British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has clashed head-on with Parliament as the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline approaches, and the country's political world is in turmoil.
The cause and responsibility for this state of affairs lies with Johnson, as he forcibly tried to restrain his opponents with hard-line moves that could be interpreted as "shutting out" Parliament. These include moving to temporarily suspend Parliament and expelling rebels within the ruling Conservative Party.
Parliament is the center of a representative democracy, where representatives of the people chosen through elections debate issues to decide on policy measures. We are concerned that the foundations of the United Kingdom's representative system are being shaken.
Both houses of the British Parliament have passed a bill asking Johnson to extend the deadline for the U.K.'s withdrawal from the European Union by three months until the end of January next year. The legislative measure is expected to come into effect on Sept. 9.
The bill is designed to prevent a "no-deal Brexit," which would cause great economic and social turbulence. Prime Minister Johnson has indicated he will not shy away from a hard Brexit, but he should now alter his course, respecting the will of Parliament.
In spite of this, he went ahead and removed the Conservative whip from ministers of Parliament who sided with a motion to take control of Brexit's parliamentary agenda, and he has maintained a tough stance, declaring that he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than seek another extension to Brexit from the EU.
Prime Minister Johnson probably sees the result of the 2016 referendum to leave the EU, in which Leave voters secured a narrow margin against the Remain camp, as one set in stone. He now plans to dissolve Parliament and go ahead with a general election. "Brexit was a fundamental decision by the British people ... and we must now respect that decision," he said.
In the meantime, the prime minister has characterized Parliament as a force of resistance to Brexit, as if to give off the impression that MPs are standing in opposition to the public. Such words and actions represent a major challenge to the process of democratic politics.
Since assuming his position in July, Johnson has expressed confidence that an understanding will be reached on revisions to the agreement with the EU on Brexit. The problem is, such an understanding is nowhere in sight.
The biggest point of contention is how to administer a border between the nation of Ireland, which remains a member of the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The EU has no intention of compromising without an effective solution from Britain.
Brexit is not just an internal problem for the U.K. An unruly departure will inevitably result in turmoil, and have a serious impact on the global economy. It could even destabilize the world order centering on the United States and Britain.
Britain's parliamentary system of government has a long history, and the country has been called the home of parliamentary politics. It should do whatever it can to avoid descending into a "no-deal Brexit" as a result of political confusion spinning out of control.