It was an historic day on both sides of the Pond — the 10th anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the river, saving all 155 aboard, and the day the old Tappan Zee Bridge deliberately went down, taking with it coincidentally Theresa May’s Brexit deal dream as the House of Commons voted by a more than 2 to 1 margin to reject her plan for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
It was always an untenable situation. Begin with former Prime Minister David Cameron, who — this cannot be stressed enough — anticipated the crisis by fatuously calling for a yes or no binding referendum that he thought would never pass. (Just like we never thought Donald J. Trump would be president. How’s that working out for ya?) Add Trump’s Brit counterpart Boris Johnson and rubber-faced Nigel Farage — who stoked protectionist fears and fudged the numbers to persuade some gullible folks that they would be better off financially, incredibly without E.U. subsidies, then high-tailed it out of there when enough of the public bought the shell game.
Which brings us to Theresa May, Cameron’s home secretary, who stepped in to clean up the mess as PM when Cameron resigned. The good girl, the clergyman’s daughter, May — a Remainer tasked with leave-taking — was not merely eager to please (“Brexit means Brexit”). She was yet another victim of power’s blandishments, the last woman standing, the adult in the room, who mistook that for the belief that her constituents saw in her a charismatic leader, the second coming of Margaret Thatcher. It’s a misapprehension that could prove politically fatal as Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — who’s no genius on the Gordion knot that is Brexit — has called for a vote of no confidence on May and her government.
Now what? Stay or go? Yes or no? There are several options — a general election, a second referendum — none of them good. Had May been a real leader, she would’ve had the guts to call for a do-over since the vote was based on fraudulent information. But she’s under the misapprehension that the public is always right — people once loved Hitler, didn’t they? — and that a leader’s job is to follow the voters rather than steer them away from their worst impulses.
She would’ve explained that Brexit was always untenable — not just because of the way it came about but because it’s a solution that has no question. Or rather it answers the wrong question. Brexit was never about hordes of immigrants coming to England. It was always about racism and the fear of globalism. And you can’t have an honest discussion unless you’re honest with yourself.
The truth is the E.U. hasn’t taken away any of its members’ sovereignty. I’ve been to an E.U. country — Greece. They may speak English and accept Euros, but the people still speak Greek; they enjoy going to cafés at night and church in the morning; they take great care of their monuments, often with a clean, state-of-the-art museum in every town. They celebrate their Greek past while reveling in their future with E.U. money. I saw the building of a driverless subway on Venizelou Street in Thessaloniki and road on a sleek superhighway — all created with E.U. money.
As in America, there are jobs in the U.K. for native (that is, white) working-class people. But employers can’t fill them. It’s the immigrants who do the crap work that those who’ve moved up the ladder sniff at. It was people of color who planted cotton and people of color today who clean the houses, landscape the gardens and man the convenience stores.
The immigrants were good enough to colonize and good enough to import for cheap labor but not good enough to be citizens. Yet you can’t build your happiness on the backs of others’ misery. The chickens have come home to roost. And there’s no solution as to what to do with them.