‘A world elsewhere’: A Bard’s-eye view of Brexit

A James Caldwell engraving of Gavin Hamilton’s painting of “Coriolanus”

A James Caldwell engraving of Gavin Hamilton’s painting of “Coriolanus”

It’s a story worthy of the Bard and, like all great narratives, it has many juicy plotlines to unravel.

Shall we begin with the rudderless winners or the heartsick losers, the aggrieved Continent looking for payback or the partner nations forced into a choice not of their making?

Or should we consider how the land of Shakespeare and Shelley, Charles Dickens and  Winston Churchill could be so shortsighted?

Why not begin with England’s leaders – Labour and Conservative Party members alike – who showed an appalling lack of Alexandrian leadership, by which I mean leadership from the frigging front, including a definite plan B (the need for which Alexander the Great learned from his teacher Aristotle). The Brexit brigade not only didn’t have plan B. It didn’t have plan A.1. It’s like the hapless title characters in “The Producers,” who never actually anticipated the outcome they strove for. Indeed, neither the Leave nor the Remain leaders thought a leave-taking was really in the offing. Each side was just hoping to use the referendum on whether or not the United Kingdom should exit the European Union to its political advantage. And that never works.

They didn’t understand the seriousness of those who rightly or wrongly believed the E.U. was draining them of their sovereignty – particularly where the borders were concerned – and their money.

Poster for the 2013 Donmar Warehouse production of “Coriolanus” with Tom Hiddleston in the title role

Poster for the 2013 Donmar Warehouse production of “Coriolanus” with Tom Hiddleston in the title role

Now England thinks it can negotiate a departure from the E.U. that will enable it to retain its right to the union’s single market as well as the sovereignty of its own borders. LOL. The land of Shakespeare has clearly forgotten the lesson of Shakespeare. In his “Coriolanus,” the titular general saves Rome only to have Rome banish their hero after he flares up at the public. Coriolanus doesn’t take the news well:

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate

As reek o' the rotten fens, whose loves I prize

As the dead carcasses of unburied men

That do corrupt my air, I banish you;

And here remain with your uncertainty!

Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!

Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,

Fan you into despair! Have the power still

To banish your defenders; till at length

Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,

Making not reservation of yourselves,

Still your own foes, deliver you as most

Abated captives to some nation

That won you without blows! Despising,

For you, the city, thus I turn my back:

There is a world elsewhere.

Note the similar tone of defiance in the response to Brexit from Lithuanian President

Dalia Grybauskaite: “Today is about us. Of course we will move on. Who will stop us?”

Who indeed? There is a world elsewhere. It’s clear to everyone but the English that the E.U. – particularly Europa herself, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – will make an example of England to prevent other member nations from thinking they can merely waltz away. If membership has its privileges, leaving has its consequences. And among those consequences are collateral damages for England’s satellite countries. Already, Scotland and Northern Ireland are looking for ways to stay in the E.U. But can they do that when the U.K.  – of which they are part – is the exiting entity, not merely England?

Apparently, Scotland is considering another referendum – oh, that word – on independence and establishing its own currency (no mean feat) before the actual Brexit. And its leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – a junior Angela Merkel, note the similar hair – is certainly determined to have the Scots chart their own destiny.

As for the English themselves, they’re going to have to sacrifice the E.U.’s single market in order to retain border control – which is only going to create more market instability (despite the market’s being up two days in a row).

And market volatility will be nothing compared to the political turmoil that will only get worse before it gets better.