“An entire society crucified by the delusional ambitions of Brexiteers chasing moonshine,” this is how he Principal of Hertford College, Oxford, Will Hutton, summed up the whole story of Britain voting to leave the European Union.
Britain has been in a great mess, became a laughing stock, seen as futureless and leaderless. Some might agree or disagree with its position in the European Union, but has British society really committed suicide?
The return of declinism
As the Brexit negotiations are ongoing, terrorism, rapid shocks, a surprising election result and the Grenfell Tower disaster are just some of the happenings that inspired apprehension. This is not just the cry of shell shocked Tories or traumatized Remainers; this goes beyond that. This depicts the revival of an old and familiar persona called declinism.
Declinism is assumed as a combination of moral, political, and economic failures; a syndrome which Britain has suffered in the 1880s, 1960s and 1970s. Today, it re-emerges itself as the core of the anti-Brexit sentiment.
The contribution of the British economy
The belief in economic decline is a combination of illusion and misunderstanding. Britain has been relatively wealthy since the middle ages. Other countries have adopted the British technology, together with British capital and expertise, and began to catch up. This was beneficial as well as natural, because it boosted the British market as well as investment opportunities for British savers.
However, since the 1880s, pessimists tend to always compare the British economic performance to those who were quickly catching up, particularly Italy, France and Germany. Having no agricultural sector to modernize, Britain wasn’t able to par with the growth which started its downfall. This made Britain join the Common Market in 1960s and 1970s and was assisted by Europe.
However, just as Britain joined in the early 1970s, European catching-up ended, and so did its seemingly superior economic prowess. In short, Britain’s long-term economic decline in relation to Europe never happened. Supporters of EU, however, still maintain that membership rescued the British economy in the 1970s and remains vital to shoring it up today.
The assistance that never happened
Britain’s trade with Europe has been falling sharply in importance for two decades, due to both the greater dynamism of global markets and the problems of the EU itself. Overall, Britain’s membership to the EU had made no discernible difference to its economic performance. Britain’s prosperity growth has almost exactly kept track with that of the United States ever since 1945, whether outside or inside ‘Europe’. The belief that exiting EU means long-term economic decline therefore has no rational basis, the same as economic reports that predict Brexit votes would mean instant financial misery had no rational basis either.
Britain is still Britain
Looking today, Britain is still one of the strongest states in the world. It has not declined but has actually advanced as more powerful than its ancient rivals like France, Germany and Russia. Britain’s unemployment is lower than its neighbors, crime is declining, and schools are improving.
Brexit is considered as vote of confidence in the ability to shape Britain’s future as an independent democratic nation, a choice that most neighboring European countries feel they still have. Britain fights for independence and does not allow declinist panics to alter the outcome.