UK Brexit plan needs a ‘Roman dictator’

On May 24, 2019 UK Prime Minister Theresa May wept. Whether it was for dramatic effect or natural, anyone who has followed her three-year effort to deliver the hard assignment of Brexit, would have thought she has been holding back from breaking down.

It’s interesting that May chose May to announce her resignation from what I like to call, UK’s chaotic parliamentary democracy. The number of times a Prime Minister is interrupted and sat down, when delivering a presentation on the floor of parliament requires heavenly tolerance.

But first, May should be applauded for, first of all, accepting to take on a job that no other politician in the UK at the time, wanted or knew how to even do…delivering BREXIT after the surprise referendum result three years ago. It was the most undesirable job at the time. It still probably is.

The decision by the Conservative Party to make May,Prime Minister was surprising considering that she, in 2016 had opposed UK’s departure from the European Union. So, by accepting the job, she showed selflessness and commitment to serving her country, even against her own belief.

I therefore believed her, when she said in a teary voice that, “It is, and will always remain, a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.”

She has herself to blame to an extent. I believe she made a fundamental mistake when she called for that snap- election in 2017. The result was self-inflicted damage when her party lost majority seats and ushered in more voices of dissent and an uncomfortable coalition government.

Indeed, events since that negative 2017 snap-election result have all been indicating that May will not be the leader that delivers Brexit to Britons; in fact, most observers are surprised she has made it this far. Her perseverance is an aspect she addressed in the resignation statement.

She said, “I believe it was right to persevere, even when the odds against success seemed high.”

Towards the end of 2018, May clinched a deal with EU leadership. But that was because it was not favorable enough to the UK and it was rejected by a parliament whose majority she had lost.

Like a struggling student defending a graduation thesis before deadline, Theresa May has been back and forth to Parliament trying to make a deal that is agreeable to the UK lawmakers and works for EU; but between January and March this year, she failed three times.

Her deadline to have brought the UK ‘back home’ from the EU was April 11, 2019. The EU, on April 12, extended her deadline to end of October 2019.

They say, desperate times call for desperate measures and in a desperate move on Tuesday this week, the Prime Minister offered U.K. lawmakers a major concession; a chance to vote on whether to hold a new referendum on the country’s membership in the European Union.

But then on Friday, Ms. May announced her resignation, finally admitting that; “it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort.”

The question now is, who will deliver UK’s Brexit Plan?

An answer can be found in Rome’s ancient political history. In the Roman Republic, ‘a dictator’ was a magistrate that would be entrusted with full-authority of the State to deal with an emergency or to undertake a specific duty. 

All other magistrates of the republic were to follow his decision making and there was limited opportunity to challenge the dictator’s resolution.

But in order to prevent the dictatorship from threatening the State itself, severe limitations were put on its powers: a dictator could only act within the intended scope of authority and was obliged to resign upon accomplishing the special assignmentor at the expiration of six months. 

UK’s Brexit plan fits the description of a national emergency or special assignment. Theresa May’s tenure has indicated; it will be almost impossible for anyone else to make a deal that everyone will be okay with especially given UK’s rowdy parliamentary democracy.

Yet if Theresa May had the powers of an ancient Roman Dictator, she would have successfully exercised her authority to get through one of her three rejected deals and UK would be back home.

If UK really wants to leave the EU by October, it should appoint its own version of a Roman Dictator and give them a six-month contract to implement this assignment.

The British dictator shall not be opposed by Parliament and his/her Brexit deal must be supported. Once done, UK’s ‘normal’ democracy can be restored.

The views expressed in this article  are of the author.

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