• 11 Aug - 17 Aug, 2018
  • Shahed Sadullah
  • London Eye

It is not usual for the army to be mentioned in anything even remotely related to a political situation here in the UK, but when push comes to shove, all good traditions and rules go out of the window. And push has come not just to shove, but to a most undignified grunting act of desperate exertion.

A recent item published right across the British media gave the alarming news that the government had made plans to call in the army to control certain situations that were expected to arise if Britain were to leave the EU without a deal by the end of March 2019. In fact, whether or not we are getting a deal will be clear long before that and thus it will not be difficult to work out the extent of chaos that will ensue. The government, has of course, denied the reports, but there has been no denial of reports about scores of documents it is said to be preparing advising businesses of various descriptions just how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. In fact, newspapers have published articles by the hundreds telling people that they may well have to stock up on food before next March and some have even been giving suggestions on exactly what sort of foods to stock up on.

The Brexiters are dismissing all this as scaremongering which is how they dismiss every story that describes any problem that could arise from a no-deal Brexit. Some even go to the extent of denying that there is such a thing as a no-deal Brexit for ‘all’ that means, they say, is that we go back to trading with all out European ‘partners’ under rules framed by the World Trade Organisation, which will be the new deal. If only it were as easy as that. There is no mechanism whatsoever to collect and administer that tariff at the UK’s borders and if even if one were to be set up in the eight months or so left till March 2019 – which is a physical impossibility – the extra cost of items with this extra import duty slapped on it would raise the price of every item thus imported by anything between 10 and 30 per cent. It is difficult to see anyone welcoming such a scenario but it is described by Brexiters as the ‘price for freedom’. It remains to be explained why are the British only so concerned about their freedom and why is it that stronger and bigger nations like Germany and France do not appear to be bothered on that score.

While reports of calling in the army have been denied by Downing Street,(and it has been pointed out by some critics that after the savage cuts the army, like all other services, has been subjected to, it is hardly in a position to provide any support services to the civilian government) it has accepted that it will be issuing what it has rather euphemistically described as ‘technical notices’ – about 70 of them – with advice to companies and consumers on what to do if the UK crashes out of the EU with no agreement. They are to be issued in two sets in August and September. It is still being emphasised that the UK expects a deal but that these notices are about ‘good planning and taking sensible precautions’.

If course, when push comes to shove the other things that picks up are rumours and all sorts of conspiracy theories and these have started doing the rounds. One theory has it has that all this talk of the army being brought in to tackle things like the distribution of foods and medicines and the technical notices are all ways to spook the population so that in the event of a bad Brexit deal or, worse still, no deal at all, the government can then have a case to go in for a second referendum so that the entire political burden may be shifted from its shoulders. It is odds on that if it were to come to a second referendum, for which many have been campaigning, the entire idea of Brexit would be thrown into the dustbin where it rightfully belongs. The other rumour doing the rounds – to the extent that it has appeared in the papers – is that the British Prime Minister Theresa May has been trying to persuade the German Chancellor and the French President to give her an extensive fudge on the Brexit issue, to take some sort of shape whereby the UK may continue for a period as a member of European Economic Area (EEA) till such time as a trade deal is worked out with the EU. The chances of the EU accepting this are about at par with my writing a letter to the PCB asking them to appoint me as the next captain of Pakistan and the request being accepted. But if you have a view of the world that is as close to nonsense as makes no difference, you could come up with anything.

All of which has a cardinal lesson for democracy and all those who swear by it. Like anything else, it is a system devised and executed by human beings and the quality of democracy one gets is therefore directly proportional to the quality of human beings running it and that this quality is again directly proportional to the amount of sincerity and honesty they bring to their endeavour. That should tell the story of both Britain and Pakistan. •