I have just been to a long and interesting discussion organised by Royal Holloway’s Centre for Public History and chaired by Sarah Dunant about the cultural consequences of a vote to leave the EU.   I was interested in the long historical perspective, beginning with Stella Tillyard’s reference to the fact that the first prehistoric man was migratory.   As someone pointed out at the end, there was surprisingly little reference to the legacy of Greece and Rome or the unifying effect of medieval Christianity, but plenty to the fluidity of medieval borders and the fact that the Anglo-Saxons came from Germany and the Baltic and the Normans from France, and that we used to own not just Calais, but a lot of south-west France.   Caroline Moorhead talked about the benefits that the Huguenots had brought to British culture.   Out of the discussion came a sense of the gigantic benefits of postwar co-operation, the free movement of people within the EU, of travel, cultural exchange and tourism, and migration.   So, although it is hard to quantify or list the precise consequences of disaffiliation, there will be an inevitable move towards isolationism and a loss of a belief in the possibilities of a united, peaceful and cosmopolitan Europe which has been so important to our culture since the second world war.


10 thoughts on “Brexit

  1. Of course. LEAVING will be reactionary and isolationist. A step backwards, undoing so much that we have carefully, patiently created over the past seventy years. And it will do nothing to put right / improve the undoubted idiocies and failures of the EU. They can only be addressed collectively.

  2. Edward Chaney says:

    Since your discussion seems to have focused upon the benefits of immigration, I wonder whether anyone referred to the possible downside/s of its unprecedented scale, currently a net increase of 323,000 per year? Did anyone speculate on the effects of ongoing immigration on our already inadequate infrastructure; on our schools, the NHS, transport and housing? And as for ‘the cultural consequences’, is the influx of some 50,000 French-speaking Protestants in the 17th century really comparable to the recent switch from Christianity to Islam as Britain’s most popular religion? Meanwhile the aspiration of many of the most influential Eurocrats (I spent three months at the European University Institute in Florence last year), is to enlarge the borders of the EU empire even further eastwards to include not just the Ukraine but also Turkey…

  3. Rupert Christiansen says:

    Did anyone argue for the orher position? That a renewal of nationalism might strengthen a sense of our unique cultural identity and open up new possibilities?

  4. Edward Chaney says:

    so how were the other half of the population represented (hoi polloi in the lanquage of those poor old Greeks who invented democracy)? or was it not in fact a democratic debate at all – like most that take place within the groves of academe or indeed between the unelected commissioners of the EU? or indeed the EU Parliament which with its 28 countries inevitably gives us a smaller and smaller say in how we run our own and in how they spend the 13 billion we send over each year… I happen to think that a brexit will at least in the short term be: ‘bad for the economy’ but believe that to be a small price to pay to preserve a semblance of democracy (which the British made more practicable than the ever-warring Greeks had done). For all his imperfections i also think it would be preferable to have uncle Boris as PM for the second half of this year to yet more misjudgements (not least foreign policy ones) from call-me Dave. What does he actually know about Europe anyway? At least oncle Boris has read (and written) a book or three on related subjects…

    • Dear Edward, The contrary position wasn’t represented because it was an event about the benefits of Europe. I’m sure Historians for Britain (not exactly the hoi polloi) are capable of representing the alternative point of view. Charles

  5. Edward Chaney says:

    Though not all former public school boys (cf. David Starkey), the ‘Historians for Britain’ are a bit too removed from hoi polloi (no ‘the’ required) for my liking; neither do they represent ‘the alternative point of view’ in that they were founded to support ‘renegotiation’ (though their website now somewhat ambiguously suggests they are in favour of brexit?). They also use an image of the loathsome Henry VIII as their emblem. ‘The cultural consequences’ of Henry’s lust for Anne Boleyn: now there’s a debate worth having… Prior to the resulting Reformation we were part of a Europe which might have been better worth preserving – for its spiritual/cultural values – than those of the present boreocratic would-be superstate.

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