Today is the official date for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. The UK has not yet made a deal with the EU. Instead of rising boldly in independence, they’re hanging around for another few weeks or months, trying to come up with a plan for their newfound freedom. The EU is being cooperative and giving the UK extensions, but they also expect Britain to follow through on their commitments, including 39 billion pounds in financial responsibilities.
Here’s what reminds us of the Puerto Rico “commonwealth” option:
- The Leavers voted to leave the UK without having a plan. The Commonwealthers fight tooth and nail to include their option on ballots in Puerto Rico, but haven’t yet come up with a plan or even a description of what it might be like. Instead, they insist that “creative statesmanship” will eventually develop some kind of new order.
- The UK attempted to come up with a plan that they can agree on. With eight different options and just days before the leaving day, they still couldn’t agree on any of the proposed choices. The commonwealth party hasn’t been able to come up with an agreed-upon definition of “enhanced commonwealth” since the 20th century.
- The UK can’t be sure that the EU will agree to any new plan they come up with. They can’t force the EU to agree to anything. That 20th century “commonwealth” definition that the commonwealth party came up with was firmly rejected by the U.S. federal government. Puerto Rico can’t force the United States to accept any definition of “enhanced commonwealth,” either.
- A no-deal Brexit — in which the UK would leave the EU with no agreements for a future relationship — is a real possibility. That would mean that Britons could no longer trade freely with the EU, travel and work in all EU countries, or take advantage of the shared market. The “commonwealth” party has been told over and over that their ideas for “enhanced commonwealth” will not be accepted by the federal government. Now some members of the party want to create a Free Association with the United States. If they continue to insist on elements that are unconstitutional, they could end up with no deal. That would mean that Puerto Rico would be an independent nation with no commitments from the United States for a transition.
- Brexit is currently a mess. This is not what the Leavers said would happen. It’s not what people voted for. The “commonwealth” party has gotten Puerto Rican voters to choose their option more than once in the past. Congress has refused to take action, because the “commonwealth” option is, as Rep. Serrano put it, “a letter to the Three Kings, a letter to Santa Claus.” The plan as it has been described by leaders has been rejected by all three branches of the federal government, and it will not happen. Like the Leavers, the “commonwealthers” promise people a vision they can’t deliver.
Brexiteers talked about sovereignty, national identity, freedom to make trade deals, and various other things commonwealthers also talk about. Without a cohesive plan and agreement with the EU, however, they’re looking at something much messier than they expected.