April 12, 2024

UK-US un-special relationship

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
The UK-US un-special relationship
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – Russian President Vladimir Putin said liberal democracy is obsolete to which European Union’s Council President Donald Tusk replied: "Whoever claims that liberal democracy is obsolete also claims that freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete. What I find really obsolete are authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs, even if sometimes they may seem effective.”
          However, the rise of populism is unraveling democracy in Britain and its repercussions are being felt in several democratic nations, including the United States.
          Newly installed British prime minister Boris Johnson pulled off the equivalent of a coup by obtaining the Queen’s permission to suspend Parliament for five weeks as he muscles through Britain’s long promised exit from the EU.
         Johnson backs what’s known as a hard or no-deal Brexit, which would close the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, which along with England, Scotland, and Wales comprise The United Kingdom. His predecessor, Theresa May, tried to finesse this so as not to disturb the “Good Friday” agreement negotiated by former U.S. Senate leader George Mitchell in 1998.
         The agreement found a political solution that ended the sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics known as “the troubles.” The open border is key to the agreement’s success, and critics warn of crippling economic repercussions and a resurgence of violence if the border is closed.
         Johnson and his pro-Brexit backers say only a closed border will create a real Brexit. Otherwise, free trade and free transit with the European Union would continue unabated.
         So, Johnson went to the Queen and requested a suspension of Parliament from September 12 until a new Parliament assembles with the Queen’s speech on October 14, the longest such suspension since World War II.
         The Queen approved this, which is what she is expected to do when her prime minister makes such a request. On the surface it appeared to be reasonable. The current Parliament has stayed longer than usual because Theresa May kept trying to win approval for Brexit with a “back door” to avoid a hard-Irish border.
         Johnson is a wily character, Trumpian in style and autocratic in policies, he’s on borrowed time to figure out a way to get Brexit through or he will suffer the same fate as his predecessor. So, his idea is to silence the legislature by sidelining its members for most of the time between now and the October 31st Brexit deadline.
         It’s a clever ploy but it simultaneously undermines democracy and the monarchy. It would have been an extraordinary act of courage if the Queen had rebuffed Johnson, but there’s no indication she wanted to. The Daily Beast reported that the Queen questions dinner guests, “Give me THREE good reasons why Britain should be part of Europe?”
         Johnson only has a one-vote majority in Parliament, and It includes the 10 members from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who oppose a hard Brexit but oppose a no-confidence motion.
         This would be good for Johnson, and here’s why. A vote of no-confidence would end the Johnson tenure, and if no other person receives a majority a new election would be held. The next largest party, Labour, is led by Jeremy Corbyn, a far-left politician even more unpopular than Johnson.
         Why should Americans care about this? First, this is Trump territory. Johnson is Britain’s Trump, a right-wing populist with an imperious style, and the two men are in cahoots. Trump is interfering and promising Johnson the best-ever trade deal once Britain leaves the EU.
         Trump and Johnson give a whole new meaning to the special relationship the United States and Britain have long enjoyed. They are authoritarians, and this step by Johnson strikes at the heart of democracy and the potential beginning of an un-special relationship if the two greatest democracies in the world give only lip service to their democratic ideals.
         Suspending Parliament to silence critics is a page out of Putin’s playbook, and it sets a precedent Trump might wish he could mimic. If British democracy takes a big hit thanks to Johnson, Trump will follow suit. He’s found a soulmate, and that’s cause for concern on both sides of the ocean.
         But Trump has other methodologies to set the stage for an election he might lose. He’s talked of millions of fraudulent votes cast in the last presidential election, claiming he would have won New Hampshire if it weren’t for these illegal votes. What might he claim in the 2020 presidential election? Perhaps Boris will have some ideas.
         Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2019 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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