The referendum was the flame; Article 50 is the fuse. Today, after months of recrimination and fear, the deed was finally done. Britain’s unelected Prime Minister triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, setting the legal machine of international relations on an unstoppable course towards Brexit. Britain was committed to the complex and painful operation of leaving the EU within two years—with or without the anesthetic of a workable trade deal. The new right wants you to believe that Brexit ignited spontaneously out of a broad Western backlash against racial tolerance and decadence. It wants you to believe that these are your “legitimate concerns.” But as the craven svengalis of triumphant neoconservatism and the gurning spivs they stand behind try to scrawl their own ugly slogans over the pages of recent history, remember that it could have been otherwise. Remember this, because people will try to erase it from the story. Brexit is happening because the people of Britain have been through eight years of savage and senseless austerity. If you take away all of the things that make community life possible—not just the libraries but the youth centers, the after-school clubs, the parks and citizens advice centers—if you do all that and then fix it so people can hardly even afford to leave the house, presuming they have energy out of their exhausting jobs, then communities atrophy.
Brexit, Pursued by Despair