22 June, 2021

Chunnel Fission

Town-criers on both sides of ‘Brexit’ have split Britain. At stake are polity, economy, foreign relations and identity.

Photograph by Alamy, AP
Chunnel Fission

Just how European is Britain? This northern island not quite within, not quite without the continent lauded and blamed in equal measure for so much of what makes the world great, and awful.

Great Britain has always been more warm beer and cricket than red wine and boules; more fish and chips than moules et frites, more invasion than all­iance. And it has a history as rich and intricate as most of its European cousins—linked inextricably in many cases. Incestuous royal families, languages of court and of the people, the Fleur de Lis, the Knights Templar, the Eurovision song contest and the European football championships...this continent may be a house divided, but it is a house nonetheless.

But for how much longer? Britain votes on June 23 on whether or not to stay in the European Union (EU). The last time the UK had such a vote was on remaining in what was then known as the European Economic Community (EEC) or the Com­mon Market in 1975. Then, 67 per cent Bri­­tons said yes. This time it’s unlikely either side will win by such a...

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