Whatever the problem, some people always find a way to blame Brexit
It’s been suggested that England is the only country “where the people feel Schadenfreude towards themselves”.
I don’t know if that’s generally true of either the English (or the British as a whole), but it’s certainly true of our commentariat. No matter how international a problem might be, you can bet there’ll be someone willing to claim it for Queen and Country. A mess can sprawl over many borders, but we’ll still stick a Union Jack in it.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
For instance, here’s Lionel Barber, ex-editor of the FT, commenting on America’s refusal to extend the evacuation in Kabul:
Biden was never going to risk going against his generals. August 31 is the hard deadline for withdrawal. Boris Johnson and Global Britain have been mugged by reality
— Lionel Barber (@lionelbarber) August 24, 2021
Strangely there’s no mention of the fact that America’s other allies, including France and Germany, made the same request and received the same refusal. So has the EU been “mugged by reality” too?
Andrew Rawnsley of The Observer was pursuing a similar line over the weekend, presenting the Afghanistan debacle as if it were all about us. He was particularly keen on debunking the idea of the ‘special relationship’ with the United States (another weird obsession of the liberal commentariat).
It’s not just Afghanistan. The disruption of supply chains is a favourite weapon of British Brit-bashers. Pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets are avidly shared on Twitter (and The Guardian) while hashtags like #BrexitFoodShortages are sent trending.
It would be foolish to ignore the problems caused by Brexit, yet it’s equally myopic to disregard the global chaos caused by Covid. The US is suffering supply chain problems too (and a substantially higher level of inflation than the UK). Meanwhile German industry, securely ensconced at the heart of the EU, is also experiencing disruption. China has just closed a major port because of a single case of Covid — and we can expect more the same as the Delta variant continues to wreak havoc around the world.
But even the pandemic itself — which is, by definition, global — gets the parochial treatment. The “plague island” label was an invention of the Anglophobic New York Times, but our own newspapers — including the Guardian — lapped-up the negative coverage.
Fortunately, we’ve had better news since the dark days of December 2020. In particular, we’ve had the success of our vaccination programme — which has rather spoilt the Covid-shows-Britain-is-rubbish narrative. Nevertheless, if we can present ourselves in the worst possible light we’ll still do it.
It’s not that this country doesn’t have its problems. Of course, we do. But it really doesn’t help to conceive of them as peculiarly British when they’re not. Indeed, there’s an odd sort of arrogance in believing that they are.