But a fresh shock reverberated through the U.K. last week when British Prime Minister Theresa May called a general election for this June – three years before the next one was due and in complete contradiction to her earlier promise to keep governing until 2020.
The Brits were gobsmacked. May’s political opponents were stunned.
Amid financial market uncertainty, the British pound bounced around like a yo-yo.
But while U.K. voters will have an opportunity to hold May accountable for her broken pledge and to punish the Conservatives if they like, the prime minister’s decision – later endorsed by Parliament – is bold, wise and in the best interests of the country.
Besides being totally unexpected, last year’s razor-thin vote in favour of Brexit left the country confused, divided and very worried about the future.
Even now, no one knows how Brexit will change the lives of Britain’s 65 million citizens because no one knows what it actually means.
What kind of new deal can Britain make with the EU? Will the British economy crash?
Will trade with Europe dry up? Will pro-EU Scots and Northern Irish separate from England and Wales?
The United Kingdom has never seemed more disunited and adrift off the shores of Europe.
Meanwhile, many European leaders, along with more than a few British politicians and citizens, cling to the faint hope that Brexit is reversible, that the British Parliament will find a way to sidestep the referendum results and keep the U.K. in the EU.
The election can bring some order out of this chaos.
In the coming campaign, May will have to explain in greater detail and with more clarity than ever before what her plan is.
Voters might reject what she proposes. They will also consider and test the visions of the other political parties.
The change being proposed for the U.K. is of monumental proportions. Decisions of this magnitude come once in a generation, if even that often.
This election, most of all, is the time for the people of Britain to speak, to be heard and to elect the best possible representatives to navigate their country through uncharted waters.
The chances of Brexit being rejected are almost nonexistent. But if voters elect pro-Brexit MPs with a clear agenda, the new government will be in a stronger, more well-defined position in the upcoming negotiations – and that could be better for the EU, too.
And if the election fails to bring the nations of the United Kingdom together, at least everyone will know where they stand.
The British government already has one mandate for Brexit, thanks to last June’s referendum. If, as seems an almost certainty, the next government is pro-Brexit, it will have something even better – a second mandate, made after sober reflection, to do the job.
A democratic vote got Britain into this mess. Another democratic vote should help it find the best way out.