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Why Remain lost The only thing we had in common was the inevitable sense of defeat

Mr Independence Day (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)


June 17, 2021   6 mins

On the eve of the final day of campaigning for the Brexit referendum of June 2016, the BBC hosted its Great Debate live from Wembley Arena. Each campaign had three speakers. One side featured a trio of MPs from the establishment parties, all of them over 50, none of them representing a constituency outside the south and middle of England. Their opponents put forward no MPs, choosing instead a much younger, more diverse team that looked a lot more like contemporary Britain.

If you knew nothing else, and you were told that there was a public mood of discontent with the status quo, this line-up of speakers would give you a strong hint about who won the vote two days later. The middle-aged, establishment figures would surely have lost.

Except they didn’t. The three white, middle-aged MPs were Gisela Stuart, Andrea Leadsom and Boris Johnson. Their opponents were Ruth Davidson, Sadiq Khan and the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

It is easy to imagine how pleased the Remain campaign must have been with the composition of their trio: a Scot who is also a lesbian, a military vet and a Tory; a working class Londoner from a British-Pakistani background; and the first woman ever to get to the top of the organised labour movement. The collective image they projected could hardly have been more inclusive or well calibrated to the complex realities of Britain in 2016.

It was also, of course, quite useless. Complexity and variousness did not carry Remain to victory in 2016. These qualities also proved, in the struggle to prevent a very hard Brexit, not only ineffective but arguably counterproductive.

All things being equal, it seems obvious that, in a democracy, a broad alliance is always better than a narrow movement. The problem for Remain is that all things were not equal. When national identity becomes the dominant issue, it rips up the familiar score. Harping on one note becomes much easier than trying to conduct an orchestra with too many instruments.

It is hard to avoid the old (and admittedly cliched) Greek image of the fox that knows many things and the hedgehog that knows one big thing. Remainers were animated by many different things. Leavers were defined by one big thing.

To leave the European Union was to be out. To remain was to be in. But in what exactly? There were far too many answers to that question and most of them were in conflict with each other.

What polity, what place, what imagined community could Nicola Sturgeon and Keir Starmer, Gerry Adams and Dominic Grieve, Caroline Lucas and David Cameron collectively conjure? There was none because there could not be. On almost everything except the desirability of not leaving the EU, Remainers had profoundly different visions of what the UK should be, and indeed sharply conflicting views on whether it should exist at all.

Embodying a persuasive idea of contemporary Britain is actually a very hard thing to do. Is Ruth Davidson the kind of Tory with whom most English conservatives would identify? Do Sadiq Khan’s working-class credentials evoke a sense of solidarity among working class voters in the Midlands? What political weight does the organised labour movement represented by Frances O’Grady really carry any more?

Defining a collective identity is difficult in any country, but much more so in a multi-national kingdom with shifting and uncertain notions of its own past, of its place in the world, of the relationships between its constituent parts, of the politics of social class, and of attitudes to migration and globalisation.

The great irony of Brexit is that it did in fact generate a kind of collective identity for Remainers. But it did so only in reaction to defeat. Remain lost because its only real binding agent was a sense of loss. It had to be beaten before it could discover a collective self. By definition, that was too late.

It is true of course that Leavers didn’t agree with each other about what Brexit really meant. But the crucial difference is that they didn’t have to. For the one big thing that nationalist movements know is not who “we” are. It is who we are not. Leavers had a deep-rooted sense of their Other, their dislike and distrust of the EU. For Remainers, the Other was merely the Leavers. If, as W.B. Yeats claimed, there is “More substance in our enmities / Than in our love”, the Leavers had the great benefit of enmities whose substance had been formed over centuries rather than mere years.

If, like me, you’re Irish, it seemed very funny that Brexiteers were casting England (and it was very much England) as an oppressed nation, a colonised country being given the chance to overthrow its imperial overlords. (The picture on the door of Nigel Farage’s office at the European Parliament was not of himself but of the 19th century Irish nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell.)

I remember laughing out loud when Johnson, in his summing up at the end of that Great Debate, said that “Thursday can be our country’s independence day” — a claim that Farage indeed repeated when the result of the referendum came in. This notion of England as Kenya or Ireland or India at the end of empire seemed too over the top as a performance of victimhood to have much purchase on the minds of voters.

I was wrong. The idea of Brexit as the rising up of a subjugated nation clearly did seem real to many voters. And once that is the case, you are in very different game. Because if you’re Irish you also know that national insurgencies have a great advantage. They capture the idea of freedom as an end in itself — they do not have to say what you will be free to do.

Once you generate the belief that you are in a movement towards independence, you establish a temporal order. First, we become independent. Then we decide what to do with our freedom. There may be various promises about what we aspire to when we have broken away from our oppressor, but they exist in a different time zone, the one that only becomes real after we’ve broken our chains.

Remainers, confused by the innate absurdity of the idea of enslaved Britannia, never quite understood this. They stuck with two assumptions that had ceased to apply once the Leavers had successfully generated the idea of Brexit as a nationalist revolution. One is that it surely must matter deeply that the Brexiteers betrayed their promises. The other is that it also mattered that the Brexiteers had no agreed idea of what form Brexit should take.

Thus, when the Brexiteers very quickly disowned the infamous pledge from the side of the bus — £350 million a week for the NHS — Remainers expected outrage from voters who had been so cynically misled. There was none because the promise was about the afterlife, the time that lies on the far side of the great defining moment of independence. It was always in a different category of reality.

The same, incidentally, goes for all the threats made by the Remain side, even the ones that were (unlike the Project Fear vision of an immediate one-way trip to Hell in a handcart) well founded. They existed, for Leavers, in that nebulous never-never land of the future, another country where they do things differently.

Nor was the Brexit project really weakened by what, in a different kind of political discourse, ought to have doomed it. The deep internal divisions about whether the UK should remain within, or at least be closely aligned with, the EU’s single market, made it look like the Leave cause would implode under the pressure of its own contradictions. It did not seem foolish to believe this as Theresa May’s haplessness turned to a paralysis that shaded into anarchy.

But in fact even this disarray was a kind of strength for the Leave cause. The profound uncertainty about what Brexit would mean in reality allowed it to sustain its character as a gesture, a notion, a one-off act of liberation. It kept it on the plane where it was most inviolable, unsullied by mere detail: reclaimed sovereignty, golden age, sunlit uplands.

Think, by way of contrast, of why the SNP lost the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. It provided the details: 900 pages on what an independent Scotland would look like. This was a target-rich environment and unionists could see all the weak points at which to aim their fire. The very vagueness of Brexit saved it from this fate. Remainers never knew, until the endgame, what the deal was going to be. They were always chasing a shadow.

What could Remainers have done differently? Well, as we say in Ireland, you wouldn’t start from here. If there was going to be an epic debate about how the peoples of the UK see themselves, you would not start with David Cameron’s glib promise of a referendum on Europe to appease his internal malcontents. You would not begin with a smug assumption that questions of identity could be shooed away with dire warnings about trade.

You would have started with a recognition that, in the wake of the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and the establishment of the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales the following year, ideas of belonging have become deeply unsettled within the UK. You would have engaged in particular with the growing evidence from the turn of the century onwards of an emergent but unformed English nationalism and thought about how it could be expressed, not just as a “not them” but as a positive “us”.

The Leavers were talking, though usually in reactionary and often in absurd ways, about identity. Remainers largely disdained such talk as innately reprehensible. But an identity crisis doesn’t go away if you ignore it. Leave offered some kind of an answer — albeit a very bad one. Remain barely recognised the question.


Fintan O’Toole is a columnist with the Irish Times.

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Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
3 years ago

Articles like this serve as a great reminder that Remain supporters still don’t understand why Brexit happened or more precisely, won’t, as they cannot bring themselves to admit that Leave could have been right about anything; and so they construct these absurd hagiographies of the referendum and how Leave was wrong about everything but was carried across the line by an emotional and irrational public.

I won’t protest too hard though. As long as Remainers clutch on to their delusions, the longer they remain politically handicapped: incapable of mounting any credible offensive against the government, whilst they fight with the ghosts of the referendum, the rest of the country is preoccupied with living in the real world.

Last edited 3 years ago by Matthew Powell
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Absolutely – and the longer the BBC news website perpetuates the “Brexit” page as their number three menu priority, the weaker that opposition becomes.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Excellently put.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

I voted Remain but entirely agree
I voted out of Project Fear and I thank my fellow citizens for being brave enough to do what I could not at the time.

Matt B
Matt B
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Interesting

Last edited 3 years ago by Matt B
Aly Fairfield
Aly Fairfield
3 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

they cannot bring themselves to admit that Leave could have been right about anything” Insert Trump for Leave and you have the US media and elites.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

My question, still unanswered, is why so many Irish academics are so viscerally upset about Brexit. Why do you care so much about the decisions of the UK population?

As a nation Eire is a third country, with it’s own separate agenda. It has unequivocally thrown in it’s lot with the ‘brotherhood of nations’ that is the EU, and in doing so has itself started detaching from its tangled histories with the other UK nations. And that of course is fine: free nations should never become so chained to the burdens of the past that they are no longer free to change path as their populations see fit. What is really odd though, is to deny the the sanity of another nation doing the same for itself, simply because you don’t agree with the decision. Is apostasy now a crime in the religion that is the EU?

In reality the EU is a ‘brotherhood’ only in the minds of those who have bought into the notion to such an extent that they have lost all ability to view critically the deep structural flaws inherent in the very architecture of the organisation. I’m saying, many of the more vocal and vehement adherents have lost all sight of what the original aims of the European supra-structures were, and plain flat refuse to acknowledge that: (i) those aims are no longer well served by the structures you have created (ii) the structures are so rigid and hamstrung that they are patently incapable of evolving and reforming themselves (iii) it is a moot point if the original aims, forged in the aftermath of the trauma of a couple of global wars, make any sense in accelerating technology and demographic driven agendas of the 21st century.

Finally, another question never asked, but nevertheless posed, by for example the recent G7 decision on global minimum corporate tax levels, which will likely throw the Eire economy under a bus: are you so sure that you are not merely a pawn in the wider agendas of the larger EU nations, and could at any point become a victim of decisions outside your control, even while you think those same nations are your friends and will in fact sacrifice the interests of their own populations, simply to secure your interests? Can you seriously be so naive?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

As it stands now, if forced to choose, Ireland would be better-served by agreements with UK than EU. But first they would have to defy the EU.
Could it be that the nation which proudly stood against the “greatest empire in the world” in 1916, now dare not take on the EU bureaucrats?

Last edited 3 years ago by Brendan O'Leary
Steven Farrall
Steven Farrall
3 years ago

It’s not the Irish themselves that will not take on the EU bureaucrats. It’s the Irish ruling class who won’t. Why? Follow the money and power.

Rocky Rhode
Rocky Rhode
3 years ago

The Irish would be far better served by following the UK out of the exit door.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

why so many Irish academics are so viscerally upset about Brexit. 
I suspect that at bottom it has made them feel stupid.
The Irish obtained their treasured independence from Britain and later joined the EU. Britain quit the EU because it perceives itself as not being independent at all if in it.
If this analysis is correct, then the Irish have swapped one master for another; one who is remoter in every sense, a lot less accountable, and who, when voted against, tells them to vote again until they get it right.
The EU will wreck Ireland one day like it has already wrecked Greece and Italy. It won’t care.

Jim Richards
Jim Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Yes, they do seem to take it very personally. I think it’s partly the fact that Ireland really made a pretty poor fist of independence (and my family is partly Irish). De Valera himself, at the end of his life reckoned joining the EEC (as was) meant he would be the last President of an independent Ireland. I may be unfair but I sense a slight dog in manger attitude – we couldn’t exist as an independent country, so it’s very wrong for you try.
Also, as with all of Fintan O’Toole’s articles, there is a complete lack of understanding of what most Brexit voters think. He relies on cliches and assertions that he would condemn as bigoted, ignorant and racist if similar things were said of the Irish. You have to wonder if he’s ever actually spoken to a Brexit voter. There are some remainer commentators you can respect – but O’Toole isn’t one of them. A great deal of waffle, very little actual thought

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

Some of his articles in the Guardian last year would qualify as hate-speech were the target of his opprobrium anyone but the English.
But we are slowly becoming inured to such bigoted demonization.
It’s now part of the white English experience.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
3 years ago
Reply to  Eddie Johnson

Eire is itself a low immigration country in European terms but O’toole and Brendon Cox like to call people in the UK racist for not wanting to take every migrant/refugee that wishes to come here .

Meanwhile the Irish like to concentrate on being a tax haven for companies and high net worth individuals .

Last edited 3 years ago by Alan Osband
Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I don’t think it is that. Ireland has a very complicated attitude towards England. In general they love and depend on England – they follow English soccer, they have cousins in Birmingham and they have clients in Bristol. This is why they love it when the English take an interest in them – the visit of the Queen to Ireland was a big deal. At the same time they take the English, and access to England, very much for granted and don’t really have much conception of the “internal life” of England. I think that they look up to and down on England at the same time.
Plus, for certain elites, being European is the central plank of the post-Catholic Ireland they love. For England to reject the EU is to both attack Ireland’s image of itself and to betray Irish dependence on England, which is why it is such a neuralgic issue for Irish Times readers. They really need to get over themselves.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

In some moments, I think the Irish have simply swapped out one supposedly benign authority (the church) for another, secular one (the EU). I don’t consider either of those authorities benign, but there again, the English are far less deferential to authority generally. That cultural difference is probably another reason why the Irish find Brexit so hard to swallow. And why some of us look at the Irish and wonder why they fought and suffered so much for freedom from us, only to surrender it again.

Last edited 3 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

They remind me of the unpopular kid at school who collected football stickers because the popular kids did. Then one day he came in and found the cool kids had moved onto conkers or something and he’s still standing there with his book of football stickers.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Wonderful image

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Is your experience of the past year that the English are less deferential to authority? It is definitely not the conclusion that I have come to. The English have their pathologies as well.
A strain in Ireland has always looked for ways to go out into the world rather than stay on the edge of nowhere. Part of the enthusiasm for Roman Catholicism was being part of the universal church, as seen by the missionary activity that took Irish priests all over the world (for good and ill). Today we also see it in the pride Ireland takes in being a base for global corporations like Apple and Facebook. This is a good, healthy impulse to an extent, but the vehicles of Irish globalism will always break down in the end. I think the same thing will happen with Ireland’s relationship with the EU, but this part of Ireland will always find another project onto which it can hitch its ambitions.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Well, until the pandemic, that was my view yes. Over the last year, that view has been given a serious beating and now I’m perhaps a little more doubtful. But still, overall, I say yes, it is that way. Possibly because of the culture which I’m living in, which entails high levels of deference to authority and I’m constantly rubbing up against it (and getting into trouble for questioning it). So my natural conclusion is: it’s because I’m English.

David Giles
David Giles
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

That is pretty much my experience of the Irish as well. I just look forward to the day Ireland sees its future as being in a looser, more flexible club of nations such as Australia, Canada and yes the UK. I look forward to an Ireland that realises it is better with its own currency, its own standards and its own self-determined future.

Matt B
Matt B
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

You may be right re positive Irish attitudes to England. I don’t know. But to a degree perhaps the US has supplanted the UK in that dynamic (read Boston and NY instead of Brum and Bristol): with Irish narratives merged into US revolutionary self-identity? Note that Biden landed for G7 at a US base in Mildenhall, England, to quote 1916 Yeats while issuing unprecedented diplomatic reprimands. A ‘special’ relationship – if you’re a Boston (US) voter.

Last edited 3 years ago by Matt B
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

That’s an interesting take, Aidan. It suggests that while the English are confident enough not to need the approval of the church or the EU, the Irish aren’t.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Very well put, Mr Twomey. I lived in Ireland for 40 years, and was trying to put together something along these lines. You’ve captured the complexities of Ireland’s relationship to England (and yes, it’s always “England”) better and more succinctly than I. Thank you!

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Cheers. Our relationship with the Republic is clearly much more complicated that I naively believed.

David Giles
David Giles
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

But Fintan O’Toole’s attitude towards England isn’t complicated at all.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

The EU will never wreck Ireland: we’re simply too smart to be done down by them (us? We are EU as well after)!
Besides, we’ve had more benefit from the EU than damage. Would that were so from 700 years of British oppression!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

What will the EU’s price from southern Ireland be for colonising Northern Ireland?

Ana Cronin
Ana Cronin
3 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

iomahony34 do you seriously think that we could have been ruled for 700 years if there were not a significtant proportion of Irish people who supported, in one form or another, the presence of the British.
The truth is the only people we the ‘fighting Irish’ (a misnomer if there there was one) ever successfully fought was each other, indeed from the middle ages onwards. The people who supported home rule or thought fighting in WW1 would gain it or those who chose to join the RIC, many for economic reasons, were ostracised and often fled to avoid death. Once we gained independance we immediately fought a vicious civil war, the repercussions of which have spanned the decades since….and so be it, that’s our history just don’t pretend it is a simple tale of 700 years of British oppression, how about the last 100 years who or what oppression was the cause of the many failures since 1921?
To be blunt iomahony34 if you think the Ireland is benefiting from the EU more than being damaged then you have either been living under a rock for the last 10+ years, do not live in Ireland (UK maybe?) and have lost touch with life here on the ground or your visceral ‘hatred’ of the British (substitute English) has blinded you to another side of a story to the tales and sad songs and laments that Ireland spins.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ana Cronin
Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Ireland ( and Denmark) only joined the EEC when Nritainmdid becausd it believed it could not not survive economically outside the EEC without Britain. I dont think there was more of a rationale than that.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

If you’re going to call my country Eire then you must call Scotland Alba and Wales Cymru.
While you’re studying Anglo Irish history you’ll see we are inextricably bound up with the UK as we have been since 1169 despite ‘devolution’ (independence) since 1922.
Even more important is the Good Friday Agreement and its critical no visible NI-ROI border provision.
So “third country” is something we are NOT!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
3 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

While the EU haven’t always proved to be our best friends I’d say they stand in good stead compared to 700 years of British oppression.
However, I’d prefer to be on good terms with both especially when we don’t have to choose.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

700 years ago these islands were a mish mash of warring kingdoms – Angles, Picts, Saxons, Jutes, Celts, Vikings, Normans and probably a load of others. Irish warrior kings regularly invaded Britain if memory serves and Scots invaded Ireland and so on and so on and so on. I really don’t see how it’s relevant except to demonstrate your unhinged anglophobia. We might as well sit and ask the Italians to self flagellate about the Roman Empire if you want to go back 700 years. Living in the past is very unhealthy, especially that far in the past – see a therapist.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

You’re aware the UK did not exist in 1169?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Isn’t Eire the correct name? What the Irish call their own nation? I did not realise there are sensitivities around the name. As to devolution and independence, I would say there is a rather fundamental difference between the two – and Ireland is a completely independent nation since 1922. Ireland was inextricably bound up with the nations of the UK, but then, so was Canada and Australia and India and Palestine and many others. So was the USA. But no one can realistically claim they still are, and it’s just time doing it’s thing. It is clear those ambivalent bonds are loosening and will keep doing so because the two nations are now on divergent paths since Brexit. Nothing stops the two nations independently doing whatever they choose, except roadblocks in the mind of a relatively small number of people across the generations – which are melting away as the years roll by anyway.

Last edited 3 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The British and Irish *are* inextricably bound up – historically, culturally, geographically and genetically. To deny this is foolish. The British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA are also part of the Anglosphere and would not exist in their current forms without British inheritance at their very roots. Different, sure, but to claim not inextricably bound is inaccurate. This will only really change if demographics get to a point where America becomes Hispanic and that cultural heritage takes over – but largely Hispanics want to be American because it isn’t what they came from. You might think they are drifting away but they’re not so long as the underlying values bequeathed by the British remain. India is not the same because India demographically always remained Indian – I don’t remember ever seeing pictures of Delhi dominated by white faces, or mass immigration from Britain to India encouraged, even at the height of Empire and the Raj largely had a policy of non interference in cultural affairs, except when it came to things like Suttee which I’m sure we’re glad they didn’t allow to continue. What you’re talking about is politics – and politics is fleeting. Ireland will always have more in common with Britain than it does with Germany, Italy or Bulgaria

Alan Hynes
Alan Hynes
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The name of the State in the Irish language is Éire, in English it’s Ireland. There shouldn’t be huge sensitivities on the name in either language but it’s odd that some UK citizens would use ‘Éire’ when, for example, they wouldn’t refer to Germany as Deutschland.
While independent from 1922, that independence was qualified by a number of factors (certain ports were still in British possession, for example), not the least of which was the connection to the British Crown which was only formally and entirely broken with the coming into force of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 in April of 1949. It is a curiosity of our Constitution of 1937 that the president is not named as the head of state, while being essentially given that function – a subtlety of DeValera in getting around the remaining functions of the British Crown under the British and Irish Treaty.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alan Hynes
Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
3 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

No such provision exists in the Belfast Agreement.

Aly Fairfield
Aly Fairfield
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

…why so many Irish academics are so viscerally upset about Brexit. Why do you care so much about the decisions of the UK population? 
I will admit to only skimming all the responses below just searching for the word “border.” One good, practical reason to care about Brexit is its impact on cross border trade between The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In other words, a very pressing local issue.
As for F O’Toole, he’s a newspaper columnist who still comes across (I used to read the Irish Times daily in the late 1980s) as someone who fancies himself as “the smartest guy in the room.”

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
3 years ago

In one sense it is quite funny that O’Toole is still banging on about this, but it’s really time for him to stop. I have noticed in Ireland a recent anti-English animus that I blame on O’Toole and his acolytes. I draw a direct line between his determination to single out the English – “(and it was very much England)” – and my English children being shunned in a Dublin playground last summer. Now the Irish government keeps the border with Britain (it is very much England) as closed as it does with South Africa.
Enough of your hate, O’Toole, find something else to bang on about.

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Aidan, surely you must know by now that the only people who can be way-cist are white, English people?

Last edited 3 years ago by D Ward
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

He does come across as a thick racist.
I say this because he’s determined to conclude that Brexit happened because Remain was too principled and intelligent to win. In fact Remain lost because they arrogantly assumed it was all about money and their having a cheap Latvian cleaner, when in fact it was about sovereignty. They brought a knife to a gunfight.

shanecurran74
shanecurran74
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Agreed – pretty poor show allowing him writing this paper out it’s very disappointing I regret making a subscription

Last edited 3 years ago by shanecurran74
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

This article only needs to contain one word 
. arrogance.
The main reason the Remain campaign was so awful is that they were so detached from “normal’ people, that they couldn’t even contemplate that others would retain their opposing opinions – even after being “educated’.
This article is just one of many that fails to acknowledge this.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

Completely uninteresting article that does not belong in a series with the title “Brexit begins. 5 years after the referendum, is Europe in crisis?” It does not add anything new, just rehashes the same old resentments and disbelief. The same conversation that Remainers have been having with themselves for 5 years, stuck forever in 2016. It’s just sad. This remainer drew her conclusions ages ago and thinks it’s better to look forward and engage with ideas about what’s coming for the EU, what the UK will do with its freedom, whether the UK will survive, etc. 2016 is no longer an interesting or desirable place to be. When will the people of the O’Toole camp get the memo?
(P.S. A yearning for freedom might be difficult to explain but it’s powerful. In any case, it’s a more noble aim than whinging continuously about things past. ‘Tis all.)

Last edited 3 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Peter LR
Peter LR
3 years ago

Well, Fintan, for a minute I (supernaturally) thought you were going to say you had changed your mind!
I remember the Wembley debate well and how leaving had brought together the Left, Right and business. Frances for remain sounded like a communist and Khan just kept shouting “racist”! It definitely confirmed my vote.
You mention these mysterious things that were predicted to go wrong but didn’t list them. Do they actually exist? And Wales voted to Leave not just England.
I’m impressed by Swiss direct democracy where all decisions are by referenda. They must be much more mature than us: I’m sure they’re not still whining over decisions they made five years ago.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
3 years ago

This is an over-long, rather rambling article with all the usual anti-leaver tropes, written by an Irishman who is clearly sore at Britain leaving the EU, and leaving Ireland to its fate inside the EU.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Rob Britton

It is increasingly so isn’t it. The remainers doth protest too much, methinks…
Why do people outside the UK care so much? It comes across as though it infuriates them completely that the UK dared to show a streak of independence and democracy.

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
3 years ago

I’d refer readers to Mr Finton’s articles published in that high citadel of wokeist, anti-English bigotry, the Guardian, over the past few years.
He clearly despises the English with a vengeance, and all his commentaries must be seen through that warped Anglophobic prism.
We are apparently irredeemably racist, neo-colonialists, hankering desperately for the days of empire, which was the key driving force underpinning the country’s decision to leave the EU.
He’s welcome to his arrogant, distorted opinion, of course, and, as others have remarked, may he long continue to articulate it – as it is grist to the Leave camp’s mill.

Last edited 3 years ago by Eddie Johnson
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Eddie Johnson

I understand your comment to imply: “Don’t you dare criticise us, we’re English!
He clearly despises the English with a vengeance

It is possible to criticise a person, or a people, without despising them.
Thin skins and defensiveness are not an appropriate response to penetrating and considered criticism. Mr O’Toole’s analysis has been widely praised internationally, and has won him awards and a deserved reputation.
We are apparently irredeemably racist, neo-colonialists, hankering desperately for the days of empire

Yes, actually, that’s what most of the rest of the world has been trying to tell you for the past 80 years or so. Why do you find it so hard to accept? Other former colonial powers have by now more or less successfully dealt with their past. England stands out as the exception. Its arrogant, barely concealed contempt for Irish problems is a real running sore, preventing it from moving forward.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

As a fellow remainer – I do not think this is the best way to win friends and influence people:

Yes, actually, that’s what most of the rest of the world has been trying to tell you for the past 80 years or so. Why do you find it so hard to accept?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I aim neither to win friends nor to influence people, if by ‘influence’ is meant that misuse of charisma currently favoured by populist politicians, pentecostal preachers and stars of social media.
I don’t favour anything which inhibits people’s ability to think clearly, calmly and with objectivity and detachment.
So I aim to encourage everyone to make full use of our Enlightenment heritage.
This does sometimes mean being blunt, offering unvarnished facts, particularly where it concerns the English, who exhibit a particularly obtuse ability to not hear what is being said.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Yes, actually, that’s what most of the rest of the world has been trying to tell you for the past 80 years or so. Why do you find it so hard to accept?

Because it’s a lie?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

That’s right, go on, the English can do no wrong
 can they?

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Well thanks for proving my point.
“It is possible to criticise a person, or a people, without despising them.”
Well you have clearly failed in that endeavour.
And sadly your rank ignorance is only compounded by your overt bigotry.
Yet you presume to brand some 50 million people racists – that’s a lot of hate even for a rabid Anglophobe.
A couple of points:
1) Some 27 million people visit Britain each year (prior to 2020) – we rank among the world most popular tourist destinations.
Which for a country “which is “irredeemably racist, neo-colonialists, hankering desperately for the days of empire
” is quite a feat is it not?
And even more perplexing: many of these racist-loving foreigners even returned for a second visit.
2) You might wish to study the EU’s own report on racism in Europe, titled “Being Black in the EU”, published 2018 (and begun in 2014).
Britain, and particularly England, as it has by far highest immigrant population, ranked better than virtually every other European country, and far better than self-preening, wokeist Ireland on every single metric you care to mention in terms of race relations.
Similarly, a more recent report, commissioned by our N*z* regime, and conducted by a team of 10 academics under the auspices of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, all with a migrant background came to similar conclusions.
While acknowledging that racism still persists (as it does in Ireland and across Europe), the authors referred to Britain as a “beacon to the world” in its efforts to shape a multlicultural society.
So forgive me if I prefer to heed the conclusions of acknowledged experts in the field, whose qualifications to cast judgement on Britain extend beyond bigotry, racism and hatred.

Last edited 3 years ago by Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Well thanks for proving my point.
“It is possible to criticise a person, or a people, without despising them.”
Well you have clearly failed in that endeavour.
And sadly your rank ignorance is only compounded by your overt bigotry.
Yet you presume to brand some 50 million people as racists – that’s a lot of hate even for a rabid Anglophobe.
A couple of points:
1) Some 27 million people (40m single visits) visited Britain in 2019 – we rank among the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
Which for a country populated by “irredeemably racist, neo-colonialists, hankering desperately for the days of empire
” is quite a feat, is it not?
And even more perplexing: many of these racist-loving foreigners even returned for a second visit.
Any thoughts on how we pull that off, in ever increasing numbers?
2) You might also wish to study the EU’s own report on racism in Europe, titled “Being Black in the EU”, published 2018 (and begun in 2014).
Britain, and particularly England, as it has by far highest immigrant population, ranked better than virtually every other European country (bar Portugal), and far better than self-preening, wokeist Ireland on every single metric you care to mention, in terms of race relations.
And I’m sure we can agree that there is no love lost in Brussels for the UK. But the facts speak for themselves.
Similarly, a more recent report, commissioned by our fascist regime, and conducted by a team of 10 academics under the auspices of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, all but one boasting an immigrant background, came to similar conclusions.
While acknowledging that racism still persists (as it does in demonstrably in Ireland and across Europe), the authors referred to Britain as a “beacon to the world” in its efforts to shape a multicultural society.
So forgive me if I prefer to heed the conclusions of acknowledged experts in the field, who not only live in our society, but whose qualifications to cast judgement on Britain extend beyond Irish bigotry, racism and hatred.

Last edited 3 years ago by Eddie Johnson
Clive Mitchell
Clive Mitchell
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

“ Its arrogant, barely concealed contempt for Irish problems is a real running sore, preventing it from moving forward”

Well if you ignore the bailout we provided when Ireland went bankrupt!

However what on earth are you complaining about? You fought for your independence and got it, the flip side of that of course is that the U.K. government no longer needs to take Ireland’s problems into account when deciding policy. The EU don’t, so why should the U.K.

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Clive Mitchell

And the fact that we treated, free-of-charge, without any questions, recriminations or accusations of “sin”, thousands of young Irish girls and women who desperately needed terminations – for a variety of reasons.
Never once heard an Irish person thank the NHS for performing that so badly need service, when Ireland abandoned its own.

Last edited 3 years ago by Eddie Johnson
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Clive Mitchell

You fought for your independence and got it

Er, I’m not Irish, so I didn’t,
It is possible to defend a people to which one does not belong.

Ana Cronin
Ana Cronin
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Please stop defending us especially as you clearly do not have a clue about that which you are defending.Read some comment from us Irish on here, We do care for our country and that why the rubbish so many of its people goes on with makes us so mad/sad and finally you just give up

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

England doesn’t have contempt for Irish problems. Most English people aren’t entirely sure whether Dublin is in Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland, Irish problems are just not something they think about long enough to have contempt for.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Irish problems are just not something they think about long enough to have contempt for
If you mean great masses of ordinary tabloid-reading English folk, I would agree.

Aly Fairfield
Aly Fairfield
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

I tend to agree with this. That is why my Irish friends were flummoxed that basically NO consideration, much less serious planning, was to be had regarding the legal and financial implications for cross border trade between the Republic and NI. which had more or less normalized after the 1994 accords.(see also my comment above)

Last edited 3 years ago by Aly Fairfield
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Well perhaps we can call it a peculiarity of British (sorry English) culture and as cultures are all equally valid and must be respected that’s that.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones


as cultures are all equally valid and must be respected that’s that
You have put your finger on one of the biggest problems in current affairs today.
The idea that all cultures are equally valid is a nonsense introduced mindlessly into multiculturalism without any decent ideological underpinning.
No one thinks all individual human behaviour is equally valid. We allow for better and worse performances, more or less egregious antisocial behaviour, admirable or less admirable personal characteristics, and so on.
The same applies to cultures. Some are doing much better than others. Some really require critical focus on the effects they are having on their neighbours. Others need attention to be paid to the way they nurture or fail their own citizens. Some are worn out, others still immature.
Cultures display all the wonderful variety we find in individual human beings. And for that reason they must be subjected to the same intense scrutiny, praised and encouraged where appropriate, sanctioned where necessary.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

80 yrs
 how old are you???

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Maybe it is time for you to leave. After all it must be a terrible ordeal for you to live in this country

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
3 years ago
Reply to  Eddie Johnson

O’Toole is a boring old ‘progressive’ fart. The king of woke – champion of mass immigration – the essence of the cosmopolitan ‘literary’ elite and utterly removed from the concerns of ordinary Irish people never mind the concerns of British people.

But geepers you’re over sensitive. It’s time you grew up and accept people have the right to hold different opinions without excoriating them. In 2016 by a small majority the UK decided to leave the EU. Great – now go. Forget the EU. We want to forget you too and have nothing more to do with the bile and hatred of the EU spewed out daily by the Brexit-ards in the DT and almost equally frequently by UnHerd.

And the best of luck setting off again for global conquest on that old rust bucket HMS Global Brexitania. Wouldn’t it be great if it could pull the whole island (or, maybe, just England) behind it? May your dream destination – the Western Pacific near China and Taiwan be more to your liking than Europe.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 years ago

Perhaps UK should have done what Ireland obediently did on the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 : they held another referendum, rigged to get the “right” result and then held no more referenda.

Matt B
Matt B
3 years ago

O’Toole’s polemical interventions and insistent books on the politics of what seems to him to be an incomprehensible and foolish foreign country perhaps underlined his own preoccupations, with no attempt at the reporter’s art. Why he feels the need still to sway UK opinion from Ireland, using the royal ‘we’ as a self-styled Remainer with voting rights is a mystery, even to some of us in the UK with mixed British/Irish heritage who put that entirely aside in considering whether the EU had lost its argument by degrees since 1992 and then grossly overplayed its hand to prove its detractors right.

Last edited 3 years ago by Matt B
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

Over the last few years, I made a conscious effort to understand the Irish perspective better and, to that end, started reading Irish newspapers. Over that period I grew to recognise Fintan O’Toole articles as the ones to avoid if I didn’t want to put myself in a bad mood.

Matt B
Matt B
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Same here. If ever playing to the gallery was a more apt description…

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

O’Toole was writing when I was a boy, and hasn’t changed a bit. He came out of the talent puddle of Irish journalism very young, and is too used to being a Big Deal to change now. He is fundamentally boring and conventional.

Fennie Strange
Fennie Strange
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Love “talent puddle”! Have you copyrighted it or can we all use it?

Aidan Twomey
Aidan Twomey
3 years ago
Reply to  Fennie Strange

I got it from a Northside Dublin pub, so feel free. 🙂

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Aidan Twomey

Excellent!!

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

Oh well, if there is a YouTube video, then it is case closed. I was always skeptical about various conspiracy theories floating around, but if there is a YouTube video, then that is unequivocal proof, and I was clearly wrong. You’ve convinced me, I retract all my support for Brexit and will join the ‘Rejoin EU’ campaign today.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
3 years ago

Well, Fintan, I actually AM Irish, just like you. And what you’re forgetting is that Ireland under the British crown actually WAS free, in the sense that the people as individuals were at liberty to pretty much do what they liked, to come and go, to worship or not as they saw fit (at least in the latter stages of British rule) and to enjoy all the liberties of British citizenship. One could make a very strong argument that Ireland was no more a victim of oppression (again, at least in the latter stages) than the UK was of Brussels
What the Irish were NOT free to do was to guide and control their COUNTRY as an entity as they saw fit. The government sat at Westminster, not Dublin, and the votes of Irish electors were essentially wasted. They counted for nothing and British governments were elected by the inhabitants of Great Britain and acted in the interests of Great Britain; those governments were completely unresponsive to anything Ireland wanted. Do you see where I’m going with this?

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Thus, when the Brexiteers very quickly disowned the infamous pledge from the side of the bus — £350 million a week for the NHS — Remainers expected outrage from voters who had been so cynically misled.

This is a classic sign of the remainer delusion. They still don’t get it.
It wasn’t a pledge at all. To revisit the exact wording:

We send the EU 350 million a week. Let’s funds our NHS instead

Nobody took that as gospel or a manifesto pledge except remainers. To any reasonable person it was just a “we pay the EU 350 million, when we could spend it on other things – e.g. the NHS”
First remainers got bent out of shape about the fact it wasn’t the net amount – saying that it was therefore a massive lie – when quite clearly it is the case. We did pay that amount and to give the net amount would have technically been a lie.
Second they now seem to have expected the government to write a weekly 350 million check to the NHS – which nobody normal would have expected.
As Matthew P said better – remainers are still tying themselves in knots over idiocy like this, meanwhile others are living in the real world now.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Spetzari
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Anyone old enough to remember the 1975 referendum will remember the remain campaign lied to an almost treasonable extent.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago

My parents voted to Remain in the EEC in 1975 and both voted Brexit in 2016. My mum is adamant that they were promised it was a ‘trade only’ arrangement and that any suggestion to the contrary was decried as lies paranoia and xenophobia. When Major took us into the EU without a referendum her mind was made up. Very principled my mum 🙂

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

I was young and gullible and clearly remember voting to agree membership of the EEC in 75. We were absolutely lied to. I bridled against its terrifying mission creep and told everybody who would listen how they needed to vote in the referendum if they valued democracy. I was a very active private Brexiteer and like to think I persuaded a few undecideds of the dangers of trusting the unelected bureaucracy.
On the Irish question, I am a quarter Irish (as are many of us mongrel English) and love Ireland. I had a proper bust up with a publican in Cork, post referendum. He ridiculed the Brexit vote and I said how astonished I was that the Irish, who had fought for independence and sang rebel songs in his bar, were happy to be ruled by Brussels. A bit like those Scots (I’m quarter Scots too) whose idea of ‘independence’ involves EU membership. I assume the Irish consider they have benefited from the EU so far, but I was there shortly after they adopted the Euro and everyone I spoke to was bemoaning the increase in prices and the shortage of American tourists.
Being able to sack your rulers, have your own currency and make your own laws seem basic requirements of both independence and democracy to me, but I’m neither politician nor economist. I do, however, have a vote and, along with a majority of British people, voted for independence and democracy in 2016. It wasn’t anti-Europe or anti-Irish, or even maybe anti-EU? Just anti being subject to the EU. I genuinely don’t get why some ‘remain’ voters apparently struggle to understand the impulse (especially the Irish
)

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

The impulse is easy enough to understand. The mission creep, the state pretensions without popular backing, the high-minded interference in matters that could easily have been left alone like prisoner voting (yes, the ECHR, a different institution, but the same general crowd) – I share all those frustrations. The problem is that a smaller country with a bigger neighbour is never fully free to make its own laws. Either you trade with the EU and stick to the relevant rules, or you stop trading and grow poor, or you break the rules and suffer continuous trade war with a stronger neighbour. The freedom you can get is to a large extent symbolic rather than real – you are likely to have more actual power over what happens by staying inside.

That said, independence is a worthy goal. Freedom is priceless. If leave had campaigned and won on “We will be free and we will pay what it costs!”, you could have nothing but respect for the decision, even if you thought it unwise. Instead the campaign ran on “We will have our cake and eat it”, “We can be free of all the constraints but still keep the advantages”, “The world will stand in line to help us get what we want”. If people actually believed they would get 350 million for the NHS and the world’s easiest trade deal, it really is rather pitiful. Maybe they did not believe it, they just wanted sovereignty regardless and did not vote on the basis of those promises. I still can have little respect for people who feel the need to lie to themselves before they can do the things they wanted to do anyway.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Hi Rasmus, well I certainly voted with the sure and certain knowledge that it wouldn’t be an easy ride and would cost us financially at least in the short term.
There’s a body of evidence in psychology that people make choices and decisions much more instinctively and ‘irrationally’ than they imagine. They may then retrospectively look for the evidence to support their position. I had a professor who did research in this area for companies that sold white goods, for instance. Why they bought one over another broadly similar washing machine etc.
It is genuinely fascinating to me how most people had a ‘gut’ feeling pro or anti EU membership, and how difficult we find it to understand the opposite viewpoint. We all shore up our arguments but, most probably, the answer is more about our personalities, world view, personal histories? Maybe those of us whose fathers fought a war for liberty have a stronger sense of how precarious freedom and democracy is? Or maybe some of us are less trusting of authority in general?
As a psychotherapist, I am very aware of the danger of any fellow human (or collection of humans) having too much power over others. The adage ‘power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is valid. I understand that the intention of the EU was ‘noble’ in the sense that it was to prevent war and divisions in Europe, but I think it is as open to corruption, mismanagement and misuse of power as any National government, probably more so as it is remote from ‘the people’ and unanswerable to them.
I don’t trust unelected bureaucrats to make decisions for me, out of sight and without my knowledge. I am instinctively suspicious of a system that is deliberately obscure and ‘knows better’ than let the demos have a voice.
We all know ‘experts’ who are expert in their field but can shock us with odd views or a total lack of ‘common sense’? I don’t revere anyone enough, politician, diplomat, lawyer or policy-wonk, to allow them a gold-plated job for life behind a closed door in Brussels.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

Thanks for taking the time to answer. Yours is a point of view worth respecting, I am not sure that fathers having fought for liberty is the big difference, though. Most countries in Europe (except Germany) have faced that task over the last century – some at a very high cost. I suspect one difference may be that the British still feel, deep down, that whatever they do they will always be powerful, respected, and strong enough to get things the way they want – just like it used to be. Other European countries have fewer illusions, as I see it.
It does sound likely that the leaver majority probably did decide on instinct – and nothing wrong with that. If only the leave campaign had had the honesty to present things the way you did here, there would have been less disdain around – and probably no ‘second referendum’ campaign. Unfortunately they chose to campaign on ‘have your cake and eat it’ instead. And even if people are perfectly welcome to decide on instinct, they still have a moral obligation, as I see it, to face up to the likely consequences of their actions. As indeed you seem to have done yourself.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I spent ages replying to yours Rasmus but had to take a call and the damn thing vanished!

The main thrust was that Brits, and particularly the English, do not feel either powerful or respected much these days. And we don’t disdain our neighbours at all – the enmity that others apparently feel for us we find genuinely surprising.

A Portuguese friend of mine asked how we felt about Germans. When I said we liked them, why? He had a theory that ‘victors’ are magnanimous but those who feel vanquished bear resentment.

I don’t know why people hate the English, we had a comedy series on TV only recently that asked this question of the Welsh, Scots and Irish
 But, funnily enough, we don’t hate them back.

One thing I think might be at play here is that Brits do have a sort of stubbornness, an unwillingness to be pushed around or bullied. We are hospitable and tolerant but there is a limit. And we don’t think anyone is better than us, that much is true. We can be pretty merciless with our own politicians and would-be rulers, so our distrust of the EU lot is par for the course.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

Too bad, I should have liked to read the longer version.

There are two things here, I think. Countries tend to resent bigger, overbearing neighbours; the Danes feel it for the Swedes, the Dutch for the Germans, the Ossis for the Wessis even. I would expect nothing else from the Scots or Welsh.
As for Brexit, one way of seeing it is that Britain has decided to spurn a project of collaborating with its neighbours, has refused to engage constructively in negotiations on how to handle the aftermath, is demanding as of right that the EU make basic changes to accommodate British desires, and is engaging in a policy of fomenting trouble in Northern Ireland and signing treaties it has no intention of honouring, all to bend the EU to its will. Again, resentment should not be a surprise.

I’d venture that pre-Brexit Britain was both more powerful and more respected than most of its European neighbours – could it be that you Brits just feel it is a big disappointment, because you were used to better things?
You may well be right about the British stubbornness – Kipling has some excellent descriptions of it – but the modern expression surely owes much to the fact that you expect to get what you want if you insist, just as historically you used to do. I am from Scandinavia myself, and we would expect our refusals to play out as long, stubborn endurance (like Kipling’s Saxon peasants), not as a victorious rebellion. Kipling’s colonialists may indeed have held by “Freedom for ourselves, and freedom for our sons – or, failing freedom, war”, but if so, a lot of the reason is surely that they rather expected that they might win that war.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Jane Watson
Jane Watson
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Morning Rasmus

Our basic stumbling block here is going to be who is fomenting trouble in NI? Brexiteers would say that, from day one, the EU cynically weaponised the border issue in the hope it would make Brexit undoable.

If you are right that countries traditionally resent bigger overbearing neighbours then the EU is doomed by definition. It has become exactly that – an overbearing power that wields its power carelessly and in its own interests. The ‘organisation’ that is the EU, like all bodies that accrue power, invariably crave more, and it often ends in tears.

I think the UK is very committed to collaborating with its neighbours (and it’s allies, including the Commonwealth). And I also think we tried long and hard to influence/reform the EU from the inside (as even its proponents advocate). The problem is that the organisation, along with the adoption of the Euro, has disempowered its members to such a degree that reform/scaling back is increasingly unlikely.

Another factor worth considering is that Brits were badgered to adopt the Euro and assured that not doing so would be a disaster. We held onto our pennies even as we gave up our weights and measures (and, believe me, that was traumatic). How many of the pro-Euro doomsayers sing its praises now? We remember that.

I believe in independent countries trading freely, forging alliances and collaborating with like-minded neighbours and friends in all areas of commerce, defence and research. We expect people to be patriotic and to act in the interests of their home country. Compromise is easy if you have a mutual goal – it does not entail having your legal system, rights and hard won freedoms bulldozed for what? For a protectionist racket that increasingly seems determined to cut off its nose to spite its face (only look at the outrageous vaccine fiasco).

Empires get too big to be managed successfully. They start off with grand ambitions and self-righteous zeal, but individuals are corruptible and the centre loses control. Peoples do not take kindly to being disempowered and rise up. It can involve bloodshed or it can be negotiated, negotiation may take a while


Last edited 3 years ago by Jane Watson
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

I was not getting into the general border issue in NI. If you have two large economies with different rules and regulations, either there is a border, or one chooses to accept unregulated imports from the other. Britain wants the EU to accpet British rules, for imports, and the EU wants to control what comes in, and avoid a border on Ireland. No reason to blame one above the other.

Now, however, when there is an agreed and signed protocol, the UK is *not* trying to reconcle the NI unionists wiht the protocol, but encourages troublemaking.

Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

Totally agree. Overreaching,or rather aiming for the United States of Europe,only admitted very quietly,even secretive ly, was never going to be acceptable to most of the auK. We were assured by lying politicians that it was a trading agreement-hence the title Common Market, while powerful people intended to control our nations.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

But Ireland within the EU is like Croatia in the Austro Hungarian Empire. They gain from the relatively greater influence within the EU than they had had alone,plus they got the CAP, of course. On the other hand, independent Ireland was able to remain neutral during the 2nd World War. The EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy would not offer that independence.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

The Bible says:
“Judas went and hanged himself”
“Goest thou then and do likewise”.
Two truthful statements. Yet the church would quite rightly object if they were put on a bus in that form.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

As a South African I can remember being gobsmacked by how often the message on the bus was used as evidence that the entire nation had been lied to and thus the referendum should be declared null and void. I thought of these people as either dumb or naive – or both.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago

You forgot dishonest.
Also you are talking about an self-entitled section of society who are used to getting their own way every single issue. Just once they fail to get their own way and we get a 5 year tantrum with levels of vitriol that would be san outrage if it was directed at them

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago

Crazy isn’t it.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Thank god I’m not the only one who couldn’t see what the big fuss was about the bus. The hysteria was pathetic.

John Riordan
John Riordan
3 years ago

I tried to read to the end of this delusional rubbish but failed, unfortunately. It’s possible that by the end, the author might have revealed at least a glimmer of insight about the real nature of the successful movement in the UK to recover democratic self-determination, but I’m guessing that nobody willing to waste so much of the readers time with the errant pseudo-intellectual waffle that placed identity politics front and centre for the first half of the article is ever likely to demonstrate the humility and breadth of mind required.

I suggest Fintan O’Toole sticks to misjudging Irish society and the place of Ireland within the EU. If he still hasn’t worked out that he’s badly wrong on that score as well, then he’s got bigger nasty surprises on the way than anything Brexit ever threw at him.

Last edited 3 years ago by John Riordan
Michael James
Michael James
3 years ago

If Leavers didn’t know what Leave would look like, very many Remainers didn’t know what Remain would look like. Their ignorance about the EU was quite astonishing — the EU just sounded like a good idea. That the EU routinely ignored national referendums or reran them until they produced the desired result (as in Ireland) was either unknown, or thought not to matter, or thought to be just fine. The destruction of Greece’s economy to save the euro was simply blanked out. No wonder the Leave vote remains a mystery to so many Remainers.

Last edited 3 years ago by Michael James
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael James

A vote to remain would not have been seen as a vote to maintain the status quo. You can guarantee it would have been presented as a mandate for ‘more Europe’ and I bet plans to join the Euro, Schengen and everything else would have been pitched at some point using the referendum as a battering ram. I know a lot of Remainers didn’t vote for that….

Michael James
Michael James
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Indeed, we would already be contributing to the EU’s Covid recovery programme (having suffered from the EU’s hopeless vaccination rollout) and having to prepare to contribute to the next euro bailouts.

Last edited 3 years ago by Michael James
Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Also joining a community of ten or twelve was very different from having one vote in a group of 27 countries while paying vast amounts of money to fund them. Also,EU paying our industries to relocate to these countries and exporting massive numbers to work here,lowering wages and putting huge pressure on housing and vital services has not helped the country. We can do better as an independent nation with world leading universities,scientists,musicians and all kinds of culture. Renewing friendship and trade with friends like Australia,New Zealand,Canada the USA and members of the British Commonwealth are all positives too.

T Doyle
T Doyle
3 years ago

The opening three paragraphs really exposes O’Toole’s lack of understanding. The three Remainer reps – Davidson, Khan and O’Grady don’t represent the U.K. They represent a mythical new U.K. presented by the London centric lefties, the MSM and so called “progressives”. O’Toole is a classic elitist Irishman who would run a mile from a real working class Irishman. I say this as I come from an Irish background and know his type. He’s views are tainted with an underlying resentment of the British and colonialism. Again he fails to see that most working class people in the U.K. got very little out of colonialism; maybe the chance to emigrate to Canada or Australia, or to join the armed forces to escape futile poverty, as a lot of Irishmen and Scotsmen did. To present times, internationalism and the EU, the darlings of the elite, offer nothing for the British working class. Remainers just need to understand this. Just understand that the EU only pandered to Remainers sense of order and needs, not the masses.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  T Doyle

Thanks, so glad there are people who get it!!!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

a Scot who is also a lesbian, a military vet and a Tory; a working class Londoner from a British-Pakistani background; and the first woman ever to get to the top of the organised labour movement.
So largely the kind of people from whom we hear far too much, and who are apparently immune from all criticism. They needed to be TTFO and I laughed when they were.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago

I don’t believe the either referendum campaign had any effect on the outcome. I’ve friends, still, that voted both ways. Their relative positions were decided long before the opportunity to vote was given. We had forty years to assess the merits of our membership of the EU. Of course we had no clear idea of what life outside the EU would be like. However a slim majority of us were very motivated to take the risk.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
3 years ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

It did change my view actually (to leave). Or at least changed it slightly. I started out ambivalent, not really caring and assuming I’d vote remain as the continuity option. It was mostly triggered by watching Brexit The Movie, which was a video that laid out the case for leaving and then following up on claims there led to doing lots of background research which turned into a sort of spiral of uncovering ever more appalling facts about the whole project, facts I wasn’t previously aware of.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

I voted Remain. I voted Remain somewhat reluctantly though, I just didn’t want chaos, division or uncertainty – which I knew wouid result from a leave vote. Not because it should but because I could say the way the narrative was being played out. I was a coward basically. The last 5 years have been exhausting. But I was always horrified at the positioning of Leavers as thick racist plebs. It was part of why I ended up becoming a committed Brexiteer. The absolute contempt shown to democracy and the voting public by the Remainer establishment red pilled me completely about a lot of things. Brexit and Trump Derangement Syndromes exposed the elites and how far the worms of globalism, technocracy and far left anti western (anti Anglospheric) forces had burrowed into all our institutions. Once you see it there’s no going back. Once again the British public are holding the line for freedom and democracy and in time I think that principled stand wil be seen in the way it should be seen.

John Riordan
John Riordan
3 years ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

My own view changed from a (reluctant) Remain to a hardened position on Brexit. I was ready to vote Remain on a pragmatic basis if David Cameron had managed to retrieve significant powers from Brussels in the months prior to the vote in early 2016. I wasn’t confident he could do it given the frankly unbelievable treatment of Greece the previous year and the worrying manner in which Ireland was forced to bail out its own banks against the wishes of the Irish government in 2011, but even allowing for that I was still amazed not only at the complete intransigence David Cameron encountered, but also the obvious contempt involved.

So I became a Leave voter once I saw Cameron coming back to London with a flea in his ear, but pretending that he had got worthwhile concessions.

What I must also say though is that it is the behaviour of the EU since the vote, and that of the EU’s supporters in the UK, which revealed to me how catastrophic it would have been for such people to have won in 2016. These people ought to be in prison, not walking freely around the corridors of power as they were, and in some cases still are.

Clive Mitchell
Clive Mitchell
3 years ago

As someone who was ambivalent about Brexit, head and heart saying different things and with an Irish mother, if this had been a thoughtful analysis of Leave I would have been interested in the article. But instead we had cliches, padded out by unnecessary verbiage, wrapped up in Irish resentment.

In short an article that actually told us a lot about Fintan O’Toole, but nothing of interest about Brexit.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Clive Mitchell

I can agree that this article did not add much to Mr O’Toole’s previous in-depth analysis over many years. That does not necessarily make its statements clichĂ©s, however. Perhaps they could be characterised as by-now-familiar truths?
And yes, I can agree there’s a bit of padding

But, “Irish resentment”?
Is it impossible for anyone to criticise the English without being accused of being resentful? Is the English sense of superiority and exceptionalism so impenetrable that this people, alone among all others, is unable to conceive it may just reveal the occasional blemish?

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Branding 50 millions people as racist extends slightly beyond exposing the “occasional blemish”.
But I think it’s clear to most posters exactly what sort of person we are dealing with.

Clive Mitchell
Clive Mitchell
3 years ago
Reply to  Eddie Johnson

I think it’s O’Toole in disguise!

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Eddie Johnson

You can’t avoid generalising when discussing a culture as a whole.
The fact that within said culture there may be many who don’t fit the mould does not invalidate comments made about the culture as a whole.
So when I observe that English culture is still racist, of course I don’t mean all 50+ million people who make up that culture.

Clive Mitchell
Clive Mitchell
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

“ Is it impossible for anyone to criticise the English without being accused of being resentful? Is the English sense of superiority and exceptionalism so impenetrable that this people, alone among all others, is unable to conceive it may just reveal the occasional blemish?”

I don’t know, you’ll need to ask someone who’s English. You clearly have a problem with them.

You’ll notice I don’t mention the word English in my comment, you brought them up.

With regards what Mr O’Toole may or may not have written previously, that’s irrelevant. I’m commenting on this article, not on articles I haven’t read.

Probably best that way.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

To quote the immortal Jim Hacker 
 “round objects”

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

You know full well that the criticism is based in pure anglophobia and an amplified sense of grievance about things that happened hundreds of years ago to people who no longer exist and for whom there was almost zero benefit on either side apart from a few already rich people.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

You know full well that the criticism is based in pure anglophobia and an amplified sense of grievance
Please don’t presume to tell me what I know.
In fact, after years of research, I have come to agree completely with Fintan O’Toole.
As someone whose natal culture is English, I have examined my culture and come to the conclusion that it has committed grievous crimes against the Irish over hundreds of years.
it is a source of ongoing distress to me that my fellow English seem to be incapable of conducting a parallel self-examination.

Simon Coulthard
Simon Coulthard
3 years ago

“Why remain lost” – do we really need smug Brexit opinion pieces like this in 2021? Remain didn’t lose because it’s team at Wembley Arena were more diverse than the one assembled by their opponents.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago

What is the “We” bit.
What has the UK voting to leave got to do with an Irish journalist and what right does he have to declare an interest in and feel aggrieved by the the outcome.

Barry Wetherilt
Barry Wetherilt
3 years ago

Five years on and the likes of Mr. O’Toole still don’t get why we voted Leave.

Sarah H
Sarah H
3 years ago

I get a sense here that Irish, Welsh and Scottish nationalisms are great because they are in response to some imagined English yoke but English nationalism is not allowed and is scorned. Perhaps I am being unfair. I note also the continued ignoral of the principle – we voted to leave so there was no question of some continuation debate to be won or lost. However flawed and unclear on terms, that should have been the end of it. We voted leave because we voted leave The author’s belief that more berating of the stupid public by smart leftists is part of why people voted ‘a plague on you snotty lot’.

L Paw
L Paw
3 years ago

The one over-riding thing that I remember thinking after the 2016 Referendum , and it was expressed by commentators at that time, was why do the EU politicians, pro-Remain commentators and fellow travellers find it oh so hard to let the UK leave? If they were/are so confident about the strengths of their beloved EU and it’s huge benefits to member states, surely they would wave goodbye to the difficult, squabbling country that never wanted to really take part? Let them go, they don’t understand and never will, its too much trouble having them in the club, causing trouble.
However, the fact that 5 years on we are still getting articles like this shows just how so many in the EU cannot move on. An imperfect Brexit with a punishing ‘deal’ for the UK has still not satisfied these people. I think it’s got a lot to do with the insecurity of many in the EU, in reality they know the project is fragile. Euro is a disaster, huge unemployment in southern EU states, declining share of world trade, big imbalances between Germany and poorer southern states, the list goes on. In reality their ‘club’ is becoming less relevant as each year passes and the real concerns for little countries like Ireland and their citizens, are if the EU does fall apart, what will we do then..?

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  L Paw

I don’t even care if the EU is strong or weak. I just don’t want to be part of it, on principle (yes principle that thing that seems to matter not a jot to most people nowadays) whether that’s good or bad for them or us. Ask the ex eastern bloc countries if they should have chosen the stability of the USSR or the uncertain future outside of it and they will say, as the old Latvian saying goes, they’d rather only have potatoes to eat.

Matt B
Matt B
3 years ago
Reply to  L Paw

The irony is that extremism, national and otherwise, is currently more on display in the EU – physically and in terms of electoral shifts.

Last edited 3 years ago by Matt B
Fennie Strange
Fennie Strange
3 years ago

I thought that I had listened, watched, thought, discussed and reflected throughout this complex and fascinating period of our history. I recognise none of the conclusions the writer draws and can only conclude I must be wrong.

John Private
John Private
3 years ago

Fintan, you’ve written an opinion piece about the mentality of Brexiteers but clearly you don’t have a close person relationship with many.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
3 years ago

“The Brexiteers had no agreed idea of what form Brexit should take.” Nor did Remain have any agreed idea of what the EU should become had Britain voted to remain. Many Remainers were simply happy to “hold on tight to nurse”, the devil they knew. Others liked the cheap and willing au pair, cleaner or builder. Others again saw economic advantages but wanted no further integration. They were Eurosceptics. And a smattering wanted “ever closer union”, defined as membership of the euro, anathema to most Remain voters, and greater federalism, best expressed by Kenneth Clarke with his notorious quote about him looking forward to the day when Westminster was no more than a council chamber in Europe. There was no united vision of what form Remain should take. But the whole country knew that the status quo was not an option and that the more the EU integrated, the more friction there would be between it and a Britain constantly dragging its heels. Ultimately, the idea of an amicable divorce from a relationship that was not working for us proved more attractive and Project Fear merely confirmed that the British government had no compelling vision or narrative.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

Ultimately, the idea of an amicable divorce from a relationship that was not working for us proved more attractive

An amicable divorce?
Are you sure that was the intention of those who pushed the UK to leave the EU?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

From afar I certainly think an amicable divorce was what people wanted. No matter how angry people became by the often belligerent, sulky and defiant behaviour of some Remainers, I can’t think that people wanted a bad outcome.

Last edited 3 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

Of course people did not want a bad outcome – they wanted to have their cake an eat it – as BJ said. Since I do *not* think Remainers are dumb, I assume they realised that this was not a highly likely outcome.

Nobody ever wants war – they just want the fruits of victory.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Leavers of course tried to push people into voting leave. What would you expect them to do, say no we don’t really mean it vote Remain?
Why assume they are insincere in their beliefs and why assume Remainers are sincere in theirs?? Jeez

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Try as you might, you can’t avoid facing up to the unsavoury forces behind the Leave campaign. These were on about destruction, just like the Trumpists; there was absolutely nothing amicable about them. Their motives and tactics have been well and truly exposed. And we all know by now where Trumpism led.
it is disingenuous to conflate these evil, deliberate forces of destruction with masses of ordinary English folk who just knew they wanted to react against something, without being clear about what that something was.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

What unsavoury forces? My overwhelming motivation, and that of all the people who, with me, were actively campaigning for Leave, was to restore full democratic control of Britain to its citizens and voters. The EU is not democratic. Not in the sense that it citizens have the ability to turf out one government and replace it by another and in so doing change the laws by which we live.

David Yetter
David Yetter
3 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

Again, my view from across the pond: it’s not clear why Brexiteers should have had an agreed idea of “what form” Brexit should take, the whole point, as I understood it was to move decision making back to Westminster from Brussels, which, once done, would let the UK decide what “form” Brexit took by votes in the House of Commons, slightly restrained by the Lords, as is had done for all matters of substance for several centuries.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Yetter
michaelsweeney8
michaelsweeney8
3 years ago

What’s wrong with being over 50 and white? It seems to work well for Fintan.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
3 years ago

… and Ursula, and Charles (Michel, EU “Council” president, as opposed to Ursula’s EU “Commission” presidency, in case you didn’t know).

Jorge Espinha
Jorge Espinha
3 years ago

Fitan still don’t know why remain lost. And that resistance to acknowledge the problems of the EU will be EU’s downfall. There was a great case to be made for remaining in the EU but it was too late. For decades Europeans have been treated by their leaders as children “take it, it’s good for you!” . The European issues, be it the monetary integration , the EU constitution or a common immigration policy are always too complex for our little narrow minded brains. And if everything fails, we are called racist, and that’s the end of it. I’m Portuguese and I was sad to see the Brits go, but I understand their reasons and it seems that the EU are like the old Habsburgs, they forget nothing and have learned nothing. So did Fitan, apparently.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jorge Espinha
Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor
3 years ago

“Thus, when the Brexiteers very quickly disowned the infamous pledge from the side of the bus — £350 million a week for the NHS — Remainers expected outrage
it was always in a different category of reality.”
The reason we were not outraged was because the Kings Fund confirmed the ÂŁ350M per week was delivered in full:
https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/nhs-in-a-nutshell/nhs-budget

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Taylor

When I tell people that they don’t believe me. Because, funnily enough, this wasn’t a massive sorry in the Remain media and somehow escaped their attention – and then they try to rationalise their prejudice with some tropes about Tory scum massaging the figures so it isn’t actually true. Oh it must be another lie. Liars liars liars!! That’s all they have to say.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Wise words, i can only add as far as the debate goes remain fielded 1 grown up (Ruth Davidson) and 2 Children, whereas Leave had 2 grown ups and BJ.Not that it mattered, i voted remain and only seriously studied EU corruption and mendacity after the vote, so instead of remorse i felt what could be called buyers’ relief, if not quite elation.

Last edited 3 years ago by mike otter
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Same here

Adam
Adam
3 years ago

What strikes me most about this article, is its unremitting arrogance. There is not the slightest hint of contrition, no trace of humility. No acknowledgment whatsoever, of the many real and genuine concerns, that led so many to vote leave. Mass uncontrolled EU migration damaged living conditions and lowered life chances for millions. It compressed wages, reduced employment benefits, drove rents and house prices to stratospheric levels. Some of the poorest and most vulnerable found it impossible to get a doctor’s appointment, local school place or social housing for themselves or their children. Ignored and insulted, millions of these voters simply vanished over the course of two decades. Having learned that whoever they voted for Tory, Labour or Liberal, it made no difference. All three parties were pro EU and most of the power they pretended to wield had long since been ceded to a distant, unelected bureaucracy in Brussels. It was these missing voters, the ignored, “awful”, provincial, working class types. Who suddenly recognised the power of a binary referendum and appeared from nowhere, to swing the result.
It must be so comforting to blot all of that out and carry on deluding yourself that BREXIT was nothing more than a racist, xenophobic, nationalistic spasm. One whipped up by lies, magical thinking and a misty-eyed evocation of past imperial power. As for the dam bus, we had an extremely expensive, crowdfunded court case on this very subject. £350m is the gross (before rebate) figure. Something Boris repeatedly made clear in TV interviews. Judges tore apart the case and ruled the use of a gross figure acceptable. All of which is academic unless you’re deluded enough to believe that a figure of £250m vs £350m would have made the slightest difference electorally. I’d also point out that this promise was made good in full by Teresa May, when her government increased the NHS budget.
This continued myopic focus on barely relevant side issues, is common amongst a rapidly dwindling band of remoaners. Its symptomatic of their total inability to accept a free and fair democratic choice. One of the rare ones that didn’t align with their personal interests. After half a decade, surely it’s time to move on? Rather than doomed litigation, perhaps we could crowd fund some much needed counselling?

Last edited 3 years ago by Adam
Ana Cronin
Ana Cronin
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam

You had me at What strikes me most about this article, is its unremitting arrogance Adam but the rest of your comment is a succient, word perfect description of why many people I know voted Brexit and also the perfect rebuttal to the many of my fellow Irish, like Fintan O Toole, who have lately taken to critising the politics of other countries as if their opinion was of some import.Diversionary tactic? certainly delusional about Ireland and uninformed about the UK.
I am literally going to print out the above and distribute it to the next person who bleats on about the bus, racism etc. so I will be making a lot (loads) of copies here in Ireland Adam I hope you don’t mind

Last edited 3 years ago by Ana Cronin
Albireo Double
Albireo Double
3 years ago

And still the die hard few fight on, rather like the Japanese soldiers in their caves in the 1950s. Like other holy warriors, the jihadi remainer must win, or achieve martyrdom in the attempt.

The article? Just the usual rubbish I’m afraid. It tells us far more about the writer than the writer thinks he knows about people who voted to leave.

The question I enjoy asking the O’Tooles of this world is this: “When asked by my government to express a preference in a national referendum, I voted not to allow my country to be governed by an unelected and corrupt consortium of failed third rate foreign politicians. Please will you tell me what it is about my view that you find so unreasonable and so objectionable?”

Answer comes there none. They will never answer. And the reason for that is the same reason that the Remain side lost. When asked to make its case for remaining in the EU, it I could muster nothing but threats, lies, bile, and sneers.

The best advice to remainers with this attitude is the old adage “if you’ve nothing good to say, then say nothing.”

Fintan, please note.

Last edited 3 years ago by Albireo Double
Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago

The Remain campaign could have campaigned under one banner behind which a broad church of opinion could have unified: “The EU is an institution that can take pride in its achievements and that benefits all of its members.” The problem was that few people believe this. Most Remainers would agree that the EU is a deeply flawed institution. They voted Remain because the saw an EU increasingly orientated towards North America and Asia as worse than remaining in the deficient EU and (rightly) they feared the attempts of the EU to destroy the British economy post-Brexit. In order not to offend the people in Washington who run our foreign policy, the Remain campaign decided to concentrate on Project Fear.
Then there was a second problem. The Remain campaign could not defend the 2016 version of the EU because they knew that decisions had already been made to proceed with increased federalisation. The announcement of moves towards the establishment of an EU Army had been cynically delayed until after the referendum. The TTIP trade agreement with the US had already been agreed and US companies were salivating at the prospect of being able to sue European governments in a special court beyond the reach of European electorates. The German political elite had probably also agreed to debt pooling whether or not their electorate wanted it.
Because the Remain campaign could not campaign in favour of the EU, they had to campaign against a fictional representation of a post-Brexit Britain.

Ana Cronin
Ana Cronin
3 years ago

I could reply to the many who have logged comments below, but I will instead make a couple of points here and hope it suffices.
I had the pleasure of living in the UK for 23 years and I now have English family. The first part may seem like an innocuous statement but despite the huge numbers of Irish people who reside in the UK, the wonder and disbelief you encounter in Ireland when you say:- that you loved living in the UK, rate the people highly, especially the English, yes I do understand why Brexit happened and succeeded… and no I, and many others, were and are not constantly pining for ‘home’ and planning to throw of the ‘shackles’ of the UK and run back to the ‘best country in the world to live in’.
I cannot emphasise enough to British people and particularly the English how much so many Irish dislike you. I cannot emphasise enough to you how you need to stop pandering and flogging yourselves about external criticisms from Ireland and elsewhere, you do yourselves a disservice. I have lived in many countries, on three continents, and the UK, and the majority of, its people have a lot to be proud of.
On the other hand, Ireland has much of which to be ashamed, a state just 100 years old that had a chance to write its own new story and has failed on so many levels. Therefore, it is so much easier to look outward and criticise even though there is so little understanding of the (carefully, strategically chosen) countries who are criticised. China no, Hungary yes, France is great, I lived in France for years and I have yet to meet an Irish people, apart from those who lived there, who has any understanding of the social and political working of and what ‘drives’ the French. USA all is good, UK boo, well the Scots are great (they ‘hate’ the English after all) the Welsh, well we don’t know much about Wales (but it’s not England so that’s okay) and the NI Unionists…have a listen to Leo Varadkar’s speech this week about a United Ireland, in his lifetime, that and the fact the majority of people here seems to see no ‘issue’ with that speech at this sensitive time tells you how tone deaf in their ‘fury’ many Irish remain. We have the craven political class we deserve.
Ah Fintan, a member of the Irish media who would put CNN to shame in their group think output, fortunately there are a few honourable exceptions. I had to listen this morning to a journalist I respect say all of us (Irish) want reunification, well I am Irish and I don’t. Let’s be clear here, I do not want to just hear what I ‘agree with’ (I have never understood that phrase, I, and most people I know are open to ‘learning’ and different points of view) but I do not want a totally biased media and worse a totally uneducated media, suggestion, go to the UK talk to the people who voted leave and actually actively listen. 
I knew from practically the first day I set foot in the UK, early 1990’s, that a news story about NI that I would read in a UK paper would be so differently reported in the Irish press that you would struggle to know they were writing about the same event. However, in the UK people were learning, growing up and moving on. Ireland is, well, as it ever was before I left, during the second of the economic depressions that have hit Ireland in my lifetime. How badly run a country do you have to be to have 4 economic recessions in the 5 and bit decades I have been alive? Most of the older Irish in the UK arrived prior to my birth, in the 30’s and 50’s, but in the lifetime of my parents born in the 2 decades just after Irish Independence in 1921 (followed by a civil war).
Remember a country just 100 years old and no problem overturning referendum on the EU and losing sovereignty to the same (but sure isn’t the EU great) failed health service, a substandard education system, despite the Irish constantly telling everyone it is the one of the ‘best in the world’ (if it was the best would the Irish be so insular?) A nation of emigrants most of whom have their eyes open when they travel and rarely return for any long periods. I know many who have come back, by choice or otherwise, and left again, as I will. 
If you want to understand Ireland read Fintan own book, ‘Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger’ ah yes, another story (fairytale?) we tell ourselves, the mirage that was the Celtic Tiger. We pay an additional tax here each month called USC to pay off the EU for the French and German banks they bailed out!). Ireland hasn’t changed much unfortunately from the ‘cute hooreism’, the backhander (see brown envelopes) insider politics (see tents at Galway races) of my youth. 
Anyway, I have to go and help my son put up his England flag and my (mixed race) family will be sitting down tonight to cheer England on. Sorry Scotland, I know I worked for one of your banks for years but the apparent self confidence that actually, cloaked the lack of real self-confidence that I observed from many in Scotland reminded me too much of ‘home’ to ever really be comfortable in Scotland. I’d seen all the empty ‘fire and fury before’.  
Finally, how the ‘Fintans’ love to quote Yeats, so before you read (the summary of at least) of Ship of Fools, read September 1913 by Yeats. Then get back to your lives, support your fellow UK citizens’ in Northern Ireland and please be forgiving of the next lot of Irish who will come to your shores for employment when the next economic crisis hits in Ireland. As sure as there is rain on the beautiful west coast of Ireland there will be one of those again if not this decade then the next. 
SlĂĄn agus beannacht leat

Matt B
Matt B
3 years ago
Reply to  Ana Cronin

Interesting.

Last edited 3 years ago by Matt B
David Yetter
David Yetter
3 years ago

Viewed from the other side of the pond, it appears to me that the real reason Remain lost was that the Remainers never engaged in a counter-argument against the real motivation for Leave: the return of sovereign power to the elected Parliament in Westminster from the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. There was no admission that sovereignty has been lost in exchange for the benefits of EU membership, put in a way as to present it as a beneficial trade-off for the average citizen of the UK. Instead the counter-argument (again, this is only how it looked from afar) was to present support for Leave as if its only possible motivations were prejudice against Eastern Europeans and a romantic nostalgia for the Empire, and to vilify both. Not a winning argument that.

Matt B
Matt B
3 years ago

Opportunists on all sides, all sides will say. But the bigger and more concrete story for OToole – 5yrs on – should be this: gross Irish tax haven activity further dividing society by removing its tax base (with inequality also feeding into unexpected electoral outcomes in Ireland). The rising perception of corporate capture of the EU, notably post-Greece crisis, also relates to this. https://euobserver.com/opinion/151169

Last edited 3 years ago by Matt B
Al M
Al M
3 years ago

The description of the Remain panelists puts me in mind of John Thompson’s stand up character Bernard Right-on.

Otherwise, I can find little new ground here. The various reasons why have been discussed and raked over many times and by more astute analysts. Some of them even refrain from the inevitable sneer in the closing paragraph.

Fintan Power
Fintan Power
3 years ago

Unherd is supposed to be about independent thinking not the herd mentality represented by a supposed liberal newspaper based in Dublin.

shanecurran74
shanecurran74
3 years ago

Freddie ! I can’t believe you allowed this person Fintan to write for you – well kept people like him are the reason why we subscribe to UnHerd not to bring them over : what are you doing Freddie?

Michelle Johnston
Michelle Johnston
3 years ago

Capital Economics produced a 58 page document on the economic consequences of pursuing an independent course away from Europe and concluded the arguments were broadly neutral over a ten year period this was the global staple for the fund management industry which I am attached to.
The consequences of not joining the Euro had already been clear for some years.
I admire the great cultural back drop of Europe and enjoy being in amongst it on their terms enormously, it enriches my life.
I want us to be able to move and trade easily between England and Europe. I voted Yes to EEC in 1975.
However I feel the weakest and vulnerable and the intractable problems of the West (poor health an epilogue age) may not be resolved but they stand more chance of doing so in a nation state model.
This is another article which denies people like myself exist.

Last edited 3 years ago by Michelle Johnston
Peter Mott
Peter Mott
3 years ago

The Leavers were talking, though usually in reactionary and often in absurd ways, about identity. Remainers largely disdained such talk as innately reprehensible.

In fact Remainers were talking about identity as well, though their identity was to the EU. Indeed it is remarkable the license to unashamed nationalism that this identity permits, if only the “nation” is the EU.
As an example, some time ago some columnist or other at the Financial Times (I forget which, they are all much the same) called upon the EU to act like an empire!

Kevin Carroll
Kevin Carroll
3 years ago

This article is typical of O’Fool . The thing I can say about this man is he is the grave digger of the Irish people. This man and the Irish political class have destroyed Irish democracy. And have sold our hard won sovereignty to the
EU. That my great grandfather grandfather grandmother brother’s sisters son and daughters gave their lives for. As an Irishmen forced to seek work in the UK at the age 50 after the financial crash. I voted for Brexit in the hope that if it happen. Maybe the Irish people would wake up. And they are.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

LaFarge? As in the cement company?
That aside, that smacks of people putting 2+2 together and getting 492. Yes certain stocks would benefit from Brexit – nothing exciting there, there are lots of different businesses with different strengths and weaknesses.
And the companies would be f-ing stupid to not want Brexit if it would benefit them. Hardly a conspiracy.
Say I have a Mercedes and wax lyrical about them. Is it because I am a biased owner? Or perhaps I actually think they’re great and bought one? It would be weird for me to be obsessed about Mercedes but own a Porsche. Same logic applies here.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Spetzari
Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
3 years ago

Meanwhile, across the pond, in the mid to late 18th Century, there was a similar discussion: Live without Representation or Stay with little to no Representation. There was no official vote…or was there? Give or take a few percentage points 1/3 were for leaving, 1/3 were for staying, and 1/3 were to cowardly to say. The Leavers paid their votes in blood…the Stayers went to Canada….the descendents of the cowards are now spinless liberals.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris Eaton
Nicholas Bundock
Nicholas Bundock
3 years ago

Fintan O’Toole’s animus toward England is legendary and is the lens through which he analyses Brexit, which is why his analysis is wrong.

Last edited 3 years ago by Nicholas Bundock
Matt B
Matt B
3 years ago

For the kind of journalism effectively portraying others/views as diseased – and needing a cure – also see Rwanda in 94

Last edited 3 years ago by Matt B
Alan Osband
Alan Osband
3 years ago

How did remain not win with their alliance of Scottish lesbian tories , politician sons of Pakistani bus drivers and female trades union bosses ?
O’ Toole has hit the nail on the head .

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
3 years ago

Never ask a question to which you do not know the answer…

tonyrorchard
tonyrorchard
3 years ago
Having taken the close decision in the Referendum, leading Brexiteers such as Johnson, Gove and even Farage, assumed that the UK would remain in the Single Market and Customs Union or even variants of these. It was Theresa May, who, without consultation with either her cabinet, Party, cross-party discussions or Parliamentary debate and led by the nose by her special advisors, Timothy and Hill (ex- Home office), drew her Red lines, went for a premature A.50 and only as negotiations proceeded, realised the full implications of these decisions (as did the EU from inception of negotiations). There remained a choice in late 2019 for Parliament to decide to pursue an EFTA/EEA style relationship with the EU but this was narrowly rejected due to the insistence of the hard core Remainers on a Second Referendum. Much of the identity/nationalism arguments have been constructed post-facto but are only elements not determinants. A real working alternative with the UK playing a constructive part in framing a close but constitutionally separate economic and political relationship with the EU was and is possible and it is likely that other European countries would join us in this re-construction.
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  tonyrorchard

Did you use typewriter?

Max Beran
Max Beran
3 years ago

Nice piece, especially the bits about the perceptions of past and future held by politicians and the public. It reminded me of that adage that in politics only the future is known with absolute clarity and certainty, the present is hazy and arguable, and the past a total blank. For the politician, aspiration amount to actuality as in the final scene of G&S’ Mikado when the hapless citizens of Titipu, having to explain away their failure to carry out the Mikado’s order, appeal to him with the words, “When your Majesty says, “Let a thing be done,” it’s as good as done — practically, it is done”.

Robin Bury
Robin Bury
3 years ago

Surprised as a half Irishman living in Canada, that you published this bitter anti-English article. O’Toole is not only anglophobic but also anti-unionist in Northern Ireland. He might well remember that the EU shafted Eire when there was a crash of the banks. The Irish taxpayers bailed out EU banks, esp German ones. Many Irish emmigrated then to England, to Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia. The UK instead gave Eire money to help. Also the EU change in corporation tax will hit Ireland hard where many transnationals avoid paying tax. O’Toole might mention a triumphalist Catholic Ireland saw the exit of almost the entire Protestant and Catholic loyalist community which went to England, Northern Ireland and the ex-colonies. Please stop publishing O’Toole’s hatreds.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
3 years ago

A very interesting take on the issue. The difference between Scotland’s independence focus on trade and England’s focus on nationalism is indeed food for thought: Ms Sturgeon please take note!
Ideally Scotland will free itself from England’s yoke and rejoin with NI, ROI and later Wales (and even Cornwall?) to form The Celtic Federation! Put that on the side of yer bus will ye?

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The Scottish National Party that’s focused on independence but nothing to do with bog standard old nationalism? Puhleeeaaasse. It’s the BNP in a nicer dress.

James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago

Great piece. I am pleasantly surprised to see it on here.
Of course Scotland is likely do precisely the same as Wales & England did: destabilise and weaken a union. The difference being their ‘destructive’ spirit will kind of be justified. The Scottish cause is real, not invented.
As the author is saying, in reality England has never been ‘oppressed’.
Speaking as a Londoner, let’s hope a properly inclusive England can emerge from this mess. And English nationalism will come to resemble Scotland’s: the civic model.
(I’m staying neutral for the Scotland England football.)

Last edited 3 years ago by James Chater
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Vikings, Romans, Normans, Saxons etc were our mates then were they? Harald poked his own eye out with an arrow did he? Cornish fishermen volunteered for the Barbary slave trade did they? Everyone can play the oppressed victim game but some of us choose not to.

Al M
Al M
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Would that be the ‘civic nationalism’ that saw blue-face idiots in chem-suits shouting abuse at cars entering Scotland from England last year? Perhaps the one that voted down Sunday trading laws in England when Scotland already has much longer retail hours?

Maybe it’s the one based on grievance culture and rabid hatred of the larger country in the union.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago

Sounds like a perceptive and correct analysis to me.
Vote me down.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Do you need attention that much ?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Sometimes you can have some quite interesting discussions here. I even learn something from other people’s arguments sometimes. Otherwise I try to make the point that there can be people in the Unherd community (polite people with arguments, if I can manage) who disagree with some of the the dominant opinions. Monocultures are not healthy.

The attention of getting downvoted does not particularly excite me but then it is not exactly shocking news that most people around here are leavers. You are very welcome to downvote me or ignore me, as you prefer.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I voted leave, yet am interested in what remainers think. The article explored what remainers have learned – in that it differs from the majority of remainiac comments which demonstrate no learning whatsoever.

James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

dl

Last edited 3 years ago by James Chater
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

UnHerd is no doubt to the Post-Liberal Right but if the ‘Mission Statement’ is to be believed other ‘post-liberal’ voices should be being heard too.
I endorse your remarks. That’s why I joined. It think it does make a difference if those of us outside the Unherd mainstream keep posting. I’m not “post-liberal”; I’m “trans-liberal”, in the sense of having transcended that position.

James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

dl

Last edited 3 years ago by James Chater
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Well put. I agree completely, thankyou.
I was just trying to head off the pitfall of being caught in another bipolar dichotomy of liberal/anti liberal. It’s like threading one’s way through a minefield, trying to avoid springing one of the bipolar traps, looking anxiously to left and right to avoid a label being thrown and sticking.
My starting point is the recognition of our common humanity, i.e. the whole human race. That is 100% positive and 100% inclusive. Everything else proceeds from that base.
Just so you know, I am a researcher and writer in the field of positive human evolution and progressive spirituality, based in the initiate teachings of Dr Rudolf Steiner. Steiner brought in a new teachIng about universal Love, as manifested in the Christ being. He gave everyone a modern path of knowledge, quite distinct from religion, faith or belief, but based in personal self-development and incorporating the natural sciences and modern technology. (I do hope people are not going to pile in on me again for believing in fairy stories, or some such.)

James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

dl

Last edited 3 years ago by James Chater
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I voted you up, but unfortunately it doesn’t really show under the weight of the downers.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
3 years ago

One of the few, now sadly, longer articles on UnHerd that was worth reading. Ever since they started charging, article’s lengths have risen and the quality has dropped.

Glen Page
Glen Page
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

Mike, if you think that this is worth reading and the other articles in Unherd are not then you are probably lost. Here’s a link to a website more suited to your tastes …https://www.theguardian.com/

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago

Just read through the comments. Very disappointing. Seems like everyone wanted to grab the opportunity to troll a leading journalist. Very few facts. Even less reasoned argument. Just shouty fact-free preconceived opinions.
If I had to summarise the bulk of the comments, they came across as something like, “Don’t you dare criticise us, you despicable Irish xxxxxx, we’re English!”
So at risk of being trolled off this comment space, may I say I have found Mr O’Toole’s analysis of the English problem second to none. And I am English!
It stands up politically, socially, psychologically, anthropologically, historically, and spiritually. In short, his writing displays a breadth of vision and ability to simultaneously dig deep paralleled only by a very few other analysts in the past decade.

Jim Richards
Jim Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Someone else who’s never actually talked to a Brexit voter. O’Toole’s a boe and a fool, he seems to think it’s all about the empire. You need to be 80+ to have any memory of the empire, the vast majority of people couldn’t give a flying f*ck one way and there is no nostalgia for it whatsoever. But still he bores on, much like a conspiracy theorist.
Ironically, in a classic case of projection, it’s ultra remainers like O’Toole who are closest to the imperial mindset – believing that people should be ruled by a imperial power based in anther country and, above all, that his social inferiors should vote how they’re told, not the way they think is in their own best interests. The servants spoke back sums up that sort of remainer’s attitude.
In any case, why so angry? If Brexit is going to be the catastrophe that O’Toole so confidently predicts then he should be glad to be living in a wholly owned dependency of Brussels. But deep down he knows the EU will treat Ireland even more contemptuously than the English did. Watching Irish politicians explain that they really didn’t mind the EU not consulting them about trying to close their borders was both very funny and a real indicator of what the EU really thinks of the Irish – useful idiots and nothing more

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

Someone else who’s never actually talked to a Brexit voter.
This epitomises what I find so disappointing about the majority of comments here on O’Toole’s article.
You do not know whether I have talked to a Brexit voter or not. If you were genuinely open-minded you would have asked me. But you did not.
Instead, you made an unsubstantiated assertion, hoping thereby to cast aspersions on the validity of my comment.
Here’s a fact check for you: I have spent a significant part of my working life since 2016 focussing on the English Brexit question in depth. This has involved me in extended conversations with many, many of those who voted to leave.
Your response is all argument ad hominem: you try to demolish those with whom you disagree by abusing them personally. So you say, “O’Toole is a bore and a fool”. And you assert:
It’s ultra remainers like O’Toole who are closest to the imperial mindset – believing that people should be ruled by a imperial power based in anther country
The EU is not a country. It is not an imperial power. No one I have read or encountered has characterised Mr O’Toole as an “ultra” remainer. His analysis is simply not on that primitive, emotive level.

Jim Richards
Jim Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Sorry, I simply don’t believe you. There’s a weird inconsistency about your comments, you can’t decide whether you’re English or you’re not – most English people refer to the English as ‘Us’ you refer to them as ‘You’. Though you are patronising – which suggest that you’re English liberal middle class – you lecture the English as though you weren’t English yourself. Puzzling.
Anyone who had genuinely spoken to people who voted for Brexit (and talking at or down to is not the same as talking to) would know that O’Toole’s arguments have no basis in fact and are simply assertions based on his own prejudices. You will note that he never refers to polling evidence, just what he thinks the English believe. I’m also curious about your ‘working life’. This seems to suggest you are some kind of researcher or academic – since you’ve been at it for much of the last five years there must be some interim research you could link to. I’m sure we’d all be interested to see you to provide some facts
A couple of other points, if you seriously think Britain (there were Scots, Irish and Welsh involved in the empire as well – Google it) handled its colonial legacy worse than other colonial powers you’re either exceptionally ignorant or a liar. How did Belgium handle the Congo? How did France handle Algeria? Cone to that, how did Indonesia handle East Timor? You seem unaware that, in the case of Northern Ireland, we signed an agreement some time ago which said if the majority wanted us to leave, we would leave. Perhaps you missed this
As for the EU not being an imperial power – someone should tell Guy Verhofstadt.(he’s quite important in the EU – Google him) who said ““Let’s create a European defense union. Let’s take on our responsibilities. … Let’s become an empire.
And Bruno Le Maire, French Finance minister “Europe needs to become a kind of empire like China and the USA. 
”
And Jose Manuel Barroso “Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organization of empire. We have the dimension of empire.”
You seem, like Fintan O’Toole, to be remarkably selective about what you hear. Obviously when all those Brexit voters spoke, you didn’t listen. This is why people troll you.
PS – do you get teased about being named after a Beatles’ song? Or is it not your real name Mrs O’Toole?

Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

Very well said – especially about Britain as contrasted with other European colonial nations.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Gourley

I do not recollect suggesting that English imperialism was worse than that of other European powers. So where did you get that from?
In fact, I agree with you: the worst seems to have been the Low Countries’ colonisation of parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Then, the French did not surpass themselves in the more northern parts of the African continent either. As for Indonesia and other parts of what Europeans call the ‘Far East’, effects there were actually more benign than modern Brits suppose. No space here for extended discussion of the facts, but they can be verified if need be.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

Okay, you have taken the trouble to reply to me in some considered detail. Thankyou for that. So I’ll do my best to respond again. I’ll take it paragraph by paragraph.
#1 I cannot force you to believe me, but I can address the issue.

  • There’s a weird inconsistency about your comments, you can’t decide whether you’re English or you’re not – most English people refer to the English as ‘Us’ you refer to them as ‘You’.

I can’t find anything in my two previous posts which refers to the English as “you”. I refer to you, the person, as “you”, obviously; I refer to the English, in a hypothetical quote, as “we” speaking.
So what is my identity? I am English born and raised in my early years. Later, having been emigrated without my say because I was still a junior by my parents, I finished my growing up in Australia, and subsequently took Australian citizenship. So I am now a dual national, British/Australian. I have subsequently spent substantial periods living outside Australia, not only in the UK (England), but also in various parts of north and southeast Asia. Currently, I am Australian resident, although I do not expect that to continue for ever.
My ethnic origins are in the English working class: rural farm workers (peasants) drawn to Birmingham’s nascent industries during the later stages of the Industrial Revolution; family taken under the nurturing angel-wings of the Quakers, via birth-to-death social care and improvement schemes offered by Cadburys. So, I did not issue forth from a northern mining family, but from a southern chocolate family. The Quaker scholarships enabled my father to not only go to university, but to get a PhD. Horrified by his ensuing mature-age realisation of the seemingly ineradicable nature of the English class system, and hence the glass ceiling which confronted him potentially for the rest of his life, and deeply worried also about the nuclear threat presenting to the northern hemisphere developed world, he decided to emigrate to somewhere he thought would be safer—Australia.
So my identity is complex and layered. There is the genetic, hereditary, ethnic element just described, which gives me inherited tribal in-group insight into matters both English and Anglo-Australian.
But then there is the additional component of identity which I have added myself, through my own efforts.
By my own efforts, I have attained to tertiary education at doctorate level, as you rightly intuited. I have worked both as an academic (lecturer) and as an administrator (senior management) in the university sector in Australia as well, later, as a consultant to that sector. The peak of that external career was serving Australian youth as an expert in delivery of distance education learning materials (we were the equivalent in those days of the Open University in Britain).
But I had to do this on my own, in opposition to pressures from both my parents (my mother’s family, too, was Cadbury chocolate-raised—both paternal and maternal grandfathers worked for Cadbury).
The problem here was that, although raised intellectually to new horizons via the Cadbury Quaker scholarship, my father’s emotional, affective levels remained unaddressed. Thus, he was a highly intelligent, highly educated, high-achieving English alpha-male, who had broken the class barrier at least to some extent, but who found himself still left with unaddressed issues around feeling, around his inner feminine. That produced, inevitably, an aggressive outer male sexism, sustaining itself in denial of its inner feminine side. This was compounded by the fact that, in the process of achieving his education, my father had to face up to his early childhood indoctrination into strait-laced, “plain”, Quaker/Methodist Christianity. His resulting atheism represented a major developmental achievement on his part, regardless of the objective truth or otherwise of these existential knowledge systems
So I found myself opposed in my personal-life ambitions by my father, who thought the male of the species naturally took precedence over the female, because that was what he had been taught, that was what no single element of the so-called English educational system at that time had done anything at all to redress, and that was what he therefore believed.
Privilege, as far as my parents could afford it, was therefore directed to my younger brother, the only male child. My mother, need I spell it out, did what her husband/father/priest/unquestionable male authority figure, told her to do. As one of the girls, therefore, I was supposed to behave myself and do what I was told; I was supposed to accept an inferior status as a secretary, or primary-school teacher’s aide, or behind-the-counter sales assistant. Above all, I was not supposed to aspire to any status in life where the position would in any way threaten the masculinist hegemony.
*********************************
I have chosen to address your criticisms first from a personal point of view, because I think this approach may communicate more effectively initially than a strictly impersonal academic approach,
I can see the logic—and truth— in some of your later comments regarding statements by EU officials. Notwithstanding this, I choose to approach their comments from what I think is a wider and deeper perspective.
We still need to tease out these issues, if you are willing.
i have offered you some deeper personal insights into my background and where I am coming from in my posts. I think it would help if you were able to reciprocate, thus enabling us to deal with, and so dispense with, undisclosed, unconscious, inadvertent biases. This would clear the way for a genuine exchange about the issues confronting our cultures right now.
Can you, are you willing to, join in with me here?

James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

dl

Last edited 3 years ago by James Chater
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

As an outsider with deep knowledge of his subject, O’Toole can speak the truth, which needs to be heard.
Yes, it has seemed to me that most of the best Brexit analysis has been coming from writers standing outside the English cultural bubble, whether they be Scots, or Irish, or Indian or American or, indeed, even those terribly wicked continental types.
I am reminded of advice I was given some years back when posting on the English problem; the respondent said simply, “The English don’t do self-analysis”.
What I particularly admire about Fintan O’Toole’s work is the way it combines a journalist’s fact-based erudition with a poet’s soul. The latter gives him his broader view and deeply human moral sense, and I put it down to his being Irish. Whatever the manifold problems resulting from Ireland having been under the thumb of religion for so long, I guess its silver lining may be that it has kept a sense of the spiritual alive in the people, where it has been well nigh extinguished in the English, (Of course exceptions can be found, but one has to generalise when discussing the characteristics of a people.)
I follow another Irishman for the same reason: David McWilliams. He’s the only economist I’ve encountered who has a soul. So I read him with appreciation and respect, even though I do not agree at all with his politics.
As for the remainiac/remaining problem and Labour’s repeated failures, I don’t think there’s any solution to be found as long as the problem is defined in those bipolar in-out terms. The English are suffering from a form of bipolar disease, which is evidence of mental reification. They are well and truly stuck. So it may prove necessary to deconstruct before a worthwhile reconstruction can take place. For that reason, I favour the dismantling of the UK into its component nations, followed by a breather, followed by a freely chosen regrouping that makes better sense for the 21st century. That may, however, have to be over England’s dead body, as I cannot see even the slightest space for meaningful compromise or graduated change in the current crop of English politicians of both left and right.

James Chater
James Chater
3 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

dl

Last edited 3 years ago by James Chater
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
3 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Me too. I own my Englishness yet simultaneously disown where it’s currently at in lots of other English people.
Here’s a statement of multiple identity I particularly like:

Lama Anagarika Govinda was born in Germany in 1898, and describes himself as ‘an Indian National of European descent and Buddhist faith belonging to a Tibetan Order and believing in the Brotherhood of Man’.

That comes from the back cover of his book Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism.
And before everyone piles in on me again, no, I am not a Buddhist, so don’t even think of going there.
It is possible to admire and appreciate something or someone without belonging to it or being one of them.