To me Brexit seems an obvious mistake, with all the makings of a national catastrophe, economically, politically, and with regard to Britain’s reputation in the world. (We really are a bad joke abroad.) For me personally it has been – or will be, if and when it is finally achieved – profoundly depressing: not so much because of the material effect it will have on me as a bi-national, but rather because of the way it is seeking to narrow my generous pan-European self-identity to a parochial British one. Added to this are the profound divisions it has either opened up or revealed – a bit of both, I think – in our always fragile and fractured society, accompanied by a viciousness of debate, especially in our offshore-owned Right-wing press, which has revealed a dark and vindictive side to our national discourse that I wasn’t aware of before. Quite simply, Britain has become a much nastier country as a result of David Cameron’s foolish decision to hold a once-and-for-all referendum on EU membership in 2016. Politically speaking, I don’t like living here any more.
Luckily I have my bolt-hole in Sweden. But I won’t be bolting there without taking with me my feelings of resentment – vindictive, even – against the political leaders and newspaper magnates who have dragged my much-loved Britain to this low and wretched state. I can’t see any ideal salvation for us short of reversing the Brexit decision, and asking to be accepted back into the EU, tails between our legs, no doubt, but to the plaudits and relief of most of our former European allies and friends. There are movements on foot to effect that. The problem with them is that even if, by some miracle, they succeed, it won’t allay the viciousness – the nastiness – one whit, but is much more likely to exacerbate it. Brexiteers who voted that way because of the effects on them of ‘austerity’ – a.k.a. ‘late-stage capitalism’ (that was the underlying reason, after all: see https://bernardjporter.com/2016/06/16/is-it-really-about-the-eu/) – will resent this further ‘betrayal’ of their ‘popular will’ by the ‘elite’, and get even nastier as a result. It could even end in a kind of civil war.
So this is my dilemma. Is it justifiable to take that risk, in order to undo a great wrong? Aware of the dangers that even success will bring, should we even try to strive for it, or rather settle for something less, but still preferable to what the ideological Brexiteers are looking for? That – a so-called ‘soft’ Brexit – seems to be the second-preference of most unreconstructed ‘Remainers’ today. It will still enrage the extremists, but perhaps not quite so much. And then – out of the EU but still close to it – we can apply for full inclusion again later, once the hysteria has died down. That may be our last best hope, as rational, genuinely patriotic Brits.