It was 1956, and Britain was licking its self-inflicted post-Suez wounds. Dean Acheson, then the U.S. Secretary of State, commented on the imperialist bluster of British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden with the emblematic maxim: “Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role.” Since then, all of British foreign policy, culminating in its entry into the European community (followed by the 1975 referendum that reaffirmed its permanence), was an attempt to put the lie to this truth, calculate its losses and search for its lost role. The U.K. would come to act as the American apostolic legate to Brussels.
Now we’re less than two weeks away from a potential “U.K. Year Zero”: an awakening on the morning of June 24 in which the Leave vote has won, the country is outside the E.U. and a number of scenarios that no one is able to clearly outline begins. One certainty is perhaps the “nein” that Wolfgang Schäuble has already issued (in an interview with Der Spiegel) to the possibility of being admitted to the single market while not being part of the union, on which Leave supporters have been hanging. Polls give 45 percent to Remain and 43 percent for the exit. Both major parties are split. Sure, the Lib Dems are pro E.U., but they hold their meetings inside their apartments.
Both from the right, center and left, the list of valid reasons to stay or go is long and complex. But so far the issue is causing bruises among conservatives (the blue partisans of Remain now openly accuse Boris Johnson of thinking only of Downing Street). Labour’s Corbyn also has his dilemmas. Leave is exacerbated by the Left, the Eurosceptic front of the so-called radical left. In yet another, imaginative symbol, “Lexit” collects the revolutionary Trotskyites of the SWP and others who want to get out of an assembly subject to Berlin’s bullying, which has kept Greece on its knees and created the nightmare that is TTIP.