The Brexit debate has become wearisome, the same arguments are rehearsed, the same faces appear on the news, the hard Right and hard Left remain determined on severing Britain from the European Union. It has reached a point where there is only noise.
Strangely, George Orwell’s 1931 essay A Hanging surfaced in the mind. Orwell describes an execution in Burma, a crowd gathered and the condemned man repeated the same chant again and again and again. Orwell, a man of profound humanitarian sentiments admits,
. . . the same thought was in all our minds: oh, kill him quickly, get it over, stop that abominable noise!
Suddenly the superintendent made up his mind. Throwing up his head he made a swift motion with his stick. ‘Chalo!’ he shouted almost fiercely.
There was a clanking noise, and then dead silence.
The noise of rancorous debate fills every news broadcast. No projection of the outcome projects a loss of less than billions of pounds, some suggest the cost will be one of many billions. Successive reports by respected financial institutions point to the impact that Britain’s departure will have.
Reading the Financial Times each day, it seems that only ideologues persist in a sanguine view of the future. The Right hold fast to a faith in an other-worldly land where there will be new and unimagined trade agreements with countries with whom there has been no bar on trade, anyway; the Left believe that billions will be liberated to build a new socialist Britain that will include a programme of nationalisation. To point out that the United Kingdom’s trade with Ireland, an EU country of just four and a half million people, is comparable with its trade with Brazil, Russia, India and China combined is a waste of breath. To suggest that socialist projects will have no money to fund them is to be accused of having neo-liberal sympathies.
So Britain stumbles onward toward the execution date. A fat man in sandals and shorts walked down the street; his t-shirt declared that Britain should stand up for itself and fight Europe – a bulldog raised its middle claw toward France. There is no point in attempting a rational engagement with those for whom leaving the European Union has become something deep rooted in the non-rational depths of the psyche.
Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief negotiator, must be at the point where he feels as Orwell did on that morning in Burma, wishing the abominable noise would stop, wishing they would get it over.