The Reunification Of Britain & The Struggle Against Empires

If Pokemon Go had been released in the UK a month earlier, the margin in the EU referendum would probably have been wider for lack of youth participation. As it is, only 36% of under-25s bothered to vote in one of history’s most important plebiscites; there’s a reason why they pay far more for car insurance.

That’s not to say that all young people are impulsive, easily distracted idiots: Pitt the Younger became Prime Minister at the age of 24; but then he came from a distinguished political family, was privately educated in the Classics and attended Cambridge University, so he might not have found a place in the new, reshuffled British Cabinet - Peter Hitchens, for one, is unimpressed by their low-energy bulbs.

Mrs May has assembled a government out of the fractured pieces of the Conservative Party, defenestrating the former “austerity” Chancellor George Osborne and the treacherous ex-minister first for Education and then “Justice”, Michael Gove. The internal politics are shadowy, but one reason for dismissing these two may be a French-style “fuse” strategy, blowing the figures publicly associated with budget cuts and controversial school reforms in order to prevent the meltdown of the Party as a whole. Yet if that were so the impudent (he was told off in Parliament) privatisation advocate Jeremy Hunt should not have remained in charge of the National Health Service. Perhaps another guiding principle in some of these appointments is Lyndon Johnson’s view on Edgar Hoover: ““Well, it's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in.” .

As was obvious before the Referendum, a major challenge afterwards, whichever way the vote went, was going to be the need to reunify the country as well as the political parties. Mrs May’s coronation – she has not won a General Election - speech firmly raised her standard upon Brexit, but that leaves open the question of it actually means, and it seems that the Government had no plans to implement Leave, so sure were they that Project Fear (not to mention mutual hatred and contempt) would succeed 

The Tories themselves remain deeply split on Europe: like Ben-Hur, the Prime Minister is straddling two horses, though in her case they are galloping in opposite directions. For now, she has chosen three men to deal with the EU fallout: David Davis as Brexit secretary, who in 2008 resigned and refought his Parliamentary seat on the issue of civil liberties; Liam Fox, another convinced Brexiteer; and Gove’s recent victim, the flamboyant, sometimes tactless and certainly Protean Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. Some sneer that they are not detail men, but that is what civil servants are for; besides, even the broad options are not necessarily what people, even some politicians and journalists, may think – see North and Booker here.

On the other side of the divide, May has chosen as Chancellor Philip Hammond, a Remainer who “has already signalled that he will defend the City in the UK’s looming Brexit negotiations with the European Union” and who has begun by warning that the process of leaving the European Empire may take at least 6 years. It may be that the Labour Party is not the only one to adopt the delaying tactics of Fabius Maximus. It is also possible that defending the City may not be the same as defending the country.

Another reference in May’s inaugural speech as PM was to retaining the union with Scotland, where 62% voted to remain in the EU. It is hard to understand how their desire for independence from England is compatible with their urge to submit to rule from Brussels, but Celts tend their enmities as others their fires; as P G Wodehouse observed, “It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” One of Mrs May’s first acts was to fly north and suggest a sort of Caledonian right of veto over triggering the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 50 on secession.

Like that coal seam fire in Pennsylvania, certain political differences have burned underground in Britain for decades, and the EU Referendum is merely one symptom of deep and unresolved issues. What those of us who love liberty and democracy must understand is that the European Union is merely a scale model of globalisation: its Four Freedoms, which like the purported aims of communism are (or once were) superficially attractive to many, in practice enable a progression towards universal subjugation. This still-unfinished 40-year skirmish with the EU is only the beginning of an even longer and far wider struggle. We will need in the next generation a populace as smart and information-rich as, yet less dedicated to trivial distractions than their iPhones, if we – if they - are to win.

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Gary Anderson 6 years ago Contributor's comment

Crony capitalism is the new communism. But I agree that freedom and the Eurozone are not synonymous. The Eurozone is globalization. Keep in mind that J Edgar Hoover was in Dallas the day JFK was assassinated. He was in LBJ's tent.

Rolf Norfolk 6 years ago Author's comment

LBJ's tent comment on Hoover was apt in more senses than one, if you know the alternative British meaning of "camp"!