when nostalgia becomes a political weapon

“What scares me about nostalgia is that it has become a political weapon. The politicians have created nostalgia for an England that never existed. And to which they sell as something we can return to, ”explained the recently disappeared John le Carré in an interview with the BBC last year. The British novelist, whose real name was David Cornwell, was the spy who narrated the Cold War. He was always extremely critical of him Brexi. Is it nostalgia that has brought us here?

This December 31, it will finally be executed for practical purposes the UK’s disconnection from the EU. After years writing about this daily, believe me when I tell you that today everything seems strange to me. Like that morning of June 24, 2016. He still had the words – and especially the tone of voice – of the legendary journalist David Dimbleby recorded: “Gentlemen, we are out.”

He had internalized so much that “the relationship between the UK and the EU it wasn’t love, but it wasn’t bad enough to end in divorce ”which I had come to believe. I wanted to believe it. In my head, somehow, Brexit had been cornered as a long shot. But it was not like that: 51.9% of the votes compared to 48.1%. By a difference of 1,269,501 ballots (or what is the same, 1.9% of the votes), it was decided to end more than four decades of stormy relationship with the bloc.

What would have happened if the 2008 crisis had not doomed the UK to an era of austerity What led many citizens to use the referendum as a vote to punish the Government? What if the populist-opportunist Boris Johnson would you have decided to campaign for permanence in the EU? What if the Labor opposition had a leader other than radical (and Eurosceptic) Jeremy Corbyn?

The cornerstone of any risk management system is the so-called ‘Swiss cheese model’. It was created in 1990 by the English James T. Reason, after studying the causes of various disasters. If we cut the cheese, it is difficult for any of the holes to coincide in each and every one of the slices. But that does not mean that it is impossible. And this is what has happened with Brexit. A singular concatenation of factors has brought us here.

Boris Johnson. (Reuters)Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
Boris Johnson. (Reuters)

Although, frankly, from the moment David cameron starred in a tremendous political miscalculation, the chances of avoiding catastrophe were reduced. Because it was all a political miscalculation fueled, among others, by a Scottish independence consultation in 2014, which the then prime minister won very tightly.

The promised land

Citizens were not asking for a plebiscite on staying in the EU. It was the Conservative Party that took their eternal dispute to the streets. Throughout history, the European question has cost up to six ‘Tory’ leaders their jobs. Johnson, however, hopes the disconnection will restore his reign to him. With popularity on the floor for his more than questioned management in the face of the pandemic, the Downing Street tenant now shows himself which messiah leading a ‘global Britain’ that Eurosceptics present Like it’s a promised land

The UK has already entered a recession and is on track to run a historic peacetime deficit of 19% of UK GDP. But that does not matter. For the ‘Brexiters’, their greatest treasure now is having regained sovereignty. And they are not aware that for any future pact, whoever it is, and even if it is only minimal, concessions must be made.

Pure sovereignty not only does not exist but is also dangerous, because it leaves you isolated. As has happened now. Because no matter how much people talk about the fact that the trade and cooperation agreement with Brussels finally bridged the abyss at the last minute, the United Kingdom is now out of the single market and the customs union. And this is the same as talking about hard Brexit.

The United Kingdom did not have a leading role in Churchill’s United States of Europe

It is true that the British were never quite comfortable in the community club. Many consider that the famous speech that Winston Churchill offered in 1946 at the University of Zurich, where he spoke of the need to build a “United States of Europe”, it was the first step towards integration during the postwar period. But the truth is that he saw the United Kingdom more as an observer than as an integrator of that process.

Europe was considered an inheritance of the empire. As great victors in their fight against Nazism, London wanted to help the Old Continent develop, but supervising everything from the outside.

After not one, but up to two vetoes from the French general Charles de Gaulle, the entrance finally arrived in 1973. But from the first moment, everything was exceptional. From Thatcher’s British check to exclusion from the euro zone. The United Kingdom always enjoyed a special status. And the rest of the Member States agreed with that. The benefit of the British presence in the European project cannot be minimized either. London offered the link to the United States, a different view of the process, and a counterweight to France.

However, the concessions that Brussels came to offer to Cameron in his attempt to avoid divorce can even be considered humiliating. Sometimes, we forget those negotiations prior to the historic consultation of June 23, 2016. The European Commission even proposed an ’emergency brake’ to stop the entry of migrants – suspending social benefits, even those to which they were entitled EU citizens – if it proved that the UK could not bear the migratory pressure. In short, a white-glove slap to freedom of movement, the cornerstone of the single market. But even so, Westminster didn’t buy it.

The ‘Tories’ were already very nervous about the rise of UKIP. With his anti-immigration speech, a then unknown Nigel Farage was gaining more and more ground. It was the British –in particular, Tony Blair– those who most insisted on integrating the Eastern countries into the EU. But then it turned out that their immigration bothered them. Ironies of this complex process.

“Regaining control of the borders” became the great emblem of the Eurosceptic cause. Farage refused to apologize after presenting a gigantic poster showing a long line of refugees crossing the border between Croatia and Slovenia. The politician was accused of adopting “Nazi-style propaganda tactics” to help win Brexit. Along with the billboard was the following message: “The EU has failed us all.”

The ‘Brexiters’ began to manipulate a speech in which, in the midst of the era of austerity imposed by the Executive after the 2008 crisis, they accused immigrants of stealing jobs from the British and collapsing public health, demonstrations that were demonstrated they weren’t true.

David Cameron.  (EFE)David Cameron.  (EFE)
David Cameron. (EFE)

It also coincided that in 2015 Germany registered a record 1.1 million refugees from the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia. Many Britons voted for Brexit with the conviction that they could reduce immigration from these countries, without being aware that the debate was only limited to the European countries of the bloc. They put an end to freedom of movement. Of course the door worked both ways. Community members will no longer be able to enter the UK freely, but British people will not be able to travel freely through the 27 EU countries either.

After the Brexit victory was known, Cameron announced his resignation and made it to Number 10 for the last time humming (literally). Theresa May took the baton and activated Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, when she did not even know how to define what it all meant: “Brexit means Brexit.”

What is the alternative to Europe? If we are honest, we must say that there are none ”, wrote in his diary in January 1963 the conservative British prime minister. Harold Macmillan, several days after General Charles de Gaulle vetoed for the first time the entrance of the United Kingdom to the then European Economic Community.

What is the alternative? I don’t have an answer for it yet. Therefore, I say goodbye as the President of the European Commission did on Christmas Eve, Ursula von der Leyen, quoting the poet TS Eliot: “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to finish is to begin ”.