Brexit, Europe, and the EU’s Passion Deficit

All of the passion in the British campaign was on the side of Leave. Some of that passion was negative—the stoking of fears of immigrants, or hatred of faceless, dastardly Eurocrats in Brussels. But a lot of it was positive, emphasizing British (well, more often, English) sovereignty and national identity against the anonymity of a distant regulatory regime. Exuberant Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson rhapsodized early and often n the joys of throwing off the shackles of Brussels and liberating Britain to chart its own destiny, while Nigel Farage and UKIP offered a darker descant on projecting British culture against faceless floods of dark-skinned immigrants both intent on taking English jobs and living off the English dole. The lack of passion of Remain advocates was partly a function of the people involved. Who knows if the European idea can ever regain its old élan? Perhaps it never will. Perhaps the disappointments of the past decades – and the natural human tendency to react to complexity by withdrawing into small and familiar communities – is overwhelming.

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