16:38 Jun. 29, 2016
Vitaly Portnikov's opinion article
What's happening in the United Kingdom – and in Europe in general – after the results of the UK referendum, truly reminds of the theatre of the Absurd.
The talks on the referendum had been going on for years, but it turned out no one had a real plan on how to react to the possible exit. Neither the British, nor the EU have the legal basis for that. No one really understands how much time the UK's leave will take. Nobody knows what the Parliament of Scotland, the country that voted to stay in the EU, will do. Declare a new referendum? London won't allow that. Refuse to acknowledge the results of the British referendum? "They will not dare".
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This all is nothing more than just emotions. No one can predict what will happen tomorrow – hence the growing uncertainty, which is already affecting the economy, and the intentions of many prominent world companies that are thinking of exiting London – though currently there are no real reasons to leave.
And why is it happening? Simply because almost no one could have imagined the referendum result would be negative. Everybody was sure the Britain would stay in the EU – and first of the organizers of the vote were sure, and even the supporters of the "Leave" camp. The populists outplayed themselves – the talks of their future brilliant careers are completely groundless. Those who wanted to secure their political future by gambling on the Euroscepticism, will soon be buried under the weight of the problems.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has found himself in a particularly sad situation after the referendum. It's common to sympathize with him, since he put so much efforts into helping the Yes camp win. But the paradox is, Cameron is the one who has led his country and Europe into the current situation.
The young leader of the Conservative party initially tried to oppose the ruling party of the Labourists, by defending the interests of the "good ol' England" and criticizing the EU. Well, he certainly succeeded. The Conservatives, which had seemed to be losing to the popularity of Tony Blair and his party, got back to the top of the power without leaving any chances for their opponents. So now the Labourists are marginalized themselves, their current leader Jeremy Corbyn is a great example of a politician, detached from the modern world. And there is no new Tony Blair for the Labourists in sight.
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But the price for Cameron's popularity was the promise to hold the referendum on the exit from the EU. Of course, it wasn't what he wanted when he made this promise. He only wanted to gain the power and get numerous preferences from the Union – in which he more than succeeded, by the way. The only thing he didn't manage to explain to his citizens – that it was all make-believe, that he was lying to them.
His behaviour reminds me of how Viktor Yanukovych was acting during the last period of his Presidency. Of course, Cameron would be offended by this comparison. An experienced and talented politician with brilliant education – and a semiliterate criminal in the Presidential chair. There is nothing to compare!
Except, there is. Yanukovych put on a mask of a true supporter of the European integration. And exactly this circumstance deprived his rivals of the chances for effective opposition to the President. Most of the pro-opposition electorate thought they shouldn't fight against Yanukovych, on the contrary, all his crimes should be forgiven, even his selective justice and corruption. All that just to let him lead Ukraine to Europe. Yanukovych's followers also didn't doubt his intentions. He almost scared the lawmakers from his Party of Regions into voting for the draft bills on the European integration. On the second thought, leave the "almost", he did scare them. And when the Communists tried to organize protests against the EU, the "youth" of his party would come and disperse them.
Yanukovych simply forgot to tell Ukrainians that it was all make-believe, that he lied to them. That his real goal – to knock up the price of himself and demand as much money from Putin as possible. In which he succeeded, by the way, - Ukraine is still at law over his debts. But when Yanukovych decided to pull back just days ahead of signing the Association agreement, it led to serious destabilization – the demonstrations of the students, the crackdown on the protesters, the beginning of Maidan, his ouster and the war. This is what it means to have a thimble rigger in the Presidential chair.
Cameron has turned out to be a "Yanukovych in reverse". Yanukovych lost his game on the European integration, Cameron lost on the European disintegration. They both got burned. Of course, one shouldn't compare the consequences for the British and Ukrainians. Ukrainian aftermath is much more dramatic, much bloodier – but the country is on the periphery of the political processes and the world has only paid its attention to it after6 Maidan and the Russian aggression. The UK, in turn, is in the spotlight of the world processes and it will have to deal with the consequences of the referendum for quite a long time.
Yanukovych – is the criminal's last name written in small print. And Cameron –is the last name of the politician, who launched the global processes due to his overconfidence and inability to calculate the consequences. And his last name will be written in capital letters in the history books.
Vitaly Portnikov is a Ukrainian journalist and political expert. This article originally appeared on Glavred.Info