Brexit is clearly a terrible idea. But it has to happen

John Harris in The Guardian:

The big question, though, centres on where Brexit came from, and what sustains it. A large part of the answer is about an ingrained English exceptionalism, partly traceable to geography but equally bound up with a puffed-up interpretation of our national past, which has bubbled away in our politics and culture for decades. The likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have used it for their own ideological ends; in the kind of post-industrial places long ignored by Westminster politicians it turned out to be the one bit of pride and identity many people had left. It runs deep: even if the economy takes a vertiginous plunge, it will take a lot longer than two years to shift it.

The only way such delusions will fade is if they are finally tested in the real world and found wanting, whereupon this country may at last be ready to humbly engage with modernity. And in that sense, to paraphrase a faded politician, Brexit probably has to mean Brexit. That may result in a long spell of relative penury, and an atmosphere of recrimination and resentment. By the time everything is resolved a lot of us will either be very old or dead. But that may be the price we have to pay to belatedly put all our imperial baggage in the glass case where it belongs, and to edge our way back into the European family, if they will have us.

In the meantime, this messiest of national dramas grinds on, and not for the first time the story suggests the priceless words of the American writer and satirist HL Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

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