Brexit and Myths of Englishness

James Meek at the LRB:

No matter how outrageous – or illegal –the behaviour of the Leave campaign, for the losing side to continue to focus on the referendum campaign and result is to be drawn onto the Brexiteers’ turf. That isn’t to say campaigners shouldn’t be investigated and prosecuted if appropriate, or that there shouldn’t be a public vote on the nature of a Brexit deal with the EU. But the win-lose, legitimate-illegitimate argument about the referendum is a fight that plays out on the Brexiteers’ territory. The Brexiteers assert that the myth has been enacted (‘We killed the dragon!’). The Remainers deny the myth (‘You lied, there was no dragon!’). This makes it an argument about myth, and here the Brexiteers are on stronger ground. Every myth has two facets, the story that is told to make events or states of being comprehensible to people, and the underlying events or states that provide the material for the myth; a stylised, simplified dramatisation of change, and the change that demands dramatisation. Reckless, hypocritical, deluded, mendacious and chauvinist as they are, the Brexiteers found a real set of circumstances, and misapplied a popular, off-the-shelf folk myth to it. By simply rejecting the Brexiteer myth, without offering another, better one, the Remainers appear to deny the underlying changes. ‘Look,’ the Leave voter says to the Remainer. ‘Look at the abandoned coal mines, the demolished factories, the empty fishing harbours. Look at the old people lying sick on trolleys in hospital corridors and how there aren’t enough school places to go round and how you can’t afford a roof over your head. Look at my debts. Look at the low-wage work that’s all that’s left. Look at the decent jobs that have gone abroad. Look at the foreign workers we have to compete with, where did they come from? Who are all these strangers? If the problem isn’t the EU, what is it?’ The Remainer struggles to answer. Why?

more here.