Brexit is simple English tribalism. A redefined relationship between the post-Brexit United Kingdom and the overseas territories is inevitable if, as is expected, the turmoil of a post-Brexit Britain becomes convulsion.
Britain is going to be reshaped by Brexit in myriad ways. For now, there can be no predicting how Brexit will fully impact UK politics, economy and society. Anyone who states that they can predict the future of a post-Brexit Britain is deluded.
Now Germany is the major power in Europe. And it tears Brexiters apart that a country Britain helped defeat twice in two bloody world wars is the dominant country of Europe.
In the Brexit psyche — which is profoundly an English phenomenon, and not in any way Scottish, Welsh or Irish — there is a great fear of the Englishman becoming a type of “amorphous European.”
Remainers like this writer are the enemy within. We are the rootless cosmopolitans: remoaners. Remainers cannot be trusted to uphold “Britishness” — or, better stated, “Englishness.” That is the reason Brexit is viewed as a throwback to colonialism and imperialism by a number of intellectuals. And there is good reason. Brexit is all hubris and emotion.
In the OTs
That may be one reason why overseas territories of Great Britain were essentially ignored in the debate that led to Friday’s withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. One can wonder what the result would be if a Brexit referendum had been held in the OTs, but this writer has no doubt the OTs would have voted to remain in the EU.
In the mind of the Brexiter, there are only two types of power: imperial power and colony; dominant and dominated. That has been the driver of Brexit: not economic logic, social welfare or political pragmatism. Brexit is, was and always will be hubris and English nationalism.
Brexit is the inability of the Brexiter to live with the fact that Britain’s greatest perceived triumph, the defeat of Hitler’s Germany in two world wars, led 50 years later to a unified Europe dominated by Germany. The enemy that Britain defeated twice in the 20th Century is today the dominant power in Europe.
Diehard Brexiters simply cannot handle the fact that a Europe of middle powers such as Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain are dominated by a resurgent Germany under the Treaty of Rome.
But Germany has no interest in ruling Europe. That is clear from German politics and society from the time of the country’s reunification in the early 1990s. Germany’s dominant position is that of a reluctant giant. Germany’s huge manufacturing and economic power is what has placed Germany at the centre of Europe. Brexiters cannot see or accept that.
Brexit, essentially, is English insecurity. Deep down, Brexiters view the EU as a continuation of previous attempts by a German and central European hegemony to control Europe and dominate the countries, cultures and economies of Europe.
Brexit is viewed as the great resistance to this insidious attempt by Germany to use the institutions of Europe to “rule the roost.” That is why the language of the Brexiter is aggressive, exclusive, xenophobic, insular and even racist.
The great paradox of Brexit is that the UK, very much like the EU, is a union of countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These countries remain within the union voluntarily, as long as more than 50 percent of voters in those countries are happy with that arrangement.
However, there is a move from political forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland for independence from the UK and then entry into the EU. Will this actually happen? Maybe! No one can tell. Such is the post-Brexit uncertainty.
The Virgin Islands
Then there are the OTs such as the Virgin Islands — throwbacks from the era of pure colonialism — that have over decades been granted a great amount of autonomy in economic and social matters, but remain very much within the old colonial mould, in spite of the huge political freedoms they have been granted by Westminster and Whitehall.
Brexit has been described as a refusal to accept realpolitik.
The UK is no longer an imperial power. But Brexit, which has been described as English nationalism, is a type of “heady drug.” Like the Falklands War, Brexit is a reminder of the past greatness of a colonial and imperial Britain.
The other components and countries of the UK are under no such illusion. They live in today’s world. Scotland is pro-European, and so are Wales and Northern Ireland. More than 50 percent of the UK population are remain and the only reason the UK is in the predicament it is in today is because of its first-past-the-post model of voting, which can offer enormous power to a government that won only a minority of the votes in an election. The UK prime minister with a majority in Parliament is in many ways an elected dictator.
In any event, Brexit is at the starting point. That is another great irony. Those voters who believed a Boris Johnson government would be the end of the Brexit saga are in for frustration and disappointment. The pains of Brexit — the UK leaving its natural trading and economic home — are just beginning.
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