The million-pound question, right?In the last three years I have not taken a position on whether I think Brexit is the right choice for Britain or not. Why should I? Should a Juventino take sides when watching a match between Man. United and Barcelona?
Okay, the tribal instinct is to settle old scores, I grant that, or to figure out with whom best to spar when one’s own tribe enters the arena. But that it is what it is really, tribalism.
I like to observe the process from a constitutional standpoint. Constitutional law is, however, never simple.
If the people have spoken, and the people are sovereign, although the referendum was consultative, I believe it is the right thing to do to respect their decision. The fact that the referendum process was seriously flawed does not in my view, justify holding a second one at this stage.
I say flawed, because the people should have been given a clear option from the start, to choose staying in the union with the new package that David Cameron had ironed out, or leaving with a Brexit package that was clear; the same way Malta had voted on a specific package to enter the Union.
But life is rarely lived on logical lines, and we all know that a politician’s game tends to be more psychological than logical. The referendum was a choice on divorce. Usually, the details of a divorce settlement come later, and almost always after much acrimony and angst. But once you have crossed that Rubicon and opted for divorce, there is no going back. The relationship would have changed irrevocably. Furthermore, if the people of Britain are asked to vote again and choose to stay in, the nation will be more divided than ever before. The Brexit voters would feel cheated.
As I said, it is never that simple.
The referendum was a choice on divorce. Usually, the details of a divorce settlement come later, and almost always after much acrimony and angst
Right now the Irish feel cheated. They want to hang on to the Good Friday Accord, that had put an end to so much division and violence. Can you blame them? Can you blame the EU for standing behind Ireland, which like all members would have a veto on the final divorce package anyway?
You could hardly expect the EU to twist Ireland’s arm and kick it under the bus to satisfy the UK.
The age-old Irish problem, started by King James I, who created an English settlement colony in Northern Ireland just to spite the Irish, has come back to haunt the UK, as it now seeks to leave the larger European Union. A case of national karma?
It is also not that simple because Scotland is its own country, with its pride and history, and is vehemently against leaving the EU. It too feels cheated because it opted to stay in the British union only to find Britain now leaving the European one.
It may well hold another referendum to decide whether to leave the UK in order to re-join the EU. Again, it boils down to sovereignty. The UK has every right to leave the EU, just as Scotland has every right to take another shot to leave the UK.
Borders and frontiers are ultimately human constructs. It is those same humans who need to decide what borders they are comfortable setting for themselves.
Their elected representatives should never deny them such a right. If they do, it will just keep adding to the friction that is so prevalent in the geopolitical order today.
Water tends to find its own balance. We could also artificially create bodies of water with dams, but the power of gravity is relentless. In the absence of constant maintenance, every dam will eventually burst and cause a massive flood. People too find their own balance, left to their own devices.
The British who would be happy to keep living in Britain would do so. Others may eventually choose to leave for Europe or some Commonwealth country. To each his own.
And so it is with Scotland, or for that matter even Wales. When the politicians are done with all their wrangling and manoeuvring, it is the people who ultimately should decide the fate of the country they live in.
Of course the tough part is that the majority decides for everyone. Howsoever a vote goes, there is always going to be a large segment of the population that feels disgruntled.
Being an outside observer, I have watched Brexiteers and Remainers take shots at one another. That is human nature within the realm of polarisation. But essentially each side needs to show much more respect for the feelings and priorities of the other.
They need to live together in the same country, independently of the form that Brexit ultimately takes.
Assuming, that is, that Brexit willeventually materialise in some way, shape or form. I think the jury might still be out on that one.
Rodolfo Ragonesi is a lawyer and researcher in history and international affairs.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece