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Boris Johnson’s Brexit Helter Skelter

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Trump sent his national security adviser John “Bonkers” Bolton to London, where the neocon Bonkers could hang out with Trump’s pal BoJo Johnson, absolutely relaxed in the knowledge that this was one place in the world where his host would not treat Bonkers on the latter’s proven merits, that is, as a bona fide nut-case.

BoJo must know that little or nothing any member of Trump’s team says can be taken on trust—they either aren’t in the job for long enough to follow-up on their words, or else their leader’s incorrigible lying has rubbed-off on them (the way it did on Sarah Huckabee Sanders).

Or they are paralyzed by the realization that Trump’s presidency is just one long low-grade reality TV show, meandering from one episode to another, trailing-off into this or that denouement, with no permanence attached to anything except the continued occupancy of the White House.

Readers may recall Bolton’s announcement, made in December 2018 with much fanfare, of a new initiative– “Prosper Africa” — to promote American investment in African countries as a way of countering China’s massive economic influence on that continent.

The Beijing Politburo did not lose a moment’s sleep because “Prosper Africa” sank without a trace after that announcement.

Bonkers brought BoJo news from Trump about a possible US-UK trade deal après Brexit, but BoJo like his pal lives completely in and for the moment, so Bolton’s vaporous “Prosper Africa” announcement in December last year was never on his horizon, and consequently BoJo seemed to have no clue that Bonkers is merely a purveyor of xenophobic and Zionist hot air (Bonkers has dual Israeli-US citizenship).

Meanwhile BoJo is, literally, all over the place.

He must know that the Trump administration wants not just a trade deal with the UK (on Trump’s terms), but also a foreign policy convergence between the two countries (again on Trump’s terms). The Guardian quotes Bolton on this issue:

“In terms of Britain’s overall policy, foreign policy, by definition, once it leaves the EU on 31 October, it won’t be bound by the requirement to seek the common foreign security policy with the European Union. It will be pursuing UK national interest as it sees them.”

There we have it from the walrus’s mouth.

BoJo’s choice has now become this: “take back control” from Brussels, in order to hand it over to Trump and acolytes such as Bolton: or scrap article 50 (which initiates withdrawal from the EU), restore the sovereignty of parliament, and have a proper process for dealing with the EU (and that includes an adequately managed Brexit/Lexit).

Under BoJo’s auspices, the UK has thus the choice of being a US puppet under Trump, or making the hard and obviously reluctant decision to have a compromised sovereignty under the EU, at least until some more propitious time for an organized Lexit.

The EU has always been a driver of neoliberalism, and is in no way democratic: its “parliament” is no more than a debating chamber with no power to enact legislation, and real decision-making power lies with the unelected Commission (the much-scorned eurocrats).

For the UK, it’s therefore a matter, for now, of choosing between the lesser of two capitalist evils, that is, a capitulation to the US’s feral-capitalist paradigm, or remaining in the EU with its less savage capitalist paradigm and an accompanying Ukanian sovereignty that is endlessly-negotiated but always flawed.

In a vastly better world there will be neither the US nor EU, as well as a great many other things on an endless list.

The dystopian UK has for now no prospect of approximating to that immensely better world.

What the UK faces are the mundane intractabilities of dealing with a chaotic Brexit.

BoJo became the leader of his party, and by virtue of that the prime minister of his country, largely by selling himself to its membership as someone who had the “charisma” to get the Brexit deal he wanted from the EU, something his sepulchral predecessor Theresa May was unable to achieve in her dealings with the pitiless and unmovable eurocrats.

The reality facing BoJo is alas impervious to any such infusions of a fantasized charisma.

Even if Johnson concludes a trade deal with Trump, he’ll also need trade deals with Germany and France, which have bigger economies than the UK.

The Brexiter vision of the countries of the former British empire falling over themselves to give their erstwhile imperial master preferential trade deals is just cloud cuckoo land.

A post-Brexit UK will need trade deals with France and Germany, as well as some other current EU members with large economies.

These countries will inform BoJo that their trade is conducted under the auspices of the EU, and that his dealings must therefore be with Brussels.

Alas for BoJo, Brussels has already made it clear that the deal he’ll be offered is the one they gave his failed predecessor, who could not get her party to accept it despite her repeated attempts.

BoJo said he’d do better than Theresa May, but the EU clearly has other ideas.

More articles by:

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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