Brexit and Freedom

It’s just possible that the popular backlash against Brexit has started, if a survey showing that a quarter of those who voted for it last year now feel that Farage, Johnson et al ‘misled’ them, is to be credited:  If so – or even if not – there can be no conceivable democratic argument for denying us a second referendum, once the precise terms of the divorce settlement are settled, so that we’ll know for the first time what we are voting for. ‘The people have spoken’ – having been lied to – just won’t do.

In particular, people might think again when they come to realize that with Brexit European domination is merely being exchanged for American, as Theresa May scrambles to butter up Trump for a commercial arrangement to replace our EU one. ‘National independence’ is never pristine and absolute, as Britain’s ex-colonies discovered when they escaped their colonial master’s formal bonds, only to leave them equally vulnerable to less visible ones. In this case American informal hegemony, in what Trump has always insisted will be America’s own interests, may well be less satisfactory in all kinds of ways – environmentally, for example; for our military if Trump gets his way over Afghanistan (; and for our system of healthcare – than anything we may suffer today within the EU. And of course we’ll have much less chance of influencing the former, as an isolated and friendless medium-sized country negotiating in desperation with a behemoth. Better the devil we’ve known for forty years, than the delusion that there won’t be a devil at all.

One problem seems to be that voters don’t see ‘informal’ ties and pressures, however powerful they may be, as clearly as they do formal ones, like ‘unions’ and ‘federations’ and ‘empires’ – entities you can draw lines around on a map. That was one of the arguments of my last book, British Imperial: What the Empire Wasn’t: that in the latter’s case its apparent solidity on those great red-besplattered world maps was misleading. Real power was exercised more subtly, and by others. Similarly, freedom from the EU won’t make Britain truly free.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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3 Responses to Brexit and Freedom

  1. Phil says:

    I’ve seen maps with the Empire coloured in red, and later maps with the Commonwealth coloured in pink, so I’ve no idea what “TB” is talking about.

    Re: informal ties and voters’ perceptions of them: I think a large part of the mood of Brexit is a winner-takes-all mentality, with ‘Europe’ imagined as a conspiracy to prop up weaklings and losers (who won the war, eh?) and ‘free trade’ imagined as good honest fisticuffs. The fact that we might actually come off worse outside the EU (chlorinated chicken!) is immaterial: any deal is a bad deal, precisely because it is a deal and not a unilateral demand. I’m afraid this cult of the winner has put down quite deep roots, culturally; what really worries me is that it may be shaping the frame of reference of some of the people who ought to know better, indeed need to know better for all our sakes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. TB says:

    Wrong again Porter: if you spent some time reflecting, you will recall that the British Empire was never shown as red: it was always fellow-traveller pink. Ah nostalgia, Britain’s only true growth industry…..


    • I replied to this initially, forgetting for the moment my self-denying ordinance, not to reply to anonymous or pseudonymous posts. So I’ve scrapped my original answer. Other readers will probably realise that TB’s contribution is nonsense. If he comes out from behind his initials (I assume that’s what they are), I’ll tell him why.

      Liked by 1 person

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