Monday, October 28, 2019

Our Undoing

The EU has granted Boris Johnson another extension on Brexit. But, however long Brexit takes, Neal Ascherson writes that the ugliness of it all has destroyed the United Kingdom and the bonds between Britons:

It’s commonly said that the Brexit years have made the English more xenophobic, less tolerant, more angrily divided among themselves. The first is clearly true. Non-British Europeans confirm a new nastiness, even just a new coldness. So, even more emphatically, will migrants from Somalia, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh.
But the deepest change since 2016 is the weakening of the United Kingdom’s inner bonds. Theresa May went around preaching about “our precious, precious union”. This puzzled me, given massive English indifference. Ask somebody in Durham or Exeter why the union matters, and you get a blank stare, a shrug and perhaps a mumble. Then I understood: it wasn’t Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland that was “precious” to her, but “the union” in the abstract – a sort of legitimising halo hovering over Westminster’s anointed. It’s a cult confined to Britain’s ruling caste and, of course, to Scottish and Irish unionists who genuinely have something to lose.

The biggest division is between London -- which after the break will still remain a vibrant city -- and "the great rest of England:"

The change now is that two streams of bitter resentment – at London’s unfair wealth and privilege and at Westminster’s unfair refusal to “obey the people” – have converged into a single torrent. London is the most spectacularly diverse metropolis in Europe, which even after Brexit will go on sucking in the money of global oligarchs and hedge funds, and the location of new British institutions. London as an independent city state, like Singapore, would prosper.

The great destruction of liberal democracies continues apace. The refusal to share our wealth, in the end, will be our undoing.

Image: Odyssey


The Mound of Sound said...

It's been reported that Brexit has led to a rebirth of English nationalism. No longer content to be the dominant part of Britain, the English, or at least more of them, are coming to see themselves as a nation apart from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Then again they have sat by and watched the rise of Scottish nationalism simmer and pop for years. They know it might not take much for the Scots to take their leave, particularly if that means remaining within the EU.

As the article notes, London will be London. It may lose head offices, perhaps a few banks, but it will continue at least somewhat as before. The pastoral south won't change much either. Nice place to holiday, even better for retirement. To the north, it's a different story.

It's the Midlands and the north that seem to be at greatest risk to the loss of that region's industrial base. A good chunk of the UK's industrial might has already been bought up by European and Indian firms. Airbus has warned that it will move its operations to new plants on the Continent. BMW has said the same. That entire region has long resented the affluence of the south, especially London. What can Westminster possibly do to keep it tranquil if plants begin shutting down because of Brexit?

John B. said...

The ruling caste no longer needs the slugs to man the armies that were required to ensure an uninterrupted flow of wealth from the colonies to their pockets, as they did in the days of a now outdated model of empire.

How quaint that in place like Canada we would still be celebrating a holiday that we call "Victoria Day". But then again, the French in Canada didn't begin to turn on the Church until over a hundred and fifty years after the Revolution.

Owen Gray said...

The process is suicidal, Mound. Lots of Britions are -- like lemmings -- making their way to the sea.

Owen Gray said...

Eventually, John, all institutions seize up and grind to a halt. And they are not necessarily replaced by something better.

Rural said...

“great” Britain is a pissy little over populated island off the coast of Europe (where I was born and left as a young tradesman, just as.. but not because, they joined the EU) that cannot IMHO survive without close ties to surrounding suppliers of goods and services. Brexit seems to be destined to bring them to bankruptcy, no wonder the historically underdogs of Scotland, Wales and even NI are not enthusiastic about this Cluster Fk! Yes London will survive but at what cost to the rest of the country?

Owen Gray said...

The island survived because it had an empire to support it, Rural. The empire has long since disappeared. Someone should informe the Brexiteers of that fact.

Toby said...

The primary Brexiteers are probably aware of the risks and don't care; they intend on profiting from a desperate government selling off bits. My suspicion is that greedy American hedge fund managers and others are salivating over the prospects of buying undervalued assets. Britons need to be very wary as the NHS and BBC will be among the first to go.

This whole Brexit mess looks engineered by the Neo-Lib econ crowd. Margaret Thatcher must be cheering from her grave.

Wherever there is an extraordinarily large pool of money the vultures will circle. Brexit offers what might be the biggest treasure for the next dozen years.

Charles may take to the throne of a rather small kingdom.

Owen Gray said...

The sun set on the British Empire long ago, Toby. Now it's setting on Britain.

The Mound of Sound said...

Toby writes, "Charles may take to the throne a rather small kingdom." Wait a second. Don't the Brits behead monarchs named Charles? Maybe he should consider 'Chip' or 'Biff.' There's the ticket - King Biff the First. Admit it, it has a certain savoir faire.

Owen Gray said...

As I recall, Mound, Biff was Willy Loman's son, who understood that his father -- and his father's dream -- was simply "phony."