“We’re out”

“It seems everybody lost and nobody won, even if some die-hards still defend the decision to leave the EU“

The English language has just the right expression for the subject of this month’s column: “To shoot oneself in the foot”, which, as the figurative image implies, means to foolishly harm one’s own cause.

That’s what happened in the United Kingdom in June 2016 when, perhaps misled or even outright lied to by unscrupulous politicians, but also partly deceived by their own outdated misconceptions of pride and nostalgia for a long-gone Empire, the majority of British people voted to “leave” the European Union by a percentage of 51.89 against the 48.11 that opted to “remain” part of the EU bloc.

Was Brexit, as the UK’s withdrawal from the EU became commonly known, the biggest blunder in international politics at a moment when the stakes were very high? Union is generally taken to mean strength and some enemies of Europe in the East and in the West pushed hard for the European Union to fall apart.

And what would a failure of the European Union mean? Almost certainly war and utter destruction yet again, for a continent that prides itself as the centre of civilization in the Western world and that more often than not has found it difficult to coexist with itself.

Where are the advantages?

Having seen the results of Brexit in the last seven years it’s hard to see where any of the advantages are that were promised by the proponents of rejecting continued membership of the UE: the demagogues like Johnson, Farage, Rees-Mogg and the like.

It seems as if everybody lost and nobody won, even if some die-hards in the conservative and populist media still defend the decision to leave the EU. After investing so heavily in promoting the “leave” result, to accept now that they made a mistake and invited dire economic consequences because of the error would mean a colossal loss of face.

One of the most preposterous statements made by a British politician in the last six years was that of current prime minister, Rishi Sunak, when he said in Northern Ireland in February this year: “Northern Ireland is in the unbelievably special position, the unique position in the entire world in having privileged access not just to the UK home market, which is the fifth biggest in the world, but also the European Union single market”.

It is a privilege that most of the rest of the country willingly rejected following the advice of people like… Rishi Sunak.

BREAKING NEWS Front pages through history

Evening Standard, London

Friday, 24 June 2016
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