Friday 24 February 2017

The real tragedy is not Brexit's financial fallout, but the brutal blow it has dealt to internationalism

Emer O'Kelly

A demonstrator waves a European flag as people gather for an anti-Brexit protest in Trafalgar Square in central London on Tuesday Picture: AFP/Getty Images
A demonstrator waves a European flag as people gather for an anti-Brexit protest in Trafalgar Square in central London on Tuesday Picture: AFP/Getty Images

When Nigel Farage threw up his arms in the early hours of Friday morning - in a gesture very familiar from old newsreels of another person in another era - and announced that he now looked forward to the emergence of a European future of "sovereign nation states", it made the blood run cold. Or it should have.

Because he may well be right, and it will be a tragedy, not just for Britain, but for Europe. It will break down a philosophy that has taken more than three-quarters of a century to build: that internationalism serves all of us better than inward-looking nationalism, precludes antagonism, discourages rivalry, and creates a unity of tolerance and, yes, brotherhood.

It was the post-World War II realisation that Europe had come horribly close to annihilating itself in the six years of savagery between 1939 and 1945 that led to the founding of what is now the European Union. And it had come close because of one nation's determination that nationhood mattered "uber alles": above all else. It was nationalism that led to a logical, brutal conclusion, obvious and almost inevitable.

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