The Brexit impasse is hurting the credibility of Britain's Parliament

The loss of respectability of crucial democratic institutions could lead to the emergence of charismatic leaders

  • Published 3.04.19, 7:54 AM
  • Updated 3.04.19, 7:54 AM
  • a min read
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Anti-Brexit demonstrators with an effigy of British Prime Minister Theresa May near College Green at the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, April 1, 2019. (AP)

In a strange paradox, ‘Remainers’ — they intend to nurture Britain’s bond with Europe — and ‘Leavers’ — the strident foot-soldiers of Brexit — suddenly find themselves on the same boat. The credit for bringing these two warring constituencies on board a vessel traversing uncharted waters must go to the British Parliament, which, for the third time, rejected the plan put forward by the prime minister, Theresa May, to leave the European Union. The British Parliament seems convinced that it is acting in the interests of the people. Ironically, the citizens cannot be more disenchanted with an institution that prides itself on being the ‘Mother of Parliaments’. The reasons for the collective disillusionment are fairly evident. The Remainers have been frustrated by what they believe is a process that is being initiated against their will. Those who voted in favour of Brexit three years ago are equally bitter: a deadlock in Parliament, given Ms May’s ineptness to bring about an orderly withdrawal, has resulted in very little movement on the issue.

The consequences of this growing chasm between Parliament and people are portentous. In its capacity to serve as a legislative body, the institution of Parliament is the bedrock of democracy. It is the very embodiment of democracy’s commitment to honour the will of the people. Repeated failures to find a way around the Brexit conundrum is chipping away at the credibility of Britain’s Parliament. Indeed, the results of a poll conducted by an independent agency offers proof of such an erosion. An overwhelming 81 per cent of Britons are apparently convinced that Brexit has been poorly handled by the nation’s rulers. The stigma of inertia that has tainted Parliament as a result is likely to dent Britain’s image in the international arena. What is even more worrying is that the loss of respectability of institutions integral to a democratic set-up could, in fact, open up the possibility of the emergence of charismatic leaders, as has been the case in some corners of the world. The triumph of individual over institution is one of the markers of the implosion of a democracy.