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This article was published 11/3/2019 (491 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As Canadians watch Britain stumble toward separation from the European Union, it’s hard to believe this was once regarded as Canada’s mother country. The old dear is so helpless and confused now. Can this really be the same country Canadians of former generations respectfully followed?
The helplessness and confusion are on display every day. Today, for example, the British House of Commons is supposed to vote once again on the proposed terms by which the United Kingdom will end its membership in the European Union on March 29. This is the same plan that the same house rejected on Jan. 15 by a majority of 230 votes.
If the house again rejects the terms, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to ask members if they want to leave the EU without an agreement on the terms of separation, which is a nutty idea defended by some of the most ardent anti-Europeans in her own party. If Parliament says they don’t want a no-deal exit, then she planned to ask them if they want to delay the exit beyond the scheduled March 29 date.
The argument for delay would be that two weeks is not long enough to renegotiate the exit terms. The argument against is that two years of negotiation produced the present terms and nothing will change in the next few months to produce a different result. But if the exit is delayed past March 29 and nothing changes, then it will have to be delayed again. Britain will become the EU member that has decided to leave, but never actually leaves.
Meanwhile, a small but growing number of members of Parliament want a do-over of the June 23, 2016, referendum in which 51.9 per cent of voters favoured quitting the EU. The Labour opposition wants Mrs. May to call an election, assuming Labour will become the government and will supposedly negotiate a different agreement on the terms of exit. But Labour is also open to the idea of a second referendum.
There is no sign of a majority in Parliament or in the country favouring any particular way forward. Britain doesn’t want to stay, doesn’t want to go and can’t think of anything else but its quarrel with itself over whether to stay or go.
Mercifully, Canada is not much harmed by cognitive paralysis in the U.K . A century ago, things were different. Britain declared war on Germany in 1914 and Canada, as part of Britain’s empire, had no choice but to join the war and conscript its unwilling citizens to go and fight. That war weakened Britain’s hold on its empire. Power has been slipping away ever since.
Canadians today can acknowledge a sentimental tie to the mother country of yesterday, but it’s no longer up to us to extend a supporting arm or assume trusteeship when the old dear proves unable to handle her own affairs.
In a sense, it is the same country as it used to be. It goes by the same name and occupies the same islands between France and Ireland. But it has lost its grip, lost its understanding of where it stands in the world and where its own best interests lie. Now the political leaders in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic — offspring of the former empire — must dictate to Britain what she can and cannot do.
Canada at least is spared from that thankless task.
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