Your leader (“Hard Brexit is an epic act of self-harm,” Comment, last week) speaks of the damage about to be inflicted upon this nation. I agree, but I believe the harm will spread to the rest of Europe. In my 93rd year, I observe the UK’s imminent departure from Europe with dismay and I consider the actions of this government a scandal.
I am one of a few veterans left of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising (Warszawianka Company, Chrobry II unit), when the youth of the city rose against the Nazi occupiers and held out for 63 days, but 250,000 inhabitants perished and a similar number were displaced. I became a German prisoner of war, moved in cattle trucks from camp to camp. After the liberation, my unit became part of the British army of the Rhine. In 1946, we arrived in Scotland and dispersed. There was no prospect of returning to a newly partitioned and Communist-occupied Poland and I made my home in the United Kingdom.
By a quirk of fate, my grandfather, Theodore de Korwin Szymanowski, writing in 1885 (L’avenir économique, social et politique en Europe, The Future of Europe in Economic, Social and Political Terms), argued forcefully for European economic collaboration as a means of forestalling bloodshed and social turmoil.
As we face economic uncertainty and threats from without and from within, we should heed Szymanowski’s visionary appeal. We should work together, for social evils are by nature international and universal and can only be defeated by an international and universal coming together of governments, with their citizens and resources. If European governments were at least financially united, they could make common cause on these great questions. Szymanowski recommended a European central bank, a single currency, a customs union, a council of ministers and an exit formula. He said the time of petty nationalisms had already passed.
I do not accept that Brexit is inevitable. There is still a war to be fought on many fronts on behalf of those of us who wish to keep the UK in the EU. We must try to change the party political scene to produce a majority in parliament capable of resisting the settlement negotiated in due course by Theresa May’s government.
The major parties are incapable or unwilling to take a principled stance against terminating our relationship with Europe. But there are many in the media, in business and among our younger generation who should and would back candidates willing to hoist the flag of resistance. The Manchester byelection provides an opportunity to put that to the test. Can we find a candidate to start the process?
If some level-headed pragmatism remained in government, perhaps the UK would have a chance. But the sensible people are gone, hounded out by a blinkered army of ideologically Brexiter-than-thou extremists, terrified of anyone with English as a second language, with a tight-lipped prime minister, white-knuckled at the wheel. The obedient opposition, headed by a shambling leader who neither opposes nor leads, is an irrelevant and self-destructive sideshow.
The UK, soon to be just England and Wales, will be remembered as a great empire and an important democracy, that destroyed itself through fear of outsiders, stoked by spurious dreams of former glory. Peak postwar Britain was pretty great while it lasted.
Your leader omitted to mention the vast transfer of resources from poor to rich that Brexit will lead to. Mrs May and her supporters are protected from the consequences of a plummeting pound by their investments in the buoyant FTSE 100. As inflation re-ignites, the poor will be hit very hard. They will have to sell what they can to survive and Mrs May’s friends will snap up the resulting bargains.
Dr Jonathan Reeve