Wessex folk have been robbed of our European citizenship. By a gang of liars and cheats. Who convinced just enough voters that the EU is inherently evil, the ‘EUSSR’, ‘the Fourth Reich’, and that a leaky boat in shark-infested waters is preferable to a refit of its sturdy cabins. For eurosceptics though, Brexit is never ‘done’. Their aim now is D-Day. Victory demands the destruction of the whole project, the liberation of Europe from the tyranny of co-operation. British foreign policy, as always, seeks maintenance of the balance of power to its own imperial advantage, which requires a divided Europe. Whatever the cost, even, indirectly, to the UK itself.
Any response must match this. Nothing less than the destruction of the UK will wipe off the smug smiles. After the Faragists’ oafery this week, the Union Jack has never been held in such contempt. A united Ireland and an independent Scotland have suddenly become very appealing to those who even five years ago would have been most vociferously opposed. They don’t even have to live in those places to believe that, to believe that Brexit has broken the spell. The belief that Britain’s broken constitution can still be patched up to take it on, deep into the 21st century, looks quaint. Brexit has proven to the whole of Europe, beyond reasonable doubt, just what it has to defend. The whole of Europe includes the UK, and the UK is one of those things that no reasonable person will defend any further. Labour and the LibDems may try, but their arguments will align them, too closely for comfort or gain, with the Cummings vision of Britannia resurgent.
There has been much speculation over where Remainer energies will now go. Perhaps into environmental campaigning, against climate change, or to other constitutional causes like proportional representation. If so, the results are likely to be very disappointing, in part because they are appeals to Westminster to act in ways that it won’t. Climate change mitigation requires a global consensus that no amount of blazing forestry can conjure up. Climate change adaptation, on the other hand, requires responses that are within the reach of territorial politics. What sort of responses? Higher flood defences? Moving people away from low-lying areas? Protecting food-growing land from development? Discouraging large families? Turning away climate change refugees? Or accepting responsibility for causing their trauma? Many questions, often with answers that will have to be European and regional, because making them elsewhere makes no practical sense. As for changing the voting system, best of British. The trappings of office in an occasional majority Labour government are a bigger prize than denying the Tories a majority ever again. A progressive coalition is class betrayal. The bruvvers’ tribalism is effectively blue to the core.
The UK is changing and in that process it will disappear. Frustrated with the Irish border issue, it could even be English Tories who call time on the Union. It seems more likely that neither Ireland nor Scotland will see any early resolution of their unsatisfactory constitutional status. If Ireland’s past is any guide, Scotland may not succeed in escaping London’s clutches without first experiencing a royal charm offensive, repression and bloodshed. Wales may not even try. It will be a long haul. Residents of England can help, by joining the SNP and Plaid Cymru, but solidarity with others shouldn’t become vicarious suffering. We are where we are because of the leadership of the English, because of their fear of being normal, of being less than special, of having to deal with other countries as equals. It’s demeaning, and every toy must leave the pram. The real rethinking is needed here. What kind of England do we want? In what kind of Europe (an issue now, sadly, to be decided by others with much less input from us)? The work ahead for WR and for other English regionalists is of a different kind from that required of the nationalist parties but it’s no less vital in achieving a sane future for all.