Britain was never dull or grey – until now
If you really want to annoy a Brexiter, tell him that he hates Europe. He’ll probably tell you that he doesn’t hate Europe, he just hates the EU.
That has been Farage’s shtick all along. The nicotine stained man-frog took Britain out of the world’s most ambitious, forward looking pan-national trading bloc but he’ll tell you how he worked for a French firm (got the sack), takes his holidays on the continent (not after March 29 you won't, Nigel), did business in Italy (lost money), married a German (she’s left him) and has two bilingual children (whose future he has sold out).
Leavers, like Farage, see Europe as their playground. Just a short, cheap hop across the Channel from their jealously guarded, insular kingdom. Crass and shallow, the Little Englanders think they can have it all. They want to be able to use Europe when it suits them, but God forbid we should ever tolerate having any bloody foreigners here.
They barely understand their own country, let alone multicultural and sophisticated Europe.
Historically, the English looked across the sea. We were restless, covetous, curious and eager for connections to the wider world and trade. Our greatest British writers felt part of the European civilisations. Imagine Shakespeare without Rome, Venice, Padua, Verona, Spain, France and Greece.
We were stimulated by the Renaissance, the Reformation and the age of enlightenment. Our Queen is German, Prince Philip is Greek. How on earth were those who voted Leave persuaded that we were never truly Europeans? It was a mixture of arrogance and ignorance. Which sadly, is a very English mix.
Andrew Marr once wrote that “The English have long felt themselves to be better than the untrustworthy and unstable peoples around them”.
And that’s so typical of the British. The noisy Brexit gang lied not only about money and immigration, they wilfully repudiated most of the historical and cultural ties that bind us to the mainland.
Since the end of the Bronze Age, the English Channel has seen trade criss-cross in both direction but this barely registers in the consciousness of the Brexiter. They are emotionally attached to the world wars but don’t realise that the EU was born out of that darkness.
Journalist Tom Peck wrote in The Independent that generations have been taught that “The British are at their best when its young men are fighting against the nations that are now our friends and neighbours.”
Farage urged young people to see the movie “Dunkirk”. David Davis evoked the war in an attempt to stir up nationalist post-Brexit fervour. Apparently, “We won the war” is the only thing we need to know about Europe.
Europe’s history has been savage, bloody and inhuman as well as enlightened and progressive. The British have been a part of all of that from the age of exploration and colonialism to the endless conflicts, cold war and eventually to globalisation.
London was built by the Romans. Vikings settled here in AD 373. By the 13th century our markets flourished with French, Venetian, Flemish buyers and sellers. Dutch and German brewers supplied beer, the Black Plague of 1348 - 49 killed a third of the British population and it was Europeans who flooded in to fill labour shortages.
Migrants coming here to work is not a modern phenomena.
Do all you Brexiters realise that despised and persecuted French protestant refugees helped to found the Bank of England..? Or that several founder members of the Royal College of Physicians were German..? Read Robert Winder’s book Bloody Foreigners to see how Europe made Britain.
Rudyard Kipling was an imperialist Briton but even he saw perils of foolish pride and senseless prejudices. His words resound today:
Winds of the world give answer. They are whimpering to and fro
And what should they know of England, who only England know?
The poor little street bred people that vapour and fume and brag
They are lifting their heads in the stillness to yelp at the English flag
In June 2016, those little street people, ill taught, used and betrayed by manipulative scoundrels cut us off from our continent. And they still fume, vapour and brag.
Sadly, few of them will ever see the light or admit they were wrong.
And so it will probably come to pass. This small, dull island. Grey and inward looking, with shops full of pies and fish and chips, and with our beloved blue passports in our pockets.
Because in the end, as far as they are concerned, that’s what it’s all about.
That's all they care about.
That's all they see.