The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

The Ides of March madness

Noel Grima Sunday, 17 March 2019, 09:00 Last update: about 4 months ago

Way back in time, a group of Roman senators got together and on the Ides of March (15 March) overthrew and killed the budding dictator Julius Caesar, well believing they were acting in defence of freedom.

Instead, they were unleashing a series of civil wars which led to another dictatorship called Roman Empire.

History tells us the conspirators were all killed until only Augustus, who was not in the conspiracy, reigned supreme.


March has always been known as the madness of the March hare. This past week, we watched the madness called Brexit in the tortuous meanderings in the House of Commons as MPs trooped out of the Chamber innumerable times to flock to smaller halls to register their Ayes or Noes.

The procedure followed was as arcane as the Roman consulting the Oracle. To schematize things and render them palatable to readers: Theresa May's deal, already turned down by a massive negative vote some weeks back, was re-presented last week after May's last minute flight to Strasbourg which got her a raging cold and nothing else. The next day, the re-presented deal was again turned down despite all the efforts by the government to get all the possible votes.

Then came a night of madness as it continued to lose vote after vote and people got so confused they did not know what they were voting for or against. Anyway, the upshot is that the No Deal option is now officially dead too (although it may still be revived).

Thursday, the last of the three days of voting, saw May reorganizing her forces and defeating, by just two votes, an amendment by Hilary Benn (son of that Leftist firecracker of the 1970s, Tony) that would have taken the Brexit initiative from May's hands and given it to Parliament.

So now the situation is that Brexit will not happen on 29th March, and there will be no No Deal exit with all the chaos that would bring. Instead, on Tuesday, 19th March, the House will again be voting on May's Deal.

If that passes, May will go to the European Council on Thursday and ask the other 27 member states for an extension to Brexit by just a few weeks until all legislative changes are made. If May's Deal is again rejected, a far longer extension would be needed, although this would mean the UK holding the European Parliament elections in late May.

At this point, all scenarios become possible as talks are held between the parties to try to find which solution would get majority support in the House, maybe the Norwegian template or the Swiss one or even maybe remaining in the EU. That is still for the future.

The uncertainty, the job losses, companies relocating to the continent, the anxiety people felt as the 29th March was fast approaching and No Deal appeared as the only possible outcome. The impossibility of travel, supermarkets with bare shelves and a huge existential threat hanging over every UK citizen, now seem to have been slightly reduced but there is still a long way to go before people will start to breathe easily again.

However, this Brexit madness looks like a puny shockwave compared to the New Zealand massacre at two mosques allegedly at the hands of a white supremacist who broadcast live his shootings on social media. The victims were all unarmed Muslims whose only fault was that they had gathered at the mosques for Friday prayers.

What should really worry us, even though we are thousands of kilometres away from New Zealand is the tsunami of racist comments on social media here and elsewhere in the world. The fact the gunman had the Siege of Malta 1565 inscribed on his rifle stock shows us that we are in the eye of a storm - the great clash of civilisations.


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