You are here:   Features > Brexit as myth: Exodus, Reckoning, or Sacrifice?
And so the story goes. Brexit is a very British thing and British exceptionalism is overdetermined: by geography (the island nation); by history (the uninvaded nation); by politics (the parliamentary nation); or by class cultural inertia. In this story, the tabloids did not cook the British Eurosceptic brew but only stirred it. So say the UK’s new prophets, to defend British sovereignty against EU encroachment is to depart for a promised land of non-CAP stamped milk and honey where we are not governed by others but do the governing ourselves. The old Anglosphere will be our new Jerusalem which connects Great Britain’s future with its glorious past and the English heartland with its British parts. The great escape allows for a politically-correct Englishness which loves “our” Muslims and paints EU-centredness as parochial.

The Exodus story of an exceptional people is not only a heroic tale sung by Brexiteers. Eurofederalists admit that letting this people go is quite a relief, a people typically cut off from the continent by any bit of “fog in the Channel”, a continent whose aspiration to harmony they never really understood. De Gaulle was right, they say, even if for the wrong reasons: the Brits are simply not “European enough” to remain part of this EU. Let them delude themselves in their fantasyland. “Tired of the fog, try the frogs,” tease French recruiters with glee.

But our myths, of course, never quite mean what they seem.

If the Exodus of the Old Testament has inspired an infinite retelling, can we not imagine a modern kind of Exodus-lite where the Europeans are spared the ten plagues and the Brits the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness?

After all, many don’t want to leave at all. “Why hast thou done this to us?” complained the Israelites to Moses, “that thou hast led us out of Egypt?”

 “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm,” replied their Prophet. Keep calm and carry on. But what if we do not believe in your version of milk and honey, exclaim the Scottish, the Northern Irish or London tribes who had elected to stay. How do you expect us willingly to get lost in a legal and political no-man’s land, to leave a Euroland governed in our language, literally as well as ideologically, whose achievements of the last three decades stand as markers of British influence? Will the rebel tribes elect to exit Brexit and embark on their own “Brexodus”? Or better for Brexiteers, will they come to see the light and understand that an Exodus is always an exercise in delayed gratification?

Political sociologists have explained the vote as a tale of two Britains, a cultural war between the more or less young, schooled or urban, and between sides who differ on everything from the death penalty to gay rights — we are even told that they have different sexual fantasies! Or perhaps it boils down to the opposite meanings of one word: bond. As bondage or servitude for some, as the ties that bind for others.

Seen from the continent, we try to blur our gaze for a sharper vision, tune out the hyperbolic expressions of nativist sentiment on John Lennon’s island and wonder at how un-British they have become, as if the decision to go meant letting themselves go.

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July 11th, 2017
8:07 PM
Charles VIII? Did no one proof read?

Mark G..
July 7th, 2017
9:07 AM
A very well written article, didn't expect something that good, thank you :) From a casual perspective Brexit could mean a lot to the UK, but in fact, the EU will probably maintain friendly and cooperative relations with the UK. Time will tell... Best regards, Mark from

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