I don’t vote in British elections because I don’t live in Britain. Even if I did, however, I would have had a tough time choosing between Leave and Remain. The problem with the Leave campaign, I think, is that it played on grievances that are far bigger than the European Union and that will “remain” whether or not we sally forth. Take immigration. EU immigration has more economic advantages and fewer disadvantages than non-EU immigration. EU migrants, by and large, are more assimilable to our culture than men and women from other countries. Poles, Czechs and Hungarians are very rarely terrorists. This is not to claim that there is no reason to be critical of the Schengen Agreement but that it is less significant than many have proposed.
My doubts have not been assuaged by the shrill and unconvincing triumphalism of the Brexit crowd; wallowing in the superficial patriotic symbolism of blue passports and royal yachts in what is hard to see as anything but an attempt to distract themselves and us from the potential economic disasters ahead. Gerald Howarth, for example, has said that the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia was “one of the darkest moments of my political life”. Putting this minor event into the same conversation as, say, the attack on London by Islamic militants, the national disgrace of the Iraq invasion, is astonishingly childish.
The EU debate was, in a sense, an excuse to have an argument – an argument it could not resolve. Good or bad, however, the consequences will be no less real.