No Deal Brexit and Britain’s History of “Going in Alone”

The Brexit clock is ticking, and with every tick, the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal becomes ever more likely.

There has been a notable shift in public opinion to the prospect of a No Deal Brexit. For many, leaving the EU without a deal has been recast from a last resort to a necessity. Once feared and avoided at all costs, it is now being embraced with open arms; even suggested it was what the people voted had for in the first place.

A staggering 28% of Britons believe Theresa May should get ready to leave the EU on WTO terms a new poll has found. So just why has a No Deal become so popular?

Ultimately, the gradual acceptance of the idea of a No Deal Brexit is a symptom of our politician’s failure to negotiate a workable Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. This “to hell with the rest of the world” is the embodiment of an electorate who have lost all hope in politics.

Leavers want Brexit to happen with or without a deal. Why? Because Brexit was sold as an end to austerity and people want to see change. And as bad as a No Deal may be for Britain, in the eyes of many, it can’t be worse than what they are experiencing at the moment.

Essentially, the Brexit impasse has fostered the sense that the EU- in refusing to renegotiate with Theresa May- is to be seen as an enemy. As an institution, it is intent on thwarting Brexit and ensuring the worst deal possible for Britain. It is in Britain’s best interests, therefore, to walk away without a deal.

This fascination with “going it alone” is ingrained in the British psyche; underpinned by the myths of British history and our abhorrent arrogance and self-importance.

Many of these myths have their roots in World War II. A national, collective memory has emerged since the Second World War which gives increased emphasis on Britain “going it alone” and single-handedly repelling the Nazi threat. WWII legitimised the “small island mentality”:  a country small in size but strong in character.

Dunkirk, the Blitz, the Battle of Britain. All these words evoke an image of uniqueness and resolve in British character. Could “Brexit” be added to this list? Just as we, as a nation, were able to adapt and overcome adversity at a time of war, surely we are more than capable of looking after ourselves should we crash out of the EU without a deal? This “Blitz Spirit” camaraderie has underpinned much of the new-found popularity of a No Deal Brexit.  

As with much of British history, these opinions are unfounded and in many parts a-historical. We never fought alone against the Nazi’s: we were helped by two and a half million troops from our Empire. Dunkirk – seen by many as a noble victory – was a humiliating retreat in which British soldiers suffered 60000 casualties. These events have become part of the national memory and are thus free from criticism and scrutiny.

They are readily employed by politicians on the Right to champion the strength and willpower of the British people: we’ve fought two world wars; surely we can survive a No Deal Brexit?

These attitudes are extremely dangerous. We risk blindly walking off a cliff in pursuit on the basis of flawed assumptions which don’t hold up to historical scrutiny. These legacies were formed at a time of war and were engineered to serve a specific propaganda purpose. In the case of Brexit, we are at war with ourselves, and the same approaches simply cannot be reapplied.

In essence, Brexit has been made to fit into this notional arch of British history in which our values and security are constantly under threat from “foreigners”. This myth ignores the fact that Britain became a superpower abroad, first through Empire, then through the Commonwealth and finally the EU. This fact simply does not fit into the narrative of our glorious, isolated past.

The tragic irony is, just as the Blitz caused more damage to working class communities, so too will a No Deal Brexit. Increased food prices, job outsourcing and shortages of medicine will hit the poorest in our society harder.

A No Deal Brexit would be incredibly dangerous for Britain. It is the duty of our MP’s to have the guts to act on the Spelman amendment and force the Prime Minister to categorically rule it out and allow Labour to negotiate a Brexit deal which protects British interests.


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