The UK looks set to leave the European Union at the end of this week and it is unlikely to join again in my lifetime. It’s a time for a short reflection and a few observations.
First, when it comes to nationality, Brexit has not made me feel more British, or more English or, in fact, more European. It has not actually changed my view of myself much at all. I stand by the remarks I made at the time of the referendum.
Secondly, Brexit has not changed my views of the people who engage in politics, or those who are responsible for the management of major corporations or large institutions. As before, I consider them to be almost exclusively self-regarding, self-seeking, self-important chancers who make decisions to benefit themselves and people like them. I will never understand how we let them get away with it.
Really it seems that Brexit is not really any sort of change at all. On 1st February 2020 Britain will remain a place where inequality, prejudice, ignorance and superciliousness rule in equal measure. If Brexit has not changed my view of myself or of the country, has it changed anything?
The answer, I think, is yes. The way in which British politics have been conducted in past four years, since the time the referendum campaigns began, has helped us to see that political, social and material progress are chimeras. We are not just in a fake news post-fact world; we have reached a different end of history; we are in a post-progress world. Liberalism, democracy – whatever you call it – does not triumph; it damages both human society and the natural world. The bad guys win, again. The rest lose, again. The very idea of progress, the scale of the destruction, is now killing us, all of us.
At the heart of both the Brexit blip and of the far more important climate and ecological disaster is a history of selfishness, and systematic social, racial and gender inequity. It seems unlikely that there will be any coming together, except in the titanic clash of ideologies and sensibilities, in a struggle that will be determined by a straight division of the good, the bad and the ugly.
In the year 2020 and the coming decade Brexit will mean that some will make money, while many will lose livelihoods, homes, health and life itself. In these same years the far greater losses created by climate change will be shared by us all, as droughts, floods, pandemics, wars, crop failures and poisonous air take their toll of human, animal, plant and microbial life around the world.
This decade is important and we need to treat it that way and get on with the job of preserving what we can, as soon as we can, in any way we can. Those who want to work with others in Europe will continue to do so, and will get strength from that. Brexit will not stop us doing what is necessary.