Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t

Brexit wounds may one day heal, but deep trauma leads to neurosis.

Brexit(1)Most commentators have focused on the political, economic, social, and cultural implications of severing the United Kingdom from the continent that shaped it and gave it its identity. But it’s worth remembering that there is another dimension: the wilful destruction of the democratic fabric that holds the country together.

The Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole has been an astute commentator on Brexit since the whole bitter fiasco began. Nearly a year ago in “It was never about Europe. Brexit is Britain’s reckoning with itself” (The Guardian, 18 January 2019), he identified what lies behind the recriminations and posturing:

 “What we see with the lid off and the fog of fantasies at last beginning to dissipate is the truth that Brexit is much less about Britain’s relationship with the EU than it is about Britain’s relationship with itself. It is the projection outwards of an inner turmoil. An archaic political system had carried on even while its foundations in a collective sense of belonging were crumbling. Brexit in one way alone has done a real service: it has forced the old system to play out its death throes in public. The spectacle is ugly, but at least it shows that a fissiparous four-nation state cannot be governed without radical social and constitutional change.

Brexit(2)European leaders have continually expressed exasperation that the British have really been negotiating not with them, but with each other. But perhaps it is time to recognise that there is a useful truth in this: Brexit is really just the vehicle that has delivered a fraught state to a place where it can no longer pretend to be a settled and functioning democracy. Brexit’s work is done – everyone can now see that the Westminster dodo is dead. It is time to move on from the pretence that the problem with British democracy is the EU and to recognise that it is with itself.”

In short, Brexit is a cover up for the residual shambles of a political system that has outlived its usefulness and needs to be rebuilt piece by piece from the ground up. The question is who has the vision and the determination to do so?

Published by

Philip Lee

Writer and musician who tries to join up the dots.

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