Today’s Brexit anniversary marks three years of political mayhem and economic calamity. It is also 50 years since Britain joined the EEC. Ten years ago this month, David Cameron made his shameless Bloomberg speech pledging a referendum to placate his party and Ukippers, who he had previously called “fruitcakes”, “loonies” and “closet racists”.
Cameron wrongly thought Brexiteers could be appeased, but they proved insatiable. The more harm their Brexit does, the more extreme versions they demand, chasing those impossible phantasms they mis-sold to the country.
“Remoaner” was a clever Brexit epithet for the 48% of us who voted remain. The heartbreak of this act of national self-harm left remainers keening in grief, in a long moan for the loss of an ideal, along with certain economic decline. The ache, too, was over the broken old Labour alliances of interest and belief, cities against towns, old against young, those with qualifications against those with few. With the sorrow there was rage, white-hot and vengeful, against cynical Brexit leaders who knowingly sold snake oil and fairy dust.
Grief ebbs when looking to what comes next. David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, last week promised there would be a civilised friendship with Europe under a Labour government. There was talk of reconnecting “a tarnished UK” with its closest allies, “for security and prosperity”; “reducing friction” on trade; unblocking the Horizon scheme; strengthening student links and pledging a “clean power alliance”….