But there is a darker, more sinister, side to this kind of nostalgia-propaganda – when it employs real people as instruments of this mythology. Again, to some extent, this is something British propaganda has always done, but in the main this instrumentalisation of people has either been in the abstract – as in the token image of a silhouetted soldier at a comrade’s graveside or the Unknown Soldier – or in its use of historical figures – such as Winston Churchill being voted the ‘greatest Briton of all time.’
Yet, we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position where we cannot blame England or the British government for this awful predicament in which we find ourselves. At every single step of the Brexit drama the Scottish National Party and the Scottish government rejected opportunities that would have paved the way to a referendum and independence. Immediately after the EU referendum, the ‘Maggie Simpson map’ of the results across Britain demonstrated clearly the different paths Scotland and England were taking.
There is no need to start digging bomb shelters at the bottom of the garden. This is not, as some have suggested, going to lead to World War III. Regardless of its bloated opinion of its capabilities, Britain lacks the strength to wage a war against the EU. And – besides – states need friends and allies in order to kick off a global war. Having insulted just about every European member state and having backed the wrong horse in the US presidential election, little Britain is as it has always wanted to be – alone and absolutely friendless.
Pacta sunt servanda. Unless states keep their word, the whole international order begins to break down. Deals cannot be made with states which cannot be trusted, and even the threat of breaking a treaty seriously undermines the confidence other states have in the ‘rogue.’ This is where Britain now stands, on the outside looking in without a single friend who trusts it enough to open a door. Britain has not merely decided to leave the European Union, it has found itself locked out.
As if on cue, no sooner was Brexit Day over than news began circulating of a notice posted for residents in a Norwich tower block telling people to speak English or go home. ‘We do not tolerate people speaking other languages than English in the flats,’ said the notice, before going on to encourage immigrants to return to their own countries and free up housing for white English-speaking British people. Monika Wiśniewska, a Polish author living in England, took to social media to describe how Polish people were now being described as ‘vermin.’
In 2014 we saw ourselves as a small nation in a David-versus-Goliath fight. Realistically, in the beginning we did not expect to win. One theme repeated frequently at the time was that we just wanted to be a nuisance, that we wanted to have a bit of craic, upset the apple cart, and maybe – if we got lucky – give the English political establishment a bloody nose. We saw ourselves as a pesky younger sibling trying to make a point. But something changed. At some point in August 2014 it dawned on us that we might win – that we had a real shot of securing independence.
Xavier Bettel, we can be sure, speaks for the vast majority of European leaders. The United Kingdom’s shambolic handling of its departure from Europe is a serious matter. Not only does this threaten the health and well-being of ordinary people in the UK, it poses a serious risk to the peace and security of Ireland – an EU member state, it promises serious and far-reaching economic consequences for the United Kingdom and the European Union, and creates – by damaging the integrity of the institutions which have preserved peace and coöperation since the end of the Second World War...
This is of course something we should all fear. There’s nothing good on offer in English politics right now. Looking over the options – the so-called alternatives, is like surveying a mediaeval torturer’s work bench; while some of the implements are qualitatively better or worse than others, none of them are exactly what you’d call ‘health promoting.’ There are the pincers, there to rip the flesh from the victim – used to inflict maximum suffering while not endangering the life of the condemned.