Frankie Say Relaxit

You'd have a hard time convincing many people that there's been a more momentous date in the UK (British) calendar than January 31, 2020, since the end of the Second World War 75 years ago. For, today is the day of Brexit - the official 11 pm leaving of the EU (year-long transition period to follow, natch).

Cue: Archbishop calls for unity, freshly-minted Brexit coins without the Oxford comma, Farage parties, and champagne (yes, from France, ironically) being uncorked and splashed about like it was a famous sporting victory - which in a way, it is.

75 years is a long time, and a blink in the ocean. For all that people claim has changed since then, a few British facts remain as if frozen until today: Churchill is still the most-admired and famous British politician of the past 100 years; the BBC (for now) is still the world-respected broadcaster; the Queen is still the Queen; the British are still world-famous for comedy, actors, writers, poets, scientists, inventors, footballers, and detectives; and the British are still one of the top military and economic powers.

It is true, much has diminished since 1945, and the loss of empire, the realisation that empire was ambiguous and potentially unethical, and the rise of a swathe of post-structuralist and post-modernist questions of all the grand narratives, have badly undermined British self-confidence post-Suez - a down-slide that led to this moment, this day when inward-looking tribalism (nationalism, basically) trumped the global liberal world outlook.

It's a sad day for those who wanted to be able to seamlessly travel, live, study and work in 27 other countries, some the best-loved and most culturally rich the world has ever known; and it is a collapsing of the international structures we will need to avert climate disaster, sooner rather than later. It is likely to empower the enemies of the West, and weaken our closest trading partners; and, oddly, for the first time in 47 years, British villains can now flee to Germany to avoid extradition.

But it is also a day for cold-hearted clarity and hot-headed pride: the UK will still be a Great Britain tomorrow. It may be smaller in many ways, but it will have the headwinds of freedom, and the excitements of individuation to puff it along. Whether the Odyssey will delight the Classicist at the helm, or dash us all on the rocks of hubris, remains to be seen. But these isles have a genius in them, and there's a strange sense of remarkable reinvention  in the air.



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