliated by purging the rebels from the party for disloyalty. Nonetheless, they have apparently thwarted his Brexit machinations for the time being, and he has called for a general election to determine the country’s future course in — or out of — Europe.
The terms on which Britain leaves the European Union are certainly important, but the most significant effect of this revolt, the ringleaders of which included several of the party’s longest-serving and most distinguished members, may be that it draws a line in the sand against attempts to subvert the democratic process. It represents the most stinging rebuke yet to the bully-boy tactics of right-wing populism since the global return of the nativists began a few years ago. The contrast with the United States could not be starker. Here, craven Republican officeholders have swallowed the Trump administration’s worse excesses without even gagging.