LONDON — As a symbol of the woes of Britain’s Brexit-era democracy, it could hardly be bettered. Lawmakers had to be sent home in mid-debate last week when water from a burst pipe began gushing into the House of Commons chamber.
The image perfectly illustrates Parliament’s problem as it tries to solve the puzzle that is Brexit. On the outside, the U.K. institution is resplendent, a world-famous symbol of democracy sitting majestically on the River Thames. On the inside, it’s decrepit and increasingly unfit for use.
The hidden flaws in Britain’s political system have been laid bare — and televised worldwide — since voters chose, almost three years ago, to leave the European Union.
Decision-making has ground to a standstill, even as business leaders and residents alike cry out for certainty. Many Britons feel a mix of frustration, fascination and shame at the ongoing political chaos. So do politicians on both sides of the Brexit divide.
“I am ashamed to be a member of this Parliament,” said pro-EU Liberal Democrat lawmaker Norman Lamb after lawmakers once again failed to find a way forward on Brexit.
Bill Cash, a pro-Brexit Conservative, said this week that Britain had been “humiliated” by failing to leave the EU on time.
The last few months in Parliament, as lawmakers repeatedly tried and failed to agree on a roadmap for Britain’s departure, have produced close votes, late nights and high drama. It’s a political soap opera that has sent the viewership of Parliament’s live-streaming website soaring and made an international celebrity of House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, with his bellowing cries of “Orderrrrr” and “The ayes have it!”