Remainers are rewriting history. They say the Brexit vote in June 2016 was little more than the product of ‘forgotten’ and ‘left-behind’ Britain – a mixture of anti-establishment feeling and imperial nostalgia in the northern industrial towns and the provincial Midlands. The latest purveyor of this narrative comes from the Financial Times’s Phillip Stephens.
According to Stephens, Brexit was not a British phenomenon, but an ‘English enterprise’. Specifically, a provincial English enterprise. He provides a similar account of Brexit to that previously made by outgoing Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Vince Cable, when he said that Brexit voters were driven by a nostalgia for a time when Britain was ‘white’. Stephens claims that the vote to leave the EU reflects a Britain that has ‘never come to terms with the loss of empire’. Brexit ‘is rooted as much in nostalgia as in the populist revolt against elites and outsiders’. This is what has ‘supplied the European debate with such visceral anger’, he argues.
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