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By Morak Babajide-Alabi
When the history of Theresa May’s term as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is written, there is no doubt that many chapters will be dedicated to the “monstrous” topic called BREXIT. Every day of her Premiership has been defined by this issue which, unfortunately, was not her own making. No one, not even fortune tellers, has any clue of how the conclusion would be written. However, as it is presently, it is not looking impressive.
BREXIT has proved not to be an easy task for a woman once perceived as a reincarnation of Margaret Thatcher, her predecessor, the First Lady Prime Minister of U.K. While Thatcher was not for turning, May has been turning right, left and centre with all the original ideas of BREXIT. Her situation is further made worse by the divided support in her own Conservative Party.
Gradually, the frustrations are setting in on May. You could sense that she could no longer hide behind one finger and pretend that all is fine, with her and her counterparts in the European Union. On Friday she got her speech writers together to put her feelings into words, and with a pretence of hard face, at a media briefing, “lamented” into the microphone. The May that appeared on our screens on Friday was a far more subdued woman struggling to establish her authority where it matters most.
I sympathise with this May, as I think she cuts the figure of a lonely woman at the recent European Union meeting in Salzburg, Austria. No matter how hard she tried to maintain a straight face, she was obviously in an awkward situation as her counterparts took time to rip through her so much cherished Chequers’ exit plans. Donald Tusk, the European Council president did not hold back when he said, “everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested element for economic cooperation will not work, not least because it risks undermining the single market.”
Although this seemed to have sounded the death knell for the PM’s plans, she came fighting back with the Downing Street speech. She said: “At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter-proposals. So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are and what their alternative is so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress.”
The Prime Minister unquestionably knows the alternatives, but she just refused to accept the fact that her plans would not work within the EU framework. The EU leaders have warned several times, even before the 2016 referendum that UK will not have the privilege of cherry-picking BREXIT. You cannot fault the EU leaders, as they are simply trying to protect their interests as much as Mrs May is fighting tooth and nail to protect the British interests as well.
May’s position is difficult because she was never a “Leaver”. She invoked “Article 50 Clause” without a workable exit plan, but just to survive the political pressure that was piling on her at the time. On hindsight, May would have taken her time and set out a workable plan before triggering the clause. The result of her “no prior exit plans” is the one step forward two steps backwards that we are witnessing now.
As events are unfolding, there is the genuine fear that this BREXIT may be the undoing of her Premiership. She is under immense pressure, not only from the EU leaders and bureaucrats but also from within her party. May is faced with two options – to abandon the mess (in the state it is), just like David Cameron, or get pushed by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson, David Davies etc. The choice is May’s, but opinion polls are suggesting she would rather be shoved off than walk off.
Moon Meets Kim, Again
Last week the South Korean President Moon Jae and his North Korean host Kim Jong Un met up once again. It was a historic visit by Jae to the north side of the Peninsula. Historic not only in how the North Koreans rolled out the red carpets and in bright colours, waving flags and flowers to welcome the leader that was once a subject of attack and propaganda in recent past. The visit is historic for the fact that it was the first by a South Korean leader since 2007.
There was a lot of merriment and show of love in the capital city of Pyongyang as citizens trooped out to show love to Moon. It was a very surreal reception as the two leaders ride through the streets in an open roof car waving to the supporters who had come out to witness the making of history.
It was the third summit between these two leaders in nine months this year. This fact underlines the seriousness of the Koreans in their quest to find the elusive peace in the Peninsula. To end the Korean War has always been top of the agenda of these meetings. We all know fighting in the Korean War ended 65 years ago, but there had been no peace treaty signed by the two countries.
At the end of the meeting, the two leaders announced that they have agreed to pursue peace, establish and maintain new channels of communication and develop new economic ties which will include a special tourism zone. These are ambitious and impressive plans on the part of the Koreans, but a clear progress from what history has on record of them.
It is yet early days to know if these efforts will result in anything positive for the Peninsula and the people therein. The unfortunate thing is that the power to “allow peace to reign or not” is not vested in the hands of either of these two leaders. Whatever their wishes for a peaceful united Korea may be, they desperately need the blessings of the United States of America and China.
The North Korean leader has made major concessions towards this. He dramatically accepted to destroy his nuclear test site ahead of a meeting with the US President Donald Trump. This meeting was brokered by Moon Jae. The world media watched with keen interest in May as the country destroyed its nuclear test site. It was Kim’s signal of intention to progress with the peace efforts.
Until now, the world has not given this young leader credit for what is happening in the peninsula. Refusing to acknowledge Kim’s efforts is definitely not playing fair. It is understood that because of our predetermined views we have failed to move beyond the suspicions that he is playing a game on the world.
Despite his concessions, Kim has never earned any atom of respect from the western media. He is still classed as one of the greatest threats to the peace of the world. To some, he is the evilest individual that has ever walked the planet earth. We have not, by any chance given this chap the benefit of the doubt that he might, for once he sincere in his approach to issues in the Korean Peninsula.
Are we going to continue to visit the sins of the fathers on this gentleman? Could we at a point give him the reassurance that he definitely is worth listening to as an individual?
As written for the column, Diaspora Matters, Sunday Vanguard of 23rd September 2018.