May 20, 2019

Serious Semite: Brexit Blues

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leads his colleagues to the unveiling of the statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett on Parliament Square, in London, Britain, April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union (EU) on March 29 and could enter its worst period of economic turmoil in decades. As an English Jew, I’m very concerned. The Conservative government might be forced into a general election if Brexit plans fail; the opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, could win power; and Britain could have its first prime minister who is regularly and openly accused of anti-Semitism. Seven members of Parliament (MP) made the bold move of leaving the parliamentary Labour Party, and one of those departing, Jewish MP Luciana Berger, said Labour has become “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

On March 29, Article 50 will be activated, allowing a member state to leave the EU. There will be severe implications if Britain fails to strike a deal and faces the “no -deal Brexit.” British voters, who approved the referendum to withdraw from the EU in June 2016, might have created the worst constitutional crisis in the U.K. for centuries.

Divorces are rarely easy. The EU has offered what it sees as the best terms, but some think that Europe is like a jilted lover, saying “Fine! You are leaving me. No, I won’t discuss who keeps the puppy, the vintage art we bought on vacation, or the Vitamix. Go on now, go! Walk out the door!”

Except we’re not discussing puppies, but borders, trade deals and workers.
What happens to the estimated 300,000 French people living in the U.K., or 153,000 Brits in France? How will Germany sell BMWs in Britain, or French winemakers get bottles to English markets? Today, I can get on a train from London to Paris on a visa-free U.K. passport, but what about tomorrow?

A no-deal Brexit would spark confusion. There would need to be some kind of customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, after 100 years of peace processes that removed walls between the two countries. Yet Northern Ireland is part of Great Britain, and the Republic of Ireland is part of the EU, so if there is no border, then the EU has a back door entry to Britain. This threatens British sovereignty on its own land. 

If Britain stops Brexit or calls another referendum, it undermines the U.K. democratic process because the voters already approved Brexit. There is also the strange situation where the prime minister, who voted to remain in the EU, is now responsible for engineering Britain’s exit from the EU. 

“The EU has offered what it sees as the best terms, but some think that Europe is like a jilted lover.”

What if Scotland holds another referendum to leave Great Britain and rejoin the EU? Will Braveheart’s descendants build a wall?

Corbyn is the problem for British Jews.In the past, I was reluctant to call Corbyn a raging anti-Semite, reasoning that he is an old-school Marxist who dislikes Israel because it is a nation state, and Marxists don’t like nation states.

Corbyn is reminiscent of the “I am not anti-Semitic because some of my best friends are Jews” approach. He represents the new strain of anti-Semitism, typified by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that has spawned sickening “apartheid walls” on California college campuses.

There is a difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and disproportionate criticism. One is fair, the other is anti-Semitic. Why not talk more about Syria, South Sudan, Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Sudan, the Central African Republic and Libya? I won’t play the “Jewish victim” card, but this is different. Enough is enough.

If May is ousted then Britain’s best new prime minister option might be Boris Johnson, a boisterous, says-what-he-thinks, womanizing politician with unkempt blond hair. Sound familiar? I look forward to the entertainment value of “The Trump and Johnson Variety Show.” Why not have a fun distraction while Rome burns?

It is possible that Anglo-Jewry will be safe from Corbyn. Brexit will take place a few weeks before Passover, and as Jews, we know that miracles can happen.


Marcus J Freed is a Los Angeles-based actor.