“Weapons-grade solipsism”

My superficial impression of the Brexit controversy – which I tried to express in two words in a comment to this post – is of a high downside-to-upside ratio. Lots to lose and not much to gain.

Of course it is a matter of measuring, or weighting, the downside. For instance, the European arrest warrant can be seen as an outright erosion of the rights UK residents have always taken for granted. The expansion of Europol’s powers should also be a cause for concern. The big question is whether it is absolutely necessary to quit the EU to reverse these dangerous developments.

Ferdinand Mount writes in The London Review of Books of the temptation to see a certain insular disposition of mind – “Brexosis” – as underlying the pro-exit campaign. His worst suspicion of the Brexiters is that

they would be quite happy to put their supposedly beloved country through a period of prolonged turmoil and stagnation simply for the exhilaration of being on their own at last. No one since Greta Garbo has said ‘I want to be alone’ with such feeling. Or perhaps it’s not so much Garbo as the chant sung by the fans of Millwall FC that I should be thinking of: ‘No one likes us, we don’t care.’ At the time of writing, Millwall are lying fourth in Football League One. For the uninitiated, this is really the Third Division.

Millwall features in a great many movies, however.


  1. But for many (including me) the examples you give of dangerous developments are only the beginning, the EU has far more profoundly dangerous ambitions.

    There is a short-term downside to Brexit, economic turbulence, against a longer-term and far greater downside, permanent subjection to the EU and what it will become if it does not collapse on the way.

    I suspect Brexit will fail. The potential ill effects of exit can be presented as immediate and concrete, the ill effects of remaining cannot.

    • I understand that there must be arguments for Brexit that are deeper and ultimately more convincing that what I have seen so far, although I admit I have not paid enough attention. If there is a summary of these, I’d appreciate a link.

      It also seems to me that England and Wales have been dismantling ancient common-law protections to criminal defendants for the past 20-39 years without much or any influence from Brussels. Hearsay is no longer excluded; the right to silence is only relative; juries don’t have to be unanimous; and the latest bout of moral panick killed double jeopardy. What safeguards remain are still an enviable set from the point of view, say, of a Romanian, and may help improve Romania’s justice system if adopted by it. Just not England’s.

  2. I have a lot of problems with the EU, e.g. its inept handling of the Euro and migrant crises, and it certainly needs reform but I still plan to vote Remain, partly to spite Putin, partly because I think economists aren’t joking when they predict dire consequences if the UK leaves. The Brexiters certainly haven’t convinced me they have a deeply considered economic programme should they win. In this they resemble the Scottish nationalists, who were ridiculously over-optimistic about the economic prospects of an independent Scotland, which would now probably be a basket case given the drop in oil prices. It doesn’t help that the Brexiter leadership contains blatant opportunists such as Boris Johnson, whose chief concern seems to be furthering his own political career.

    • Any movement serious about changing the country’s course must have its own crazy fringes, and nowadays is more likely than not to have untrustworthy populists at or near the helm. But it would be good if the Brexit party had one or two senior people capable of articulating a coherent program – a vision for the future outside the EU – or at least a vision of the EU evolving into a new Soviet Union.

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