The 2020 presidential election is still a year away, and many Americans may already be exhausted by the campaign. So there’s something admirable about the speed and immediacy of the British system in which a snap election will be held Dec. 12, just weeks after being called on Oct. 29.
But that’s about all America would want to emulate. British politics, due to the paralysis of Brexit, are a mess.
Indeed, even though traditional British parties will likely take the lion’s share of seats, the newer Brexit Party and the reinvigorated New Democratic Party will also play key roles. The Brexit Party favors a clean, complete and quick break from the European Union, while the New Democratic Party rejects Brexit altogether. Also on the radar are regional players such as the small Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party that’s kept the Conservatives in power, as well as the larger Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), which may push for a new independence referendum as part of any coalition talks with Labour.
The ruling Conservatives lead in polls and have a clear position: to leave the E.U., and soon. But the Tories are right-flanked by Brexit Party purists, led by the irrepressible, irresponsible Nigel Farage, who threatened to run Brexit Party candidates in nearly every constituency unless Johnson drops his negotiated Brexit settlement.
In a normal election, such chaos would propel Labour to power. But the party’s leftist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has his own radical realignment of U.K. politics and economy in mind. That’s rattled some to reconsider the Conservatives, or the more sensible, centrist New Democratic Party, which rightfully has called Brexit for what it is: a really bad idea for Britain.
Labour favors renegotiation and then a new referendum, since in the original Brexit plebiscite in 2016 voters were sold a proposal predicated on faulty, or outright false, assumptions. They should have a right to reconsider a decision of such national, even continental consequence.
The U.S. national interest is best served by a united E.U., too.
As usual, however, President Donald Trump is playing the role of disrupter. Trump, who called himself “Mr. Brexit” in 2016, is still advocating for it, even to the point of calling in to a radio show hosted by Farage in which he called the prospect of a Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn “so bad” for the U.K. So much for the “special relationship” that’s supposed to transcend party on both sides of the pond. In fact, it will be severely strained if Trump soon has to work with Corbyn, who may indeed end up at No. 10 Downing Street.
Trump should have adopted the approach of his presidential predecessor, who proposed a mutually beneficial U.S.-E.U. free-trade agreement. Trump does favor a bilateral pact with Britain, but even he said it would be difficult to pass under Johnson’s Brexit plan. The election outcome matters to Minnesota, too: The U.K. is the state’s seventh-largest export market.
There’s much at stake on Dec. 12. Let’s hope British voters will choose to send a clarifying message that unites Britain and, by extension, the West.