Todays Date
April 20, 2019

Brexit or not?

Written by: Aleksandar Krzalovski


While the second phase of the constitutional changes process is taking place, which, according to expectations, without much discussion and only three days in total, ended with the voting of the four proposed draft amendments to the Constitution, the previous weekend in Europe happened the meeting of the leaders of the member states of the European Union, with the main theme – the Brexit agreement, or the abandonment of the Union by the United Kingdom.

After several weeks of squabbling and threats from both sides (individual EU member states on the one hand and the UK on the other), at the end of Saturday (November 24th), all was reduced to the latest obstacle – Spain’s request for the status of Gibraltar (shared sovereignty of the EU and Britain, rather than treatment only as British territory). With a statement from Prime Minister Theresa May (possibly deposited in writing) that, to the least, the Spanish request is not unacceptable and can be discussed, leaders on Sunday declared the success of Britain’s EU exit talks and agreement on it.

In a European (i.e. EU) style, the agreement is thorough and comprehensive, and it is composed on exactly 585 pages, and the abbreviated version, that is, the press release, which informed the European public what was actually agreed was 26 pages!

And up to here everything is fine. What our people would say – a reasonable compromise has been achieved… and it would be prudent that when the leaders reached an agreement, and they have more or less stable majority in their countries, it should be relatively easy (not to say – a formality) the agreement to confirmed in the European Parliament and the British Parliament and thus to come into force and be applied, i.e. the Great Britain to exit the European Union.

But the situation in London, according to all the comments, leading newspapers, independent analyses, and, according to all my recent talks with, my dear fellow British, indicate that not only does Theresa May is awaiting the difficult task to secure a majority vote for the treaty (which barely exists with exactly 326 MPs of its Conservative (Tory) party together with the Democratic Union of Northern Ireland – as compared with the 324 of the opposition), but that it is expected to experience a heavy defeat in the vote on the treaty with about 400 versus 250 votes of the MPs.

Of course, I write all this not because I am a great connoisseur of the “British Affairs”, but because of comparisons with the situation in our country and in order to learn something from the 800-year-old British democracy.

Let’s go back a little bit to the referendum that Brexit began with in June 2016. Namely, after the election victory in 2015, the then British Prime Minister David Cameron called a referendum on staying or leaving the European Union. Some would say without a need, at the cost of his personal political career, but he did this because of his election promises in the campaign, that is, what was written in the election manifesto. In our country, the referendum on the “name” was part of the programs of the two largest parties VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM, and the referendum happened… so far we are similar to the British. But here is where the similarities end.

First, the referendum question was: Should Britain remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? And clearly, the options were: Remain or Leave. Clearly and unequivocally, right?

Secondly, with the announcement of the referendum, the eponymous groups were immediately formed for the campaigns, which, as a matter of a fact, weren’t party groups, that is, the leaders of the opposing sides were from the same party – the Conservative: Prime Minister David Cameron and the MP (and then London Mayor) Boris Johnson. Most of the deputies of the opposition Labour Party (Workers’ Party) were on the side of the Prime Minister, while the UK Independence Party Britain (UKIP) of the European MP (can you imagine?) Nigel Farage was the loudest advocate of leaving the Union. In contrast, in our country, unfortunately, there was no campaign Against (the agreement with Greece) because VMRO-DPMNE decided not to campaign (although it took a stand against the agreement) and left the supporters to decide for themselves whether to vote and how.

Furthermore, given the clear campaigning in favour of and against (staying in the Union), the census was reached – about 33 million people voted or 72% of the registered voters (in the GB all who have the right to vote must be (re)registered once a year or before each election), i.e. about 65% of the total electorate (or slightly above half of the total number of citizens in Britain – 66 million). In the end, about 52% (or 17.4 million) voted in favour of leaving the Union. In other words, 26% of British decided the fate of all 66 million. This in our country would be an argument for the supporters of the Prespa Agreement, as about 30% of all citizens of Macedonia voted in the referendum “in favour” of the agreement.

The fourth difference is the political price, that is, the consequence for Prime Minister Cameron, who immediately announced his resignation, and for a month he was neither a prime minister nor a leader of his party. I did not notice that anyone resigned in our country for anything in connection with the Prespa agreement, regardless of the side.

But let’s go back to the present day. The current prime minister, Theresa May, after witnessing the resignations of the two ministers for Brexit (David Davies and Dominique Raab), as well as some other key ministers (such as the chief negotiator, Boris Johnson) with the disclosure of the text of the agreement, faces a “rebellion” among her MPs, out of whom about 90 have announced that they will vote against the agreement. Interestingly, there are 15 on the other side (in the Labourists) who have announced they will vote “in favour”. And here every resemblance to us is more than incredible. While the pressure for the first vote on the constitutional changes (the start of the process) was entirely by the opposition MPs (VMRO-DPMNE), nobody asked how exactly all 72 MPs from the ruling majority are “in favour” of the agreement, that is, how is it that no one has doubts in order to vote “against”!

It is interesting to talk a little about the resignations of the two Brexit ministers. They said they were resigning due to their disagreements with the way the prime minister was leading negotiations with the EU and the concessions it made to the Union. Raab highlighted two “fatal flaws” in the Treaty: the terms of the treaty threaten Britain’s integrity; and certain provisions will lead to indefinite long (or permanent) blockades, and Britain will not have a mechanism to overcome them! Sounds familiar to you with regards to some discussions about our Prespa agreement?

What is to be noted is that at the moment when they could not agree with the content of the treaty they should be defending, they resigned. Or what would our Minister of Foreign Affairs Dimitrov would say – acted responsibly. You fight as much as you can to get a better deal, so if you do not believe in the agreed – you leave, if you believe – you defend it to the end!

Let’s wait to see how the process will end for us, so let’s see who, what kind of responsibility will have to bear. Someone, or more, or many – will have to, but I do not believe it will happen. However, we are still far from the United Kingdom… although they, by a treaty or without, as of March 29th 2019, at 11 pm GMT, or midnight according to our time zone, will not be EU member… just like us!

*The text is written exclusively for the purposes of Inbox 7. For each republishing, a consent by the editors must be obtained. Inbox 7 does not always agree with the opinions and views of the authors in the debate section.


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