Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) to fulfil the people’s wish in a 2016 referendum has claimed another prime ministerial victim in Theresa May. The first was David Cameron whose democratic instinct to allow the referendum led to a surprise exit vote by a narrow margin (51.9 per cent in favour). May’s reign has been the shortest in modern British history; her emotional speech announcing her June resignation pointing to the hopelessness of her position simply because there is no such thing as a good Brexit. The career politician grappled with the knotty issue of Brexit ever since she assumed the top office, but she was always odds-on to fall off the precipice despite her best efforts to negotiate with the European leaders over the terms on which the UK could leave. A no-deal Brexit could mean utter economic chaos on the island.
The EU began as a much simpler common market and evolved to ease the movement of people also across frontiers. The basic insular nature of the UK might have been hidden from view when people were given the choice to stay in a mutually beneficial society or leave. It is the cost of leaving an interconnected world that stares at the UK now. It is said the options are many after the immediate matter of replacing May from one among 16 contestants to the post of Prime Minister, besides taking in the results of the EU elections. A no-deal Brexit by the deadline of October 31, a second referendum on no-deal or Brexit and a general election are some of the possibilities. It would be in the interest of Europe and the UK if a way were to be found for a soft exit while keeping trade terms intact, but that is more complicated than the deals May envisaged. What the UK needs most is a fresh-thinking leader who can sort out this mess.