Brexit – tea and sympathy?

Sir, – John Lloyd writes that Leave voters were motivated by a desire to be governed by a parliament and an administration that they understand rather than by regret at loss of empire or perceptions of the EU as a monster ("Why Fintan O'Toole has got Brexit all wrong", Opinion & Analysis, January 23rd).

It may be correct that such voters did not understand European institutions, however nostalgia for the days of empire and dislike of the core concepts of the EU were also important factors.

For many, the issue at the heart of the Brexit referendum was identity. Some continue to see the UK as different and apart from Europe and hold an underlying belief that Anglo-Saxon traditions of parliament, the common law, the English language, and even Britain’s imperial legacy set it apart from other European countries. The concept of European solidarity and UK membership of the EU are core issues for Brexiteers who see these as challenging these beliefs and threats to their identity.

Indeed, the 2016 votes for Brexit in the UK and for Trump in the US can be seen as reactions of Anglos unhappy with a changing world. The rise of new global powers threatens the pre-eminence of the Anglo Saxons of recent centuries while in the US demographic changes are undermining the Anglo majority and the end of empire reduced the UK’s global position. Some Brexiteers even speak of a realignment of Anglo-Saxon countries. Many other European peoples have also held global leadership positions – from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the Spanish and Portuguese empires and beyond – but the challenges of the 20th century forced European nations to thoroughly rethink traditions such as empire and exceptionalism and to choose European cooperation and solidarity instead. In contrast as the events of the 20th century continued the global leadership position of Anglo Saxons and validated traditions of empire that brought this about, the UK has not yet had an experience that required a similar re-evaluation. Whether it is about to remains to be seen. – Yours, etc,



Gros Islet, St Lucia.

Sir, – John Lloyd’s critique of Fintan O’Toole’s take on Brexit might stand up to scrutiny except for one uncomfortable thing: an awful lot of British and English commentators are saying pretty much the same. They’re all wrong too, no doubt.

People never take kindly to having a light shone too brightly on what ails them. – Yours, etc,


Antibes, France.

Sir, – Any time I catch myself, like Patricia Mulkeen (Letters, January 18th) feeling a twinge of sympathy for UK prime minister Theresa May amid her Brexit woes, I remind myself that, when home secretary, she sent vans with “Go home or face arrest” emblazoned across the side into areas of UK cities with a high proportion of inhabitants of ethnic minority backgrounds. That she now finds herself in a “hostile environment” in Westminster is a certain kind of justice. – Yours, etc,



UK .

Sir, – Irish diplomacy has been lauded over the past year for its successful insistence on the backstop being an essential part of any final Brexit agreement. But now the Taoiseach has undermined this stance by saying that a no-deal Brexit would require Ireland, the UK and EU to sit down and negotiate a deal to ensure no hard border between the Republic and the North.

If it is possible to prevent a hard border in the event of a no-deal why is there the need for a backstop in the first place ?

And shouldn’t that have been Ireland’s diplomatic aim instead of allowing the country to be used by the EU as a negotiating pawn against our biggest trading partner with all the dire consequences for the Irish economy that might entail? – Yours, etc,


Cobh, Co Cork.

Sir, – Might Queen Elizabeth have a part to play as a peacemaker in all of this? I respectfully suggest that she invite Theresa, Boris, Arlene and Jeremy around to the palace for tea some evening. And when they fail to agree on anything that she request Prince Philip to take them on a long drive, until they do. – Yours, etc,


Bridgetown, Co Wexford.