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Long live…, Long live…

Historians will take a while to conclude whether Brexit has been a “tragic national error”, as the detractors of the ruling Conservative party claim.

SNS | New Delhi |

Amidst the spirited chant of “Long live Britain, Long live Europe”, the momentous has happened as February 2020 unfolds. That it has happened close to four years after the affirmative referendum ( June 2016) will remain one of the conundrums of British and European history. Historians will take a while to conclude whether Brexit has been a “tragic national error”, as the detractors of the ruling Conservative party claim.

A perception in retrospect is always preferable. Small wonder that the start of a new chapter at midnight has swiftly been compared to a defeat to be mourned and learned from. Notably, the idea is still opposed by around half of the population, and by majorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and London. The eventual parting of ways with the European Union has reduced the United Kingdom to a fractious nation.

Which alone explains why celebrations this weekend have gone hand in hand with despair. The referendum vote and the general election had made Britain’s departure from the EU inevitable. Yet it is still part of Europe, intrinsically a geographical expression. No less intrinsically, a British national is still a European. Deeply profound is the bonding of geography and history, of climate and culture, of industry and commerce, of travel and learning.

Human sentiment trandscends all and everything, primarily the differences of language and national borders. It may be sheer coincidence that the week in which Britain left Europe also marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Altogether, a terribly critical moment in history. Britain is likely to countenance a dramatically changed political future. More accurately, the Brexit vote was a revolt against many different issues. Chiefly, the EU was seen by some as a threat to sovereignty, if not a German or a socialist plot.

But membership of the EU may not even have been the most important issue for others. The idea of Brexit was also embedded in discontent provoked by spending cuts, regional neglect, declining real wages, job insecurity, migrant labour, and gross inequalities in wealth. The compulsion, therefore, was largely economic. The findings of a survey, conducted last year, was advanced only this week… ahead of the divorce decree so to speak.

It was revealed that 61 per cent of British voters said they were dissatisfied with the country’s democracy. Not that democracy faces an existential crisis in its fountain-head. But it is clear from the signal that has been emitted that the issues at stake must of necessity be addressed. In the election, Boris Johnson was able to carry the day on behalf of Brexit by offering it as a relief from the past, not as a bright signal for the future.

Cooperation with the European Union will hopefully be at the core of Britain’s equation with Brussels. Overwhelming are the strategic and economic interests. Mr Johnson has attained the consummation that he ~ and also, of course, Theresa May ~ had devoutly wished for. He now faces a complex path ahead.