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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Ah, the Brexit!
Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner on how Brexit and Trump could have been avoided -- or made legitimate.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

It happened in June 2016 and we still don’t know how it will take place. For the time being it has cost two Conservative Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom -- David Cameron and Theresa May -- their positions.

Let me clarify that I think it is reasonable that international organizations and nations themselves evolve and join or separate, provided they do so peacefully and in accordance with previously agreed laws.

As we know, a small majority of the British decided to leave the European Union. Just under 2% of the voters. Not even the possible voters, but those who went to the polls (71%), although all will have to face the immense political and economic cost of the operation. That was the binding rule and the decision is legitimate. La loi c’est la loi. As it is legitimate that Trump is the president of the United States, despite having obtained almost three million votes less than his opponent Hillary Clinton.

They are parallel phenomena. As a general rule the two processes are similar. In both the majority vote of the big cities was overshadowed by the vote of semi-rural regions or small towns. In the USA and the UK there were very important areas that voted overwhelmingly against the final result: California in the United States and Scotland and Northern Ireland in Great Britain.

In the two votes, the most educated people were defeated by those who had less education. The ethnic, linguistic, racial and sexual minorities were crushed by the mainstream. In both nations, grosso modo, nationalists triumphed over the globalizers, and protectionists against the supporters of free trade. That’s why it is perfectly natural for Donald Trump to be happy with the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU). Nigel Farage is his soul mate.

The idea is that Americans, Canadians, Irish, British, Australians and New Zealanders form a universe that is different from the rest of the planet. They share the findings of their intelligence services, at least during the twentieth century they have waged war side by side, they all speak English and they uphold more or less the same values and perceptions.

After all, the “English” were never very happy with the European Union. They know that they built the current world beginning with the industrial revolution. Everything that the Germans and the French achieved, they did it following the British example. And everything that Italians and Spaniards did not get was because they turned away from the English model.

The British were never largely in favor of transferring decisions to an intricate bureaucracy of people hanging from a budget administered from Brussels, as Margaret Thatcher complained constantly. It is true that they were conquered by the Normans in the eleventh century, but that area of France was full of Vikings and it is not clear if the Anglo-Saxon component survived or if the “Frenchification” ended up embedding itself in the institutions, as it happened with the language.

All nations that are part of the EU must endorse it in a plebiscite that is won or lost by simple majority, but that is absurd. Both participating and withdrawing from certain organizations are transcendent decisions that will affect the performance of future generations. They are too important to leave in the hands of a few people. It is necessary that they be taken by qualified majorities and in two different moments to avoid the crazy reactions caused by conjunctural crises.

A week after voting in favor of Brexit, the polls showed that, if a second vote were taken, the supporters of remaining in the EU would win. Fortunately, there was not a new opportunity, because the expected result was that those who wanted to stay would win by a margin of 2% and that would mean to be back to square one.

In my opinion, to take any significant step (join an organization such as the EU, break away from a country and become independent, etc.) the society must comply with the following four rules:

  • Voting must be mandatory, even if it is possible to vote blank.
  • The qualified majority must be 60% of the electoral census.
  • The cost of entering or leaving must be established in advance.
  • The decision to “enter” or “exit” must be ratified in a consultation held in another legislature to be effective.

In this case, it is convenient to welcome new members or, failing that, kindly dismiss them, but saving all of us from the unfortunate Brexit show.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.


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