No, Brexit won’t “save Britain”

It’s well worth reading this piece by ‘Otto English’, which argues that, depressing as it may be, Brexit offers an opportunity for national renewal. I follow the writer on Twitter and he’s consistently astute and entertaining, but I think he falls prey to a very easy illusion, as I explain in the comment reproduced below:

This is entertaining but misconceived, falling prey to the same illusion that fires up both Brexiters and (ahem) ‘Lexiters’. The discourse of national decay/decline and impending renewal is a dangerous one in itself – it posits the existence of a body politic on a national scale and thus gives succour to any currently available nationalist project which seeks to rouse it. The writer may believe that the FTTP system is the culprit for the national malaise – others will insist it’s Muslims, the EU, or a lack of faith in this national project. As for “Once we are no longer entwined with our neighbours, who will they have to blame for NHS waiting lists, the housing crisis, queues on the motorways, foreign criminals and straight bananas?”, the EU will still be a readily available scapegoat, as will Muslims, foreigners, immigrants, or any other individual or group held up as a threat to the cause of national revival.

Generations of ultraleftists have in their desperation turned to the comforting illusion that the masses, once reduced to a level of piteous degradation, would wake up to their plight and, as it were, take back control. Unfortunately one dominant narrative right now is that that is what they’ve done. It’s tempting to pretend that this dismal crisis represents a golden opportunity. Of course, some of “us” will benefit. On the whole, most will suffer enormously, particularly those who have made their lives here but have supposedly been rejected by this national organism. Perhaps thinking in terms of “our nation” is a turning away from the responsibility to think through why this happened and how those who value solidarity above sovereignty can defend what is most valuable and think beyond national borders and national origins. Not engaging in vainglorious rhetoric about “our nation” and “our reputation” is a good starting point.

As it happens I do believe that our voting system is not, as that horrible bit of neoliberal verbiage has it, “fit for purpose” (vomits). However, it’s not going to be changed any time soon (thanks, Clegg); if it were to be replaced overnight, then in the current climate any number of neo-Farages would storm the polls, as we saw at the last EU elections and may well see at the next ones, should they take place (should they?). In the meantime, far-right parties throughout Europe and beyond take their energy from a depressingly familiar discourse of polishing up the national sceptre, refurbishing the national throne, weeding the national garden to get rid of decadent and unpatriotic sentiment and behaviour, etc etc. Over the next few months they will be seeking to apply their pseudo-Spenglerian diagnosis to the whole of Europe, and then, as they see it, donning the surgical gloves to excise the tumour that threatens our civilisation.

Similarly, this last decade in the UK has shown once again that the doctrine of necessary suffering for the sake of national recovery is a gruesomely dishonest one. The continuation of that project of decimating democracy at every level is, as it happens, about to take on a renewed vigour. If you’re looking for less problematic metaphors in the attempt to find consolation in the current conjuncture, I suppose you could say that at least the dark clouds of Brexit are less depressing in their implications than the warm bright sunshine of a couple of weeks ago…but even that’s only true in a (partly) literal sense. Especially now we know that the Mediterranean diet will soon be no more and that the oceans are burning. No amount of renewed national fervour, however progressive or enlightened, is going to solve that, and as for The Independent Group representing “just the start” of the “revolution”, Mr English might like to look at Anna Soubry’s voting record. She may share his desire for national revival, but she’s consistently taken a stand against human survival.

One thought on “No, Brexit won’t “save Britain”

  1. Following that link to Anna Soubry’s voting habits on climate change shows she hasn’t made a vote on a climate change related issue for almost three years, which means she either hasn’t bothered to vote on such issues or, more likely, there hasn’t been any government legislation to vote on during this time. I say more likely because of this article from yesterday:

    which shows the Envronnment Secretary Michael Gove has, in 20 months of working in that job, only passed one piece of legislation, that being the Ivory Act.

    The Ivory Act. In 2019. I get the impression that Michael Gove’s ideas about what constitute environmental problems are akin to mine in 1982 when I was ten years old; support the W.W.F., Save The Whales, don’t make the white keys on pianos out of elephant tusks, make them out of plastic instead, don’t drop litter.



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