As Fintan O’Toole wrote back in 2016, Brexit is basically an English nationalist movement, not fully aware of itself – a rebellion not just against the EU but in some ways against the United Kingdom itself or perhaps more broadly against history.
We talk a lot today about a world where certainties, norms, basic foundations seem to be coming apart. That is true on many fronts. But one way we should understand all these changes is that the Cold War, with its mix of military, ideological and cultural confrontation had a massive fixative effect across the world and particularly in North America and Europe, the West’s Cold War heartlands, for lack of a better word. We’ve seen that unfolding in various ways in the US for 20 or 30 years. We see it in various ways in the tumult in Europe.
But it can take a while for these things to shake out, or even to really begin to come undone.***