The Eurasian (Lynx) Invasion

Beware, citizens of Great Britain … an invasion of Eurasians may be imminent! And if you don’t prevent it, you may be slaughtered like lambs.

That sounds like an argument in support of Brexit, doesn’t it? And yet it’s far more bloody than the debate over the European Union. In fact, the marauding Eurasians will actually behave like predators if they descend upon the British Isles. And their prey may indeed include lambs.

You see, environmentalists have mourned the loss of the British lynx species for a very long time. A close relative of the bobcat, the lynx helped to manage the spread of deer populations, and effectively maintained an important ecological balance in the Scottish woods.

Around the year 700, though, the British lynx was hunted into extinction because of the beauty of their fur coats. Today, 1,300 years later, naturalists propose to restore the species to the Isles by importing and releasing several of their Eurasian relatives.

Sheep farmers in the region, of course, are not pleased by the plan. Although they’ve been assured that their losses will be minimal, they don’t trust the authorities. And, to be sure, the restoration plan does raise a number of troubling moral questions.

For instance, is there ever a moral justification for threatening the current residents of a region by forcing them to confront a new predator? Don’t the deer and sheep have as much of a right to life as the lynx?

Furthermore, does the introduction of a Eurasian species really make up for the earlier extinction of its British counterpart? And does the interim passage of 1,300 years affect the moral clarity of any such act?

There are pragmatic questions to consider as well. Are the experts truly certain that they can control the spread of the lynx? Are there other animal species, as well as plant species, that may be harmed by the big cats?

Indeed, this is not a situation where environmentalists are proposing the preservation of a beloved endangered species with a long and continuous history. Instead, they are proposing the introduction of a distant relative of a species that has been extinct for more than a millennium.

That’s an entirely different story, isn’t it? For that reason, environmentalists may wish to take a deep breath and consider the implications of their plan before they take action. After all, once they let the cats out of the proverbial bag, they may not be able to capture them again.

Brexit: A State Of Deadlock

Are you an American who feels worried about the state of deadlock that now reigns throughout your federal government? Here’s a suggestion that might make you feel a little better about your circumstances: just glance across the Atlantic Ocean and observe the level of paralysis that is gripping the government of Great Britain.

Why? Because the British government can’t seem to settle a fundamental issue regarding its own sovereignty. Although the United Kingdom is currently a member of the European Union, its citizens recently voted in a national referendum to secede from the continental bloc.

We thus might have expected British Prime Minister Theresa May to issue a formal statement of secession by triggering Article 50 of the Union treaty. But that has not yet occurred, and last week’s opening arguments of a Court case now raise some doubt that it will ever occur.

Why? Because there is confusion about whether the result of the national referendum is binding under British law. Based on a concept known as the royal prerogative, the Prime Minister is the chief executive of the federal government. She therefore maintains the privilege and the obligation to implement the royal family’s directives under federal law.

And Theresa May has indeed announced her intention to issue a formal statement of succession by March 2017. So why is there any confusion or gridlock regarding this intention?

Well, for starters, the British Parliament might need to ratify the result of the referendum. And even though the members of Parliament are elected by the people of Britain, they may not necessarily decide to ratify a result that generates such risk for the British economy.

In addition, the British royal family has maintained a strictly neutral position on the question of Brexit. So It is difficult to define the Prime Minister’s proposed trigger of Article 50 as a matter of royal prerogative, given that the royal family maintains no public position on the question of Britain’s status within the European Union.

And finally, the Prime Minister is the leader of the political party that controls the most seats in Parliament. So it would be awkward at best, and perhaps a conflict of interest at worst, for Theresa May to initiate succession over the protests of Parliament while leading the political party that controls that very legislature.

Of course, even if the British courts grant Parliament ratification or veto authority over the results of the Brexit referendum, there is no guarantee that the legislators will vote against secession. After all, by doing so, they would be voting against the will of the people, and against the declared intention of their own political leader.

The government of the United Kingdom is in quite a state of confusion, isn’t it? Fortunately, the British courts are expected to settle the issue with a legal judgment relatively soon. And with the American Presidential election about to occur as well, the world’s two oldest democracies may soon be able to put their greatest uncertainties to rest.

Brexit: A Generational Divide

You’ve undoubtedly already heard the hubbub about Great Britain’s shocking decision to leave the European Union. But did you notice the stunning generational divide that underlies the voting results?

An overwhelming three quarters of all voters aged 18 to 24 desired to remain in Europe. And a clear majority of voters aged 25 to 49 did so as well. But older voters favored the opposing position, with almost two thirds of senior citizens preferring to leave, and a clear majority of voters aged 50 to 64 also opting to depart.

Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once derisively referred to the established Western European nations as “Old Europe,” while praising the emerging nations of the East as “New Europe.” Apparently, the Brexit vote revealed a similar split between the citizens of “Old Britain” and “New Britain.”

Why does this cleavage matter? Because global history is full of ostensibly irreversible cultural attitudes that were washed aside by a deluge of generational change.

Consider the issue of gay marriage in the United States, for instance. In 1996, a Democratic President signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law. That act defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and explicitly gave every state the right to refuse to recognize gay marriages. And yet, for its time, it was considered a relatively moderate law because it implicitly permitted individual states to sanction such unions.

Just twenty years later, though, gay marriage was recognized by Supreme Court as a fundamental human right. Why the change? Younger generations, advancing into adulthood, overwhelmingly supported the progressive position.

Indeed, gay marriage proponents ultimately prevailed by convincing the younger generations of the wisdom of their position, and then by simply waiting for those generations to come of age. So what lesson may their experience convey to the disappointed young Britons who wish to remain in the European Union?

To put it simply: time is on your side. Be patient, and recognize that the inevitable generational tide is flowing in your direction.

Brexit: What Happens Next?

Next week, on June 23, the citizens of Great Britain will vote in a referendum that asks whether their nation should “Remain a Member of the European Union” or should “Leave the European Union.”

So … what will happen if they vote to Remain? And what will happen if they vote to Leave?

The simple truth is that no one really knows what will happen next. The European Union’s agreements do not contemplate the possibility of a member leaving the organization. Thus, they do not specify the impact of such a referendum.

Nevertheless, the New York Times reports that a vote to Leave will trigger a two year period of negotiations with the European Union to agree on a dis-association process. But it also reports that, as a result of such negotiations, Britain might “remain in the European Union’s common market.”

The Common Market, of course, predated the emergence of the Union. Technically, it no longer exists. But today there exists the European Economic Area, as well as the European Free Trade Association. Both organizations include nations that maintain their own national currencies and other aspects of independence from the Union, and yet are indirectly affiliated with the Union.

Furthermore, even nations that have adopted the Euro currency, and that aren’t voting on whether to Leave the Union, maintain aspects of independence from the Union. Several nations, for instance, have received reprieves from the critical budget deficit limitations that support the solvency of the Euro currency.

So what will actually occur as a result of this Brexit vote? Well, if the vote is to Leave the Union, negotiations to revise political and economic relationships will commence. And if the vote is to Remain in the Union, such negotiations — which routinely occur among all Union members — will continue.

Thus, the referendum is simply an opinion poll that might establish a transitory sense of direction to such negotiations, until some future event modifies that direction. In other words, although the vote represents an important barometer of British opinion at the current time, it will hardly settle the question of the future of the European Project.