England, England and Brexit – Quotes

Below are two more quotes I picked from England, England by Julian Barnes I want to post them separately because for me they directly relate to the current situation in UK and EU even though they were published in 1998, when the world was a happier place…or was it?

After various attempts at rescue, Europe declined to throw good money after bad. There were some who saw a conspiracy in Europe’s attitude to a nation which had once contested the primacy of the continent; there was talk of historical revenge. It was rumoured that during a secret dinner at the Élysée the presidents of France, German and Italy had raised their glasses to the words, ‘It’s not only necessary to succeed, it is necessary that others fail.’ And if this were not true, there were enough documents leaking from Brussels and Strasbourg to confirm that many high officials regarded Old England less as a suitable case for emergency funding than as an economic and moral lesson: it should be portrayed as a wastrel nation and allowed to continue in free-fall as a disciplinary example to the overgreedy within other countries. Symbolic punishments were also introduced: the Greenwich Meridian was replaced by Paris Mean Time; on maps the English Channel became the French Sleeve.

This marked the start of the second period, over which future historians would long disagree. Some asserted that at this point the country simply gave up; others that it found new strength in adversity. What remained incontestable was that the long-agreed goals of the nation – economic growth, political influence, military capacity and moral superiority – were now abandoned. New political leaders proclaimed a new self-sufficiency. They extracted the country from the European Union – negotiating with such obstinate irrationality that they were eventually paid to depart – declared a trade barrier against the rest of the world, forbade foreign ownership of either land or chattels within the territory, and disbanded the military. Emigration was permitted; immigration only in rare circumstances. Diehard jingoists claimed that these measures were designed to reduce a great trading nation to nut-eating isolationism; but modernising patriots felt that it was the last realistic option for the nation fatigued by its own history. Old England banned all tourism except for groups numbering two or less, and introduced a Byzantine visa system. The old administrative division into counties was terminated, and new provinces were created, based upon the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy. Finally, the country declared its separateness from the rest of the globe and from the Third Millennium by changing its name to Anglia.

Feels prophetic, doesn’t it?

My review of England, England

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska @ vkphotospace

One thought on “England, England and Brexit – Quotes

  1. Pingback: England, England – Julian Barnes – bookskeptic.com

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