Brexit is infantilism based on delusions of lost greatness

by Ian Davidson | 03.11.2017

The UK has plenty of problems. But we won’t solve them by rupturing our trading arrangements with our European neighbours, and sailing off into the blue empyraean, to some unknown destination, with Boris Johnson and David Davis fighting to control the helm. This betrays a fatal mindset: infantilism based on delusions of lost greatness.

There are much more important questions, and they are about us, here, in Britain. Why are we so ill-governed? Why is our productivity so low? Why is our political class so deeply unimpressive?

The popular catch-all for blaming the ills of the West is “populism”. But some of the things that are wrong with us in Britain are identifiably more specific.

Why, for example, are we still victims of the absurd notion of crude majoritarian decisions by first-past-the-post? In real life, almost all choices are much more complex than that. Most of our European neighbours are manifestly better governed than we are, and it shows up in their superior economic and social performance; and many of them have long ago adopted political systems which are to some degree adapted to the possibility of complex, negotiated choices. But in Britain, politics is still ruled by the quaint idea of winner-take-all.

Moreover, the British governing classes have presided over a country which has become increasingly and damagingly skewed, first in terms of inequality, and then towards London and the South-East. London has been allowed to become far too important, politically; the City of London, and London’s financial services, have been allowed to become far too important, economically; and the well-off have become better-off, while many of the rest are struggling.

The referendum gave the governed a chance to express their anger and resentment at the governing classes. But the governing classes appear not to recognise or to wish to address any of these problems. They seem to assume that everything is just fine, the way it has always been; and have taken the line of least resistance, by blaming a foreign scapegoat. And so we have Brexit.

Which is an indication of what is wrong. As a textbook case of a badly-governed country, Brexit is exemplary. Consider its nine elements:

  1. The most far-reaching strategic national decision in well over a century;
  2. Decided on the spur of the moment;
  3. As a manoeuvre to solve a split inside the governing party;
  4. And adopted on the basis of a paper-thin majority;
  5. In an unprecedented referendum without rules or criteria.
  6. It has since been pursued in a wild frenzy, month after month;
  7. With no agreement, inside the government, on its aims;
  8. With no clarity on what could be obtained from the EU;
  9. And with no explanation to the voters of the purposes or the end-result.

In short, a primer of political recklessness and incompetence. We shall be paying a heavy price for it, for many years to come.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

7 Responses to “Brexit is infantilism based on delusions of lost greatness”

  • Delusions of lost greatness is right.

    But even though we’ve no longer an empire, Britain has had things all its own way for many years, for which we can still be grateful. Indeed I’ve just completed a video celebrating our empire – Bye bye Britannia


    The tragedy of Brexit is that instead of being a stronger more independent nation, we will simply be a vassal state of Trump’s America. While Brexiters were fretting about the threat from Brussels, American culture has already invaded us to a far greater extent, helped by the shared language.

    So anyone who like me loves the icons of our heritage – Sherlock Holmes, red telephone boxes, and cricket on the village green – should oppose Brexit. That way we avoid further Americanisation and retain our Britishness.

  • Absolutely agree with Mr Davidson.Imagine the government activates Article 50 and then commissions studies on the economic / financial consequences of what they have done. Similarly on the problem of immigration, the results of which will not apparently be ready before a few months before the formal withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

    How is it possible for such an incompetent government to stay in power?

  • “Why, for example, are we still victims of the absurd notion of crude majoritarian decisions by first-past-the-post? ”

    I think it would be perfectly reasonable to insist on a sizeable majority to exit the EU. But only if the same rules had been applied to the massive change in our constitution that occurred when the Maastricht Treaty was adopted. As it was, we weren’t even allowed to express our view at that time.

  • Excellent article

    I would add point 10: The UK wants to control immigration by taking back control–this is from the country that invaded half of the world and made those countries colonies, when the UK invaded those countries were we not immigrants?

  • We face a tsunami of national destruction from which we will never recover The lunatics have taken over the nation and are rushing Willy nilly towards the cliff edge the only way disaster can be avoided is by Ditching Brexit now

  • I am 86 years of age so I lived through World War 2 and experienced the horrors and devastation caused by that war so my reason for being against Brexit is that we have had no major European wars since we joined with Europe and the Brexiters seem to think that it is bound to stay that way. Frankly for the sake of my children and grandchildren I do not want to take that risk.

  • 1. Has the City’s weight in the UK economy and its disproportionate global role been advanced by public measures that unconsciously reflect nostalgia for the UK’s former ascendancy?
    2. Mr Davidson’s hard-hitting article just glances at one central flaw in the Brexit referendum campaign, namely the lack of any inspiring message on the history and mutual benefits of Britain’s membership of the EU.