Britain Alone: How a national identity crisis gave birth to Brexit

A fascinating history of Britain’s postimperial neuralgia by Philip Stephens

A sculpture of Captain Mainwaring, as played by actor Arthur Lowe, in Thetford, Norfolk. Photograph: Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty

A sculpture of Captain Mainwaring, as played by actor Arthur Lowe, in Thetford, Norfolk. Photograph: Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty

On February 3rd, 2016, the Sun newspaper splashed on a mock-up of David Cameron’s face superimposed on to Captain Mainwaring, the hapless martinet commanding officer from the 1970s sitcom Dad’s Army. Behind him was the familiar image from the show of angry arrows pointed from the Continent at England’s south coast.

Though cloaked in nostalgic humour, the implication was of invasion, or at least aggression, from Europe. But the event being reported was the outcome of a renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership, which Britain had requested.

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