Nick Cohen

It’s a Eurosceptic fantasy that the ‘Anglosphere’ wants Brexit

It's a Eurosceptic fantasy that the 'Anglosphere' wants Brexit
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No one does as much damage to a country as patriots who affect to love it the most. If you doubt me, ask yourself what is missing from the European debate. The virtue-signalling right flap their arms to semaphore their belief in restoring Britain's greatness. Yet they do not answer an obvious question: if leaving the EU is in our interests, why do none of our allies want us to do it?

The original opponents of British entry to what was then the Common Market could point to Australia and New Zealand, who hated the idea of Britain turning its back on the EU. Even today, 40 years on, David Davis talks of Brexit as an 'opportunity to renew our strong relationships with Commonwealth and Anglosphere countries.'

Yet he cannot point to a single Commonwealth country who agrees with him. The language of the right can be as deceitful as the left's. 'Anglosphere' is just the right's PC replacement for what we used to call in blunter times 'the white Commonwealth'. Even in 2016, the dream that has the Eurosceptics talking in their sleep is that we can forge new bonds with the old empire, or at least the white dominated countries within it, and regain a part of what we once were.

It is a sign of both the ignorance and presumption of the Out campaign that it did not think to ask the 'Anglosphere' for permission first. Julie Bishop, the Australian foreign minister, has said that her country would not indulge the British right's fantasies. Australia prefers to see the world as it is rather than lose itself in nostalgia. 'It is in our interest if a strong United Kingdom remained a part of the European Union,' she said. 'The EU is a significant trading partner for us; a strong UK as part of the European Union would be in Australia's interests.'

The US, a rather large and powerful force in the Anglosphere one would have thought, is equally dismissive. Alert readers will have noticed that an old line in nationalist propaganda has been scrubbed from the text. We were once told that if we left, we could concentrate wholeheartedly on our main alliance with the US. No one says that anymore. The Americans have made it as clear as the Australians have that they do not want us to leave. Tory politicians talk about 'the special relationship', before shouting that the US president has no right to say that America thinks Britain should stay in the EU.

Every one of our allies thinks the same for the reasons David Miliband set out yesterday. We have a web of overlapping alliances with the EU, Nato, the Commonwealth and, given the speed with which home rule is advancing, Scotland. Abandon one and the others won't swoon into our arms. The EU will not let us have free trade without tears. The Commonwealth and the Americans will ignore us. After the anger and disappointment have faded, only cold indifference will remain. The Scots may well leave, thus ensuring that the legacy of patriots who boom about how much they love Britain will be the destruction of it.

As Miliband put it, the Out campaign wants us to engage in unilateral political disarmament. In an EU debate filled with lies, he told the truth when he said: 'No nation in human peacetime history, never mind Britain, has voluntarily given up as much political power as we are being invited to throw away on 23 June. For what? A cold, hard lesson in the demon of hubris, born of delusion that the world owes us a break.'

Written byNick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of What's Left and You Can't Read This Book.

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