OPINION: The Guardian View of Brexit: A Tragic National Error

Editorial | The Guardian UK

Britain is now out of the EU. But this is a day of sadness, not of glory, for we shall always be part of Europe

“And The Answer Is – We’re Out.” Four and a half years have passed since the BBC’s David Dimbleby pronounced the result of Britain’s EU referendum. At 11pm on 31 December, his words became finally and fatefully true. The United Kingdom is now no longer part of the European Union or subject to its rules. We have closed the door and walked away. We are on our own. We’re out.   

FOR MANY IN BRITAIN, IT IS A GLORIOUS DAY. Departure from the EU, for those who wanted it, is a moment of independence regained, sovereignty reclaimed, and of taking back control. They hope it will sweep the European argument out of British life. They want it to be, in the prime minister’s words, “a new chapter in our national story”, the fulfilment of “the sovereign wish of the British people to live under their own laws, made by their own elected parliament”.

For Others, 1 January Is Simply A Moment of Relief. The Brexit wars have lasted eight long years, from the moment David Cameron committed the Conservatives to a referendum in January 2013. Even Brexit’s eclipse by COVID in 2020 could not prevent Europe’s return to the headlines as 2021 approached and the possibility of a no-deal departure again loomed. On this, both Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer spoke as one on Wednesday. These arguments, they both said, are over.

In one sense, they are right. Political parties must look forward, not back. In another sense they are profoundly wrong. This is a day of sadness. Britain’s departure remains a tragic national error. We have expelled ourselves from a union that was good for this country and the world. The role of the anti-European press in making this happen was decisive, so it is somehow fitting that a government led by journalists has slammed the door. But at least the EU can no longer be blamed for our continuing tensions, inequalities and failures of governance.

These tensions cannot be magicked away. Brexit was opposed by majorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London and other cities, as well as by most young people and most graduates. None of that is going to change, whatever the overall majority verdict was in 2016 and however tired of the argument we all may be. This is a country divided over Europe. We were divided in the past and we will be divided in the future. Getting Brexit done is a fantasy. It is a supposed solution that only creates new historic problems.

In 2016, many of the most fanatical Brexiters hoped the UK’s departure would trigger the EU’s breakup. Yet two of the most striking consequences of the vote were the unity of the EU27 in the face of Brexit compared with the growing disunity of the UK4 over the issue. The breakup of Britain rather than the EU is now the more likely prospect. It would be a terrible price to pay. But the delusions that fed and fostered Brexit still have much of the Conservative party and press in their grip, as a number of gloating speeches from the Tory benches on Wednesday indicated.

Theresa May’s warning from those benches posed a far more real question. WE MUST NEVER ALLOW OURSELVES TO THINK THAT SOVEREIGNTY MEANS ISOLATIONISM OR EXCEPTIONALISM, said Mrs May. We live in an interconnected world, she added. In some ways Mr Johnson seems to understand this. His Commons speech spoke of Britain as “the best friend and ally the EU could have”, which perhaps marked a change of tone. But the movement he leads is not interested in alliances or compromises. It feeds off fantasies of greatness, which Mr Johnson constantly indulges. It fatally confuses sovereignty with power.

BREXIT IS DONE – BUT IT IS NOT OVER. In the medium term it leaves behind all manner of sources of future conflict for British politics. These include the fine print of the agreement (ignored altogether in Wednesday’s parody of a scrutiny process), new immigration controls, the maintenance of regulatory alignment, the status of service industries, fishing, access to databases, defence cooperation and, perhaps above all, the ambiguous place of Northern Ireland within the deal. All of these are iterations of a deeper truth: That we shall never cease to be Europeans and will never cease to engage with Europe.

In his novel The Stone Raft, the Portuguese writer José Saramago imagines the Iberian Peninsula breaking physically away from Europe at the Pyrenees and drifting across the world’s oceans in a fruitless search for a new home. Today, Britain can feel a bit like a metaphorical stone raft too. Except that the real Britain will remain anchored in perpetuity across the Channel from the European continent, its peoples, economies and cultures, of which we shall always be part – and to which we hope one day, in some way, to return.

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Comments

  • Dennis Albert  On 01/02/2021 at 12:25 am

    The pro-Brexit crowd depends on oil money from the Gulf states to buy up their rat-infested flats and council estates for $1,000,000 Pounds per acre. Hypocrites.

    • kamtanblog  On 01/02/2021 at 4:18 am

      Absolute nonsense !
      Guardian nonsense ! Most negative reporting
      trying to predict the future for the doomers and
      bloomers brigade.
      Will read the article again and try to address
      all the questions/issues it addresses.
      As a Brexiteer and a eurosceptic let me
      categorically state Brits are not Europeans
      ……never was never will be !
      These island peoples were invaded once in
      55BC by Romans followed later by another
      failed attempt by Hitler and his nazi in WW2
      The hypocracy of Empircal Europe lives on
      today. Q what will be the chosen language of
      EU …French German Spanish or some other latin dialect.? Am being sarcastic !

      Will read again and comment further
      but the article reads MSM BS

      Kamtan uk-ex-EU

      • Dennis Albert  On 01/02/2021 at 11:48 am

        If the UK goes the way of backwards and cultureless countries like Poland and Hungary, then the UK deserves to have their exports banned from former colonies. Jamaicans should stop the UK from exporting Cadbury and chocolate, just like how Poland should stop exporting their rancid sardines to the Caribbean.

      • kamtanblog  On 01/02/2021 at 12:03 pm

        Ha ha absolute hilarious !
        Ransid sardines from Poland ?
        Cadbury choc from UK ?

        Market forces my friend !
        If you like ransid sardines or Cadbury choc
        there must be a market for it !
        Our world is global not local ..it is for the political jackasses that donkies elect to decide
        what is legally/illegally enter their borders.
        UK is lucky it is an island in this respect but
        as the saying goes
        No man is an island
        However neither is no island a man

        Go figure

        K

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/02/2021 at 8:53 am

    As we say in Guyana: Do suh – nah like suh!!

    The British colonial masters are used to dealing with their “subjects” and “slaves” ….

    Once they got involved with other white colonial masters and found the European masters were not going to tek pushing around like the subjects and the slaves ….

    They didn’t like duh, one bit!

    Therefore, the British cut and run rather than assert their British selves.

    Apart from Australia, Canada and New Zealand, the British are comfortable at the Commonwealth Heads of Government table – feeling like a master again.

    The way I see it!!

    • kamtanblog  On 01/02/2021 at 9:00 am

      Brits don’t wish to rule the world all over again
      …at least not politically but certainly economically.
      Only time will tell if they succeed.!
      The strongest currency in the planet is the £
      As long as that continues Britannia will be on top of the world….this time economically
      Not militarily or politically !
      Economically.
      My spin

      K

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/02/2021 at 9:41 am

    Swapping Blue Passports for Passport Blues, Brexit Britain’s Buyer’s Remorse

    Wait, This Isn’t The Brexit That I Voted For! That’s the new and unintentionally funny catch phrase being voiced by outraged Brits across the internet.

    Cahir O’Doherty | Irish Central

    The Germans have a word for this: SCHADENFREUDE. It literally means “harm joy”, and it is used to mean taking great pleasure in the misfortunes of someone else.

    The British – and Let’s Be Specific Here, Mostly the English – know and even use the word and they indulged more than once in the EU Parliament as their interminable “we’re leaving” tour dragged on for years.

    But now the shoe is on the other hand – where it was always destined to find itself – and the cold light of geographical, political and economic isolation is beginning to dawn.

    For the EU, it’s a relief of course. A key resister to deeper EU integration and reform, the UK’s endless Brexit dumbshow took up time and attention that can now be better spent elsewhere.

    With the Brits taking down the welcome sign in the UK, it will mean fewer non-British people opting to live or work there, which will, in turn, be felt by employers, which will, in turn, be felt by the economy, which will, in turn, be felt by the poor and then reflected at the polls.

    Now is not the winter of their discontent but they are catching little sneak previews and so far, they’re NOT liking what they see.

    I VOTED FOR BREXIT, BUT NOT TO BE TREATED LIKE A FOREIGNER BY THE EU!

    What do you mean I now have to apply for a visa to work in 27 mainland EU countries? Since when?

    Burned your toast? Tripped on the living room carpet? Stubbed your toe? Now you have a handy false victimhood catchphrase:

    THIS IS NOT THE BREXIT I VOTED FOR!

    Each time you catch someone who wanted out of the EU losing their cool over the consequences of leaving the EU, You Know What To Say!

    • kamtanblog  On 01/02/2021 at 11:19 am

      Absolute nonsense !
      UK final contribution to the EU bireaucracy
      £89b pa.
      uk already have 657 mp’s
      600+ House of Lords
      It does not need another 650 bureaucrats to dictate policy …thank you !
      Let’s see how long before French German taxpayers continue to subsidise the EU dream.?
      Most southern EU citizens retire at 50 on full company/state pensions. Who will foot that bill ?
      Uk retirement age is now 68 for men 67 for women. Old farts are living longer today hence
      higher retirement age.

      Maybe less UK citizens will now move to EU on retirement …spending their time and pensions in UK. Not many if any EU citizens retire in UK.
      Most who come are either economic migrants
      refugees or political aslyees ! If you wish to
      work and have a skill UK is short of you will be
      welcomed after proper/stricter vetting …the EU has become a staging post (temporary fix) for all
      sorts of illegals …thanks but no thank you.

      Now go figure
      Uk is now a free country to determine its own destiny.

      Kamtan uk-ex-EU

  • Dennis Albert  On 01/02/2021 at 11:53 am

    There are Eastern European, British, Canadian, and American “European” illegals in Guyana…They work for the oil companies, take away our jobs, rob us of our resources, and inflate the price of rents and the cost of living. Should Guyana do a Brexit on the white countries?

    • kamtanblog  On 01/02/2021 at 12:12 pm

      My friend that is a question for the political
      Jackasses donkies elect !
      Simple Simon suggests
      Every position in public/private sector have
      an understudy(guyanese national) to replace them in an emergency. It’s not rocket science today with the techno available.
      Hey we will soon have robots replacing humans
      and driverless vehicles on our roads …need I go on….

      Off my soapbox

      K

  • brandli62  On 01/02/2021 at 12:10 pm

    A good article! Here the conclusion from an article in the Economist:

    “The ructions are not over. The referendum has strained the United Kingdom’s bonds. Scotland voted for Remain by a large majority and Northern Ireland by a smaller one. To avoid creating a hard border between Northern Ireland and the republic, a border has been established inside the United Kingdom, between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That will have consequences. A majority of Scots now want independence, and support for Irish unification is growing. The most striking consequence of that historic day in 2016 might not be Britain’s exit from a European Union that it never loved but the break-up of the nation-state whose sovereignty the Brexiteers sought to defend.”

    Are we seeing the last steps leading to the complete dissolution of the British Empire, which started with India gaining independence in 1947?

    • kamtanblog  On 01/02/2021 at 12:22 pm

      Maybe maybe not ….
      History dies repeat itself but change we must
      as die we shall !
      UK citizens has no political ambitions to
      rule the world …some of the political jackasses
      elected may have but they are a minority.
      Hitler also had a go !
      Ex CIC USA followed
      Who next ?

      Sorry my friend no crystal ball only
      two ….Hitler had only one ball
      Gimler something similar
      but poor old go balls had no balls at all !

      A song we sung when pissed in the military

      K

  • Dennis Albert  On 01/02/2021 at 5:05 pm

    The EU wanted to stop money lawndering in the stock market and real estate:

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/03/2021 at 12:31 pm

    Philip wrote:

    Good piece and pretty accurate. Already there are signs that small EU businesses are ceasing trading with the UK as the extra cost of paperwork and new rules from the UK government forcing them to collect and submit UK VAT on items shipped to the UK. Here’s one example:

    https://www.dutchbikebits.com/shipping

    BRITAIN IN 2021

    Unfortunately, we will not be able to send parcels to the UK from mid December 2020 onward. Quite apart from uncertainty due to Brexit surrounding the shipping cost, taxation etc. after that time, there is also a problem caused by the British government deciding to impose a unique taxation regime which will require every COMPANY in the world in every COUNTRY in the world outside the UK which exports to the UK to apply and collect British taxes on behalf of the British government.

    For providing this service they intend to charge a fee to every COMPANY in the world in every COUNTRY in the world which exports to the UK.

    Clearly this is ludicrous for one country, but imagine if every country in the world had the same idea?

    If every country decided to behave in the same way then we would have to pay 195 fees every year, keep up with the changes in taxation law for 195 different countries, keep accounts on behalf of 195 different countries and submit payments to 195 tax offices in 195 different countries, and jump through whatever hoops were required to prove that we were doing all of this honestly and without any error.

    Therefore, from mid December 2020 onward we ship to every country in the world… EXCEPT THE UK.

    We have many customers within the UK and would like to be able to trade with them. Not being able to send parcels to the UK does not work in any way in our favour and it is not what we wanted. We are forced by British policy to stop dealing with British customers. If you’re angry about this, and you may well be so, please contact your elected representative in the UK.

    • brandli62  On 01/03/2021 at 12:54 pm

      This is pretty much the situation consumers are facing in Switzerland. Many EU based companies refuse to ship to Switzerland for the same reasons given above. The Brits will have to learn the hard way that Brexit has consequences beyond what they were told by the tabloids and the Tories. Freedom of movement within the EU is also history (not for Swiss as they have an agreement with the EU). Working or relocating to the EU will be no become a bureaucratic exercise for Brits as of January 1, 2021. The UK health care sector, as seen a dramatic shift of nurses recruited from EU countries to those from India and the Philippines. It does not seem the Johnson administration is spending money to increase the number of Brits being training in nursing…..

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