Tyranny, whether it’s an army boot or a commission’s legislation, tends to energize people into this or that camp……
When David Cameron first announced the UK’s referendum on Europe in 2013, the reaction from EU capitals was disdain. Brexit would be a disastrous error for Britain – perhaps suicidal – but Europe would brush off the effects.
As I reported at the time, Spain’s foreign minister José Manuel Garcia-Margallo told us that Brexit would lead to “terrible devastation” of our industries, leaving nothing left but “a few petty bankers” in xenophobic isolation.
“David Cameron must understand he cannot slow the speed of the EU cruiser,” came the finger-waving admonition from Madrid.
The penny has since begun to drop that Brexit fall-out might be very serious for them as well.
Yet even as recently as this February the prevailing view was still that the referendum saga was largely a British affair, to do with the idiosyncrasies of an island people, or some such peculiarly British pathology, or to do with the post-imperial hang-ups of the English – an irritating canard that inverts the truth, since those Britons with an imperial reflex often rediscover their natural home in the EU power structures.
This was still the view of the policy elites even after the Schengen fire had been raging for months. There was a strange reluctance to accept what has been obvious for a long time, that comparable feelings of irritation with Brussels have been welling in France, Italy, Holland, Scandinavia, and Germany itself.