A two-year process starts a little more than a week from now:
Britain will begin divorce proceedings from the European Union on March 29, starting the clock on two years of intense political and economic negotiations that will fundamentally change both the nation and its European neighbors.
Britain’s ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, informed European Council President Donald Tusk of the exact start date on Monday morning.
“We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation,” Brexit Secretary David Davis said. “The government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the U.K. and indeed for all of Europe – a new, positive partnership between the U.K. and our friends and allies in the European Union.”
Some personal divorces take a lot longer than that to iron out.
Whatever the specific subject or program that’s in place, political divorces are not easy. We in the US don’t belong to the EU, but we face a not-completely-dissimilar situation in the attempt to dismantle Obamacare.
The process of undoing would seem to be easy—after all, knocking a building down is simpler and quicker than erecting one. It’s the decisions about what will replace that building that are hard. Whether it be Brexit or Obamacare or any number of other systems (as opposed to buildings) people may want to do away with, the clock can’t simply be turned back to a previous time. Old institutions surrounding and supporting the structure have been dismantled, too. New expectations and dependencies have been created (health care as a right, for example). And the press that is against the dismantling is careful to keep stoking fears of what will happen without that thing that’s being torn down.
Those who favored the programs in the first places and fought to get them adopted were well aware of such phenomena. They knew that inertia, dependence, and time’s arrow all tend to combine to keep programs and policy structures in place once adopted:
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
That quote from the Rubaiyat is certainly true. Time cannot run backwards, and we can’t undo any event. But we can undo a program, and the electorate has spoken in both the case of Brexit and of Obamacare: they want Britain out of the EU and they want Obamacare gone. I agree with both decisions. But now the big question is what will replace each, how long it will take to implement it, and whether the replacement will be meet with favor or disfavor.
[NOTE: And yes, I’m well aware that some conservatives want government out of the health care policy business (the business formerly known as health insurance) totally. Not gonna happen.]