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More frustrating still, the Leavers themselves seem to have radically different ways of “not being European enough” à la De Gaulle. Some want to leave because they find Europe too big, others because they find it too small. For a promised land, the parochials dream of the shires, the globalists of the Antipodes. The former want more protection and to pull up the drawbridge, the latter less protectionism and to build bridges.    

It is not clear what version other Europeans dislike more, each slightly alienating in a different way. If the Brits have left us because they find Europe too big, we can confine Brexit to all that is pathetic about British exceptionalism and “Little Britain”. But if they have left because they find Europe too small, but there is panache — however delusional — in their story of Cool Britannia goes global. You will even find grudging admiration in some EU quarters for those bloody-minded Brits — they dared!

For every European applauding the departure of these foot-draggers, another will miss their expert footwork. For Britain has been everyone’s great balancer — of the French on behalf of the Germans, of the Germans on behalf of the French, and of both on behalf of the periphery. It is not for nothing that the UK has been the most sought-after ally in Council negotiations after Germany. Bregret has many variants on the continent.

We find variants of ambivalence-writ-large beyond Europe itself. Commonwealth citizens may bemoan the closing of their gate to the EU but are also flattered to have been chosen as less problematic migrants than the close-by Poles. And in the rest of the world, the prospect of an unanchored global Britannia does leave puzzled observers wondering why the Brits would want to abandon a Euroland that still attracts so many nomads. But it does not hurt either to be desperately courted by the ex-imperialists.

Perhaps weary of such prospects, European leaders seem prone to enact a more self-aggrandising version of the story, where it is they who stand at the gate. This is not your Exodus but our banishing! You may have chosen to bite the apple and claim back control over your life, but we define the terms of departure. This story is not about freedom gained but paradise lost.

But what does banishment say about the banisher? Is it too early for Brussels to recognise that it could have given David Cameron a better deal to sex-up the Remainers’ dossier? Was more freedom within Egypt truly not an option?

And what does it say about the banished? That Eve “deserved it”? That she has fallen for the promise of fake knowledge outside Paradise? Who is to say?

Isn’t banishment anyway always on a knife’s edge, all-or-nothing but with little separating the two, a foolish gamble, a short moment of gluttony in Paradise? Who says that biting the apple was written in British DNA? How do we make sense of the very real possibility that the decision could have gone the other way? If only. No one would then be talking about British exceptionalism.

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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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