Requiem for a Dream

Britain exits Europe. It will be poorer, above all in its shriveled heart.

Comments: 222

  1. Ironic that Britain exited Europe and America exited democracy on the same day. We are officially an autocracy. Now I know how Scotland feels about Brexit, where the minority who wanted to leave Brexit rules the majority who wanted to remain. We also crossed over from a republic today to an oligarchy when the GOP ignored the wishes of 75 percent of Americans who wanted to hear witnesses and voted against it. They represent the president, not the people.

  2. @Historical Facts - and come November the 75% can still vote Trump and the Republicans out of office. If they fail to do so they will endorse the Republican agenda. That will be the point when we officially become an oligarchy. Voters, exercise your responsibilities to retain your rights. I'm not optimistic.

  3. @Historical Facts America has never been a Democracy. It is a rather fractured Republic at the present time. Get out and vote in November and bring along a few friends who never Vote and if you do, you won't have Trump to worry about anymore.

  4. @Historical Facts I'd actually argue that the Unites States has been an oligarch autocracy for quite a while, probably at least since the Reagan administrations; maybe even before. It's been quite a long while since representatives actually represented their constituencies rather than the ringmasters who finance their campaigns.

  5. Tragic Mr. Cohen, I am truly sorry for your loss. Britain has a rich history but agree, their future is bleak. This U.S. of A. is having it's share of withering losses also, in our institutions and what our forefathers had in mind. I feel the EU is just holding on by a thread, the unity that was built between the post WWII countries is coming unraveled and I do strongly believe only one country has a chance to bring that unity back. It's the U.S. And that can only happen if we vote this current Administration out of office this November. Otherwise well all founder for generations to come.

  6. @cherrylog754 Actually, after the years-long trauma of Brexit, the -exit movements in other EU nations have been gravely wounded. The EU may not be stronger because of Brexit, but it's not likely that any member nations will want to leave now.

  7. The problem Mr. Cohen is that you are, at heart, a Globalist. The E.U, to you, was but a stepping stone to complete Globalism. One could, and should, go to university anywhere, live anywhere and work anywhere. That local jobs were shipped overseas or that immigrants took over your childhood neighborhood, or that you must convince a recent immigrant that you government benefits are incorrect, is not your major concern. The EU did nothing to prevent a third European War. It did make commerce easier, but at what price to local producers ? But those are not your particular concerns, after all those are the little people, who do not dream like you do and did, Mr. Cohen. The UK will carry on, perhaps one day the EU will be a far more fair and equal union and England will rejoin, perhaps the EU will fall apart like the Holy Roman Empire. No one knows, no one can say, least of all you, Mr. Cohen.

  8. @John Brown "...did not prevent a third European war?" What third European war? There wasn't one to prevent. Still isn't.

  9. @Paul Wallis: Bosnia... I think JB is referring to the 1999 Bosnia War, which Mr. Cohen had covered during his time in Sarajevo. OTOH, look at what's going on in Ukraine. It's not an EU-member state but it is geographically part of Europe.

  10. @A. Reader Oh, right. Easily on a par with the first and second world wars, and over a generation ago. I was thinking he meant a major war, not just one of the regular atrocities, and those countries weren't EU members anyway.

  11. Britain is nostalgic not about the empire but about its Trans-Atlantic relationship with US. It strongly believes that it has a market of some 300 million English speaking people in North America. It is mistaken; the market is only for its artists--pop stars, and the Hollywood types. US doesn't help any nation, it calculates numbers every minute of the day.

  12. The 2008 Great Recession is central to the destruction of the EU, Brexit, NATO and economies around the world. Milton Friedman’s Neoliberal ideas that supported austerity and deregulation, another way to say lawlessness, caused havoc. Bob Rubin, Alan Greenspan and other geniuses, once in power, carried out the malfeasance. Requiem? Not so fast. Public demonstrations from Santiago, Chile to Johannesburg to Hong Kong to Paris tells us a story of a rebellion of a crime in progress.

  13. @Ted Well put.

  14. My dear Mr. Cohen, I often read your column and I often disagree with what you have to say. But your recent column about Brexit broke my heart. Your comment about the graves of British soldiers now resting for all eternity on European soil brought to my mind the inextricable link that ties Britain to Europe, no matter the passing whims of the moment. I wonder what kind of a world we would inhabit lacking the English traditions of law, of governance, of the fundamental assumption that we all have a rightful place in this world, and that no one, irrespective of station, is above the law. It is altogether fitting and proper that the Magna Carta occupies a place in the national archives of the United States.

  15. I am sure it is small consolation to write such a beautiful obituary about a dream that has died -- but at least you have done it. Bravo.

  16. Why the premise that U.K. can be multi-cultural, open, successful and strong only if it is part of the E.U?

  17. @Sam sur, with respect, the masses lived poorly until they were represented in sovereignty. The next step was merging sovereignties into a multi-state bureaucracy, to diminish cultural frictions that resulted in war. The two world wars of the last century may be forgotten to some, but the EU is the grandest attempt to accept and manage these stress points for planet-wide harmony.

  18. @Michael Kneebone That is a good point and definitely a worthy cause. Sadly, I believe the EU over reached and started dictating everything from immigration to environmental to trade policies. But anyway, hope all the countries involved can live in peace and harmony and chart their own course as their people see fit.

  19. @Sam sur - You make some valid points, especially regarding the overreach of Brussels bureaucrats, but it will be interesting to see what sort of trade agreements the UK makes - especially with our great dealmaker in Washington.

  20. It wasn’t that long ago when Boris Johnson was lamenting that the dream of Brexit might be dead. Sadly, he was wrong. Brexit is a waking nightmare and it has killed too many dreams to even list.

  21. To call Brexit a dream is insane in itself. It is a policy. With consequences. One should have hammered those home, not pro or anti EU dreams.

  22. @NM Coronavirus spreads across the globe. Britain finalizes its divorce from Europe. The US Senate bows in deference to the man who would be king. I feel like a part of my soul went missing today. And I don't know if – or when – it will ever return. I can only hold out hope for tomorrow. And I hope that doing so will not be as good as it gets. Dreams of a better world unite us. We must act on them with vigilance and compassion. Because if we let them wither and die, then we will surely die with them.

  23. Amen to that, Mr. Cohen. What a tragedy this is. My dream too is gone, and the country I left as a young man has committed this insane act of self-destruction, turning inward at a time when the world needs us to look outwards. Of course, the Brexiteers will say that Britain is now turning towards the world, but they barely know what that world is. Britain's GDP/capita is tiny, smaller than every US state except Mississippi, and half that of "New" England, and can you imagine how well Mississippi would do by itself? What worries me most is that Britain might be on course to ape Hungary and Poland, with the threats against the BBC (which laid off hundreds of news journalists this week), and with 52% of the voters in the last election voting for parties that wanted a second referendum, but with the minority Tory party having a massive majority in Westminster. What a tragic outcome!

  24. Roger, your grief is heartbreaking, and valid. I’m sorry for your Loss. And Ours.

  25. This is the most beautifully written, and perhaps the most moving piece I think I've ever read — anywhere. It is heavy to see progress lost, ideals wither, dreams insulted in a wave of existential insecurity. What vision of a united humanity remains?

  26. Mr. Cohen, I applaud you for writing a magnificent column. Britain has certainly chosen the wrong path and will live to regret it. Americans, seduced by fantasy, are following Trump to the edge of the cliff. It is sad to see its close ally doing the same.

  27. The English have long held the belief that the western boundary of the continent of Europe was the English channel. This has not changed.

  28. @Dick Windecker It is a consciously dissociative conceit, that has not changed either.

  29. I grieve for my country as you grieve for Britain. You remind us of great thoughts and aspirations in the middle of these seamy and petty politics in two great countries. Thank you for your wonderfully written essay and for a reminder that although hearts are broken now, there's beauty still.

  30. Uncontrolled non EU migration from poor third world countries was a major factor in Brexit. The EU failed to control its external borders. This was a catastrophic failure that fueled xenophobia and populist rage.

  31. @Henry The UK was never part of the Schengen Agreement. Though there was free circulation of workers between nationals of EU countries - in both directions it must be said, the EU totally controlled non EU immigration, mostly from its former colonies. I don't see what difference Brexit will make on that issue.

  32. No. Wrong. Hardly any of the Africans reached England. The most resilient stranded in Calais.

  33. Roger, I am sorry for your loss and for that matter our loss, too. Besides liking and respecting the English people, their wit, dignity, and honesty included, I have also always looked to the UK as America's older sister, the mature sibling whom we wanted to emulate and please. I can understand how you feel orphaned. Two of the countries which I'm sure influenced you, America and England, have in a sense abandoned you and so many others. This is a sad day on both sides of The Pond. We Americans have witnessed what many here have never witnessed before. We have seen our Constitution, our democratic republic manipulated and exploited, indeed, betrayed. How curious that our two nations have so much notoriety in common: England's Parliament, America's Senate, Mr. Trump and Mr. Johnson. And then there are the supporters at large, the MAGA family here and the pro-Brexit thousands there. How and when have so many become so ignorant and nativist? But hang in there, Mr. Cohen. Please continue gifting us with your eloquent prose. We need that now so very much.

  34. A beautiful piece that expresses my grief as well, even if an American. My heart breaks as I think of the hopes of all the people in the 1930s and 40s who so wanted a new order, even at the cost of their own privileges.

  35. The death of dreams, in London and in Washington. Beautifully written Mr. Cohen. Sitting shiva for the greatness that might have been begins.

  36. So well said; the truly sad part of this whole affair is how easily it might have been avoided with a vote margin that actually respected the seriousness of the proposition. I'm sorry, Mr. Cohen, for all that has been lost.

  37. Agreed. A question of this magnitude should require at least 60 percent support, not a simple majority. The US is suffering a tyranny of the minority now (a senate currently where Democrats got 12 million more votes than Republicans still finds Dems in minority; Trump loses by nearly 3million and takes over). Eventually, this will change ... but time is of the essence as climate change threatens all life.

  38. The Mob Roars , the Country Votes, the Mob Prevails, the Country Dies. Not with a Roar, but with a Whimper. BOTH Countries, eventually.

  39. You blew me away, Roger. A beautiful opinion piece straight from the heart. And you are completely right of course. The youth loved being able to study, work, live and find love in 28 countries. That is being taken away from them. And for what? Britain was prospering in the EU. It seems none of what our grandparents fought for and valued most matters anymore. Only today's drama matters and who gets to reap the profits from being in power no matter the cost. Perhaps the post WW2 period really was exceptional, ran its course, and we were naive thinking it was the new normal.

  40. @Elizabeth Millions came home in 1945, disgusted with what hate had done, and decided to do better..... and they did, albeit haltingly. The world became a much better place because of them. Now they have died off and their lessons forgotten.

  41. I truly hope that this British Dream that both became stronger in Europe and made Europe stronger lives in an independent Scotland with EU membership, and in a unified Ireland.

  42. The word "borderless" is very powerful. To some it represents a dream, to others a nightmare. It's the word responsible for today.

  43. @Roberta That is such a good encapsulation of our current "crisis." People see the same thing in diametrically opposite ways and are often reasonable for seeing it that way from their perspective and position in society.

  44. Thank you, Mr Cohen, for this powerful piece, which captures beautifully the feelings of so many of us who have spent a great deal of time in the UK and in continental Europe. And I include my daughter and her family in the UK, now preparing to decamp to Sweden. I have great fondness for England, but it's not difficult to see its shortcomings as well as its charms. And I think that the sour triumphalism displayed by the Brexiteers will come back to bite them, and there will be many regrets.

  45. History will not look kindly on how two similarly clownish leaders, Johnson and Trump, simultaneously preached a doctrine of isolation and fear of the other that tore apart a world that had done much to heal itself after two catastrophic world wars.

  46. So the British, or more correctly the English, have made their bed, they should lie in it. At best they were whining, unhappy members. The EU is a wonderful union finally ending generations of war and bitterness in Europe. Last summer my wife and I traveled through 5 countries in Central Europe, our travel unimpeded by ancient borders. We delighted in the wonderful cultural heritage. In restaurants and bars we struck up great conversations with locals and tourists from far away places. If the English don't want to be part of that, it's their loss. After almost 4 years the EU can again concentrate on improving the lives of the citizens who are happy to live in such a union.

  47. Climate change is the global challenge that we all face. We will either learn to cooperate internationally again, or each nation will face their own version of what is happening now in Australia on their own, waving their flags and blaming others for their fate.

  48. I'm sure Mr. Cohen is right about the losses that will befall England, but his analysis left out the most important factors in Brexit, and probably the most important factors in Trumpism: uncontrolled immigration, and job displacement by globalism. Look in rural England, and see villages now populated largely by Muslim immigrants; villages whose jobs have been lost to China or Turkey. The rapid introduction of a different, alien culture has profoundly affected England, and people want some limits. In the USA, our laws provide for ample numbers of immigrants through legal processes. Virtually all Americans are satisfied with those numbers. But, they are dwarfed by illegal immigrants who likewise bring different, alien cultures. Meanwhile, American manufacturing has been outsourced to Mexico; for examples, autos are manufactured by American companies in Mexico, for import into the USA. Had England and Europe been able to contain immigration, Brexit would not have occurred. Had the USA been able to keep immigration within normal limits, Trump would not have been elected. Dem immigration policies -- somewhat extravagantly called "Open Borders" by Republicans -- may get Trump elected again.

  49. @Unconventional Liberal Many of those health professionals working for the National Health Service came from the European Union. They are returning to continental Europe or have already left for there. It's been a devastating loss for the National Health Service.

  50. @Unconventional Liberal The immigrants you mention didn't come from the EU - Muslims (as if they were a nationality!), those jobs lost to Turkey and China didn't go to the EU. So leaving the EU will change none of that. On the other hand, a large proportion of what remains of UK exports goes to the EU. And much of UK food comes from the EU, etc. Most of all, as the mother of bi- and tri-national children and grandchildren, I feel for the young people whose horizons have been narrowed. The British people were lied to, and just enough of them swallowed those lies to produce this tragedy.

  51. You do know that immigration from Muslim majority countries has nothing to do with EU policy, but rather was a decision made by the UK government, don’t you? Likewise the decision to offshore jobs—strictly a British decision. That the current occupant of 10 Downing Street and his ilk were able to sell a bill of goods to the Little Englanders who voted Leave is one of the tragedies of our age, and those very Leavers are the most likely to suffer the consequences. Some would say it serves them right.

  52. I grieve, too. I was born in Scotland and will return there soon for my retirement. My only grain of hope is that regions within the UK will rejoin Europe, and the entire UK may follow. Scotland has always welcomed incomers and is richer for it. Maybe other regions of the UK will find that they miss the energy that immigration brings.

  53. Great Britain prospered for centuries without being a member of a European Union and much of the evolution of British law and customs took place without such membership. Before donning sackcloth and ashes we ought to wait for two or three years and see what happens.

  54. @Quiet Waiting , That prosperity over centuries came from the massive exploitation of large populations of people across the globe--colonialism. And the Brexit process has shown that the kind of jingoism that informed "empire" colonialism lingers in the bad-faith nostalgia that Farage and Johnson were able to deploy far too easily.

  55. @jdp The assertion that British prosperity flowed from empire ignores causes not in the least related to imperialism such as the invention of the steam engine, the subsequent transformation wrought by railroads, the innovations in finance, numerous discoveries in the natural sciences, and the development of what Professor Dierdre McCloskey, in a book of the same name, called Bourgeois Dignity. Profitable and mutually beneficial trade does not require an empire any more than scientific development requires an empire. So the coming years may or may not bring Great Britain the prosperity that Boris Johnson has promised. I wait.

  56. @Quiet Waiting "Innovations in finance" built on the slave trade and its vessels of human misery? Insurance companies arising out of the "futures" paid onto the desecration of life? Railroads built with the blood and sweat of slaves and indentured workers? Is this what you are quietly waiting for?

  57. They will be looking on as 450 million Europeans across the way forge their fate. And ironically Europeans will go on forging their fate largely using English, the second language they've come, as a matter of convenience, to share in common.

  58. I am grateful for this deeply moving elegy on the occasion of the UK's exit from the EU. I share Mr Cohen's belief in the profound and uplifting achievement of the greatest and most creative peace process in world history which followed the most destructive and horrifying of all world wars. But Britain's history, which has always been European, and has for several centuries been global, will not suddenly now shrink to fit the tiny size of Mr Farage. History has its own long tides and Britain (and England) will remain within them. Indeed with the retirement of the political lies and impostures informing Brexit these will become clearer. Britain has hurt itself, and Europe, but in the longer term both will be shaped and rescued by their shared geography and history.

  59. A bit over the top, isn't it? The British will do what they always do, and at which they are the undisputed world champions: muddle through.

  60. @Lotzapappa This is the sort of complacent foolish thinking that got us into this mess. America’s boomers were raised on the narcissistic myth of Woodstock, but Britain’s sixtysomethings grew up on a fantasy caricature of WWII where plucky Brits can bungle on through and win anyway, actions have no real consequences, and it’s all a bit of a laugh. Too young for the real war, they imagine they fought in it anyway, and claim it as their right to pontificate. This is what has got us our ridiculous Dad’s Army charlatan of a Prime Minister and our hordes of ageing jingoists who think waving a plastic flag (made in China) equates to a trade policy. “We muddle through and it always works,” our press and pundits chortle, until it doesn’t. Which is now.

  61. @Lotzapappa Not this time.

  62. @Lotzapappa May it please God to make it so.

  63. Mister Roger Cohen: A poignant column.I share your dismay.For relatives of mine living in England,they will the this day.

  64. Not until the end of the year will the impact of Brexit be fully realized. this transition period will cover up the damage for a time and allow the PM and his cronies to avoid the blame they so well deserve. Eventually there will be movements to join (rejoin) the EU. but the terms will not be the same as those given up. Joining the Euro is now required for membership, for example. Negotiations over the next decade will determine whether Brexit is "achieved" or abandoned, and whether the UK will survive as a whole. Thank you for your wise words Mr Cohen.

  65. Beautifully written. A pleasure to read. As a aside, perhaps we shouldn't forget that Russian interference may have played a role in the success of Brexit, as it did in putting Trump in the White House. Thank you, Mr. Cohen!

  66. @Sprari I was there on the night of the referendum, Farage conceding about 30 minutes in, then the older vote from the north; swayed by the tidal wave of lies from BoJo and Gove, took away the hopes of the younger generations, who are the only ones who have lived the reality of, an get the importance of, an integrated Europe. Russia knows better than anyone else that no foreign interference is required when you have backward-gazing tub-thumpers like the tories running the show.

  67. @Sprari A weakened EU is a strengthened Russia. They are just waiting for the opportunity to move their borders west.

  68. This is less about an eulogy to a nation than one to a class of people who have been conned into thinking that this will benefit them. The EU- minded class, just like globalist-minded people anywhere, will continue to inhabit worlds where they work and think globally, reaping the financial and social benefits of doing so. The others will continue down their own path with diminishing life expectancy, reduced safety net, and insularity.

  69. @Adam Wright I am in love with the European ideal and my heart is extremely heavy on Brexit day and yet your comment makes me doubt myself. I choose Europe to build a better future with everyone and certainly not to become a part of an elite class while leaving brothers on the side of the road to die. Enough with the class contempt already!

  70. Keep in mind, as Timothy Snyder the historian notes, Britain thinks that it is going back to something that it never was in its modern history: a nation-state. It was always an empire. Their whole economic and social system was built around a relationship with other countries; first as lord and master in the British Empire, and more recently as a member of the EU. That is all changing. The Brits still dream of an empire which is why its time in the EU was always unacceptable. But those days are over. There are no more Indian subcontinents to subjugate or North American continents over which to rule. And what beckons? A more formal relationship with the EU which will destroy economic value for both sides, Russian mob money, an uncertain relationship with Trump (and more Russian mob money), along with undue Chinese influence. Britain is going back to a place to which they have never been (a nation-state), still living in the past, and having lost its soul in the process, unfortunately.

  71. @PB 100% correct.

  72. @PB The sun never sets on the British Empire. Those from the former Empire were hardly welcomed in the country from the Anglo/white Brits. Just so for refugees. While the Empire begat globalization by sea, men, and materiel, the current reality is that rather by engaging in a union w/their neighbors and allies, they are retreating to the small island, perhaps an even smaller island w/the loss of Scotland, Ireland, or Wales. Perhaps Meghan and the former Prince Charles figure it was time to leave and join the commoners. As my mother would say, don't bite the hand that feeds you. EU, the Queen, it is all quite a different world indeed.

  73. Yet again, another of Cohen's paeans to the ongoing passing of the global world order. The people of many nations, not just Britain, are turning their back on the cabal of dictatorial, elitist few that are suppressing the inchoate yearnings and needs of the many. Cohen an use all the slighting terms he likes - nationalism, defeatism and ageism - the people are finally making their voices heard. And what they are expressing, contrary to what Cohen et al want to accept for all their 'inclusive' blather, is that true and open societies can only be built up on local empowerment and institutions, not on unaccountable behemoths as is so aptly characterized by the EU. The next monstrosity likely to fall - the always ineffectual and at times downright criminal UN. Farewell post-WW II new world order!Hello brave new world!

  74. A brave new world in which brute military force replaces diplomacy? In a brave new world of hypersonic missiles that deliver thermonuclear weaponry with but a moment's advance notice? A strange CommonSense that.

  75. @Common Sense But I'd argue the people making their voices heard are in the wrong side here relative to how technology is progressing. Unless we put planes and the Internet back in the bottle, globalisation is the new norm. These are just the last gasps of a dying culture. That said, AGW could kick off in a big way and we could go back to our tribal roots and this culture would be vindicated but it would spell the end of humanity (food sources would vanish if there's a sixth extinction) which I think is the most likely outcome.

  76. Next to fall is the UN, not the US? I’ll take that bet.

  77. Is this though not quite like the entire history of the relationship between the British Isles and the European mainland? Excepting of course that the nations in Europe are no longer so prone to conflict with each other -- or Britain.

  78. I agree and sympathize. But one must have hope. The great has been taken out of Great Britain. As you say, it has shrunk. There is beauty in small things. Humbled, but not humiliated.

  79. @Richard B ..Sorry.. Humbled AND humiliated..

  80. Unfortunately the EU is quite bureaucratic and not a very democratic institution itself. The EU parliament can't propose legislation itself and the European Commission pretty much decides things. An ordinary citizen in an EU country has almost no ability to effect what the EU does. It might have practical benefits and the UK may be making a mistake by leaving, but it's hardly as idyllic as all that either. (Just ask Greece for instance.) And now unfortunately it really can't do too much about the right-wing populist and autocratic governments popping up. However, the borderless travel in the Schengen area (of which the UK was not a part anyway) should continue.

  81. @Caroline Unfortunately, your arguments are both false and inconsistent, although a common approach by people who critisise the EU. The EU parliament is the legislative branch, where as the Commsiision is the excutive. And, how can you argue that the EU is too pwerful ("an ordinary citizen has almost no ability to effexct (sic) "), and at the same time it can't do too much to stop autocratic governmements? In the latter, you are correct - sadly the EU legislative and executive branches are not powerful enough.

  82. @Caroline The European Commission is not very powerful and does not decide many things. It's an often repeated fallacy. The people who make important decisions in the EU are the member states. The two most important institutions are the Councils (European Council, Council of the European Union - yes the naming is quite confusing). In addition to that, member states also largely control the Commission itself. The Commission is not a government, it doesn't have a populace, it doesn't have any sovereignty and it doesn't have much executive power. Saying the Commission makes important decisions is an expression of ignorance about the workings of the European Union.

  83. @Caroline Thank you for being the only writer I have writer I have read so far who understands that the EU "is quite bureaucratic and not a very democratic institution itself..." Britain has opted out of an autocratic foreign entity that values collectivism and artificial intelligence over humanity. Think global, act local...

  84. It boggles my mind how at a time when global unity is required to deal with climate change, the countries of the world are becoming more insular.

  85. @Stewart Not sure how the EU would enact a global response to Climate Change. It cant even get its own countries to move away from coal and gas fired powered stations.

  86. @Stewart Cornered rats attack anything that moves in front of them. Mother Nature is most instructive, if you seek to understand animal nature.

  87. The anglosphere is disintegrating as we all watch in real time. Australia burns. The rule of law falls in the United States. The UK tears itself apart and asunder. My heart breaks at it all, and I wonder how we can right and redeem ourselves. Good luck to us all, as we sorely need it. Thank you for such a haunting and heartfelt column Mr. Cohen. You're not alone alone in mourning what we're all losing.

  88. Just when I thought I don‘t care anymore about the fate of my British friends you made me weep again, Mr Cohen. Brexit and 51 Senators make this date one of the darker days in history.

  89. @Petbo A slight edit to your facts, Petbo: Brexit and 2 Senators, rather, and their names (may they live in infamy) are Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander. But for Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Senate would have had to go through the motions, at least, of conducting an impeachment trial. Because of these two, instead, the sham whitewash of Donald Trump is a fait accompli. But yes--that, with Brexit, does make the date January 31, 2020, a date that will stand in infamy.

  90. When I read "...nobody asked me who I was, what papers I bore or what was my intent." I thought, 'Zweig! Thou shouldst be living at this hour.' I seemed to hear an echo of The World of Yesterday. Thank you, Roger Cohen, for this moving article. Sometimes a moment of wallowing in angst-ridden nostalgia can be cathartic. Can't it?

  91. As a European citizen, as I feel I have become thanks also to Brexit, I have a lot to say, but I prefer to make room for music. Here is an unofficial version of the European anthem. The choir sings in Latin a text written by an Austrian professor. I don't know about you - I am obviously referring to my fellow European citizens who will read this post - but I hear it as my anthem. Best regards from Padua (EU)

  92. Roger Cohen has written the most heartbreaking lament about Brexit I have read yet, and the ending lines from Auden were searing. My youngest daughter did her university studies in England and although she no longer lives there, some of her other EU friends chose to take jobs in varied fields in Great Britain after their studies. Now it seems that every day she tells me she has received the news that one more of these multi-cultural, multi-lingual EU citizens has decided to leave because of the uncertainty of their post-Brexit status and the hurt and frustration they feel from a certain part of the British population that their contributions to British society are no longer valued. The loss of these young people will only serve to make Britain a poorer, meaner society in the future, and to quote Auden again with a slight tweak : “Bring out the (Brexit) coffin, let the mourners come.”

  93. @Susan There is nothing uncertain about their future, the withdrawal deal assured their continued rights while applying for settled status in the UK is a mere filling in a form online for free. The inability for the government to get the withdrawal bill through parliament for a year caused the uncertainty and that blame comes partly down to Labour and SNP MPs trying to use the Brexit vote for the ulterior motives of bringing down the government or getting a Scottish independence referendum rather than making the result of the EU referendum result as smooth as possible (a referendum Parliament agreed with along with enacting on its result). There is nothing inherent in Brexit that means no one in the EU will be able to work in the UK that's just peoples fears.

  94. Roger, thank you so much for expressing so eloquently the pain that I feel.

  95. There are good things that will result from the foolish Brexit. The rest of Europe is more unified, mainly. They will see the example of Britain removing itself, devastating its economy, reducing its impact on international affairs, and lowering the lifestyle of its citizens. They will be more motivated to continue the experiment of the E.U., and continue to become more than the sum of their parts. And ideally, Britain will suffer greatly from this abandonment. Ireland, Scotland, and even Wales may break away from Britain, leaving it as just the nation of England. England will become more impoverished and cut off from the wider world, and its people will look back with longing to a time when England had a major voice in the international scene, and a brighter future. Perhaps after that, England will rejoin the E.U., maybe in a decade or two when the more racist British that wanted Brexit will have died out. But however it goes, it should prove that unity is the way to go, divisiveness is deleterious. And however much pain is generated in the short term, the lesson must be learned, and pain is the greatest teacher.

  96. Brilliant writing, Roger. It is clear that you are writing from your heart and your identity. I am sorry to see you in such pain. I too am in pain, but for America. I wish I could assuage yours as much as mine. But, I cannot. Best, Bert

  97. Wonderful column. I can’t imagine anything more suitable to this moment than sorrow and you’ve articulated it beautifully.

  98. I'm sorry but for many who remembers how they behaved during their time in the EU they wont be missed too much.

  99. @bob I see what you mean. The Brits were never totally in like the rest of us. And I must confess that, at times, I feel a sort of relief to see them go. However one cannot help sympathize with those many Brits who were also Europeans. I feel for them and if it were me in their circumstance I would be completely heartbroken.

  100. Great article, brother I feel your pain.

  101. Significant shrinkage on both sides of the pond. Mourned by the minority and celebrated by the majority. This too shall pass, yet probably not soon enough for those who favor unity instead of division. While eternally moving, the pendulum of history sometimes feels as if it's stuck for infinity.

  102. Hard to imagine a more eloquent tragic elegy. Thank you Mr. Cohen. But a lot of things are hard to imagine these days, including yesterday's vote in the U.S. Senate.

  103. I so deeply empathize with the writer of this essay. Writing as an elderly American, I have nostalgic feelings for England and its literary tradition, the England that lives on in idyllic imagery. I lived in England for a year, and have traveled there numerous times. England, the USA, and the world have changed, and not for the better. Although it probably never was in reality as it has been described by famous poets and writers, it was a model of sportsmanship and decorum, and other virtues too (at least to me). However, world history is in a perilous interval, being manipulated into divisions of race and class, wealth versus poverty, and religious controversies. Those standing to profit are encouraging the animosity. How will it end? Can ordinary people do anything about it?

  104. @Vada well oridinary people voted for Brexit.

  105. Brexit is just another stage in 'Great' Britain's decline since WWI. From the heights of empire to little GB, a third rate power that can't afford the costs of its pretended global reach. It deludes itself with pretensions to a 'special relationship', when in fact it has been an American vassal since WWII, to be used or abused at Washington's discretion. Now it comes hat in hand to Trump begging for a trade deal that will put it even more under American tutelage with seriously disadvantageous terms to boot. This may not be the end of it, as GB might well disintegrate, losing Scotland and even Northern Ireland (to a hopefully united Republic of Ireland). Will Wales want to remain with shrivelled England? Perhaps a future generation will beg to bring England back into the EU. It will be accepted but with much less generous terms and minus British arrogance.

  106. @Zac 3 If Scotland and Northern Ireland do in fact leave the UK. I suspect that this will not happen until after Queen Elizabeth dies. Charles has been known to be considering ways to "downsize" the royal family (as we just saw last month); he may well he open to shrinking the realm as well.

  107. @Zac I do so hope the Celts finally achieve their independence from their Anglo-Saxon overlords. Once there is no one to blame but themselves for the shortcomings of their melancholy narcistic culture perhaps they will stop complaining. But I doubt it..."poor pitiful me" is just too seductive.

  108. Should Britain… sorry England (and maybe Whales if they've still stuck with the English) want to rejoin the EU they will find themselves without any of the privileges and exemptions that they had previously, and at that moment the schadenfreude of the Continent will be overwhelming. They will most likely be made to jump through hoops and be humbled, and will be treated as a second or even third tier member - it would be ironic if Scotland and Ireland were treated as senior to them, actually both Nations would have to vote to accept England and I suspect they would enjoy that moment. England will have to accept the Euro, drive on the right, and follow every other EU rule without any exceptions. And they would discovery that their voice carries no weight in the EU. And part of Britain's economic success in recent years is that they still had the Pound, so they could devalue their currency to deal with a financial crisis, the only EU member able to do so. Meanwhile, with British nationalism blocking closer integration, the EU will have moved on from its currently intermediate form to a far more unified and stable United Countries. England will be a small country next to the giant country of Europe, I wonder if Europe will have a common language by then? it's sure not going to be English now …

  109. I don't always agree with Roger Cohen, but this article was very thoughtful and well written. As he said, the older generation has stolen the younger generation's future. Even if this polarization continues for decades, both groups can do good for themselves and their country. For the Brexiteers, many of whom longed for renewed economic and social ties with former states of the British Empire, there is the urgent matter of Mr. Modi in India. Pakistan rejected British democratic ideals long ago. However, a recent issue of the Economist magazine details how India is sliding away from democracy and into religious authoritarianism. For the young people who cherished their citizenship in a multicultural and multilingual Europe, you have the strength and intellectual flexibility to change your futures. I keep hearing, in the US as well as in England, that since everyone speaks English there is no need for Anglophones to learn foreign languages, especially European ones. I made great strides in German and French in my 60's. If you are younger than that, you can learn a few other languages too, and more quickly. When you can speak the languages of your neighbors, you will find that they might say some things to you in English, but they say a lot more in their own language.

  110. Thank you for expressing so beautifully what I feel, too. A strong and united Europe is essential for the global balance of powers. As far as I am concerned, England is cutting off its own foot with this decision. How long before pro-Europe Scotland decides to go its own way?

  111. The 1972 Daphne DuMaurier novel 'Rule Britannia' is premised on UK withdrawal from the EEC (EU predecessor). Which incurs economic damage to the UK, followed by a US 'rescue' (actually a U.S. invasion and occupation secretly invited by the UK rulers under the guise of 'saving' Britain from a foreign enemy). I can well see Boris Johnson asking Trump to rescue his country, and Trump happily obliging (he'd love to turn Buckingham Palace into another Trump resort).

  112. @Grant Very amusing! I read others of hers and this seems quite prescient.

  113. @Grant What a grand idea. The mother country would become part of it’s former colony. What would we do with the royals.?

  114. It is indeed fortunate that Trump is up for re-election before the BREXIT rules are finalised and barring act of Putin is going to lose. Should he "win" Boris will discover that Trump is totally sociopathic and without loyalty, and will try to screw Britain over in any trade deal as he sees everything as a 'zero sum game'. It's a safe bet that a Democrat President wouldn't insist on the Privatisation of the NHS (to American companies) and American style pharmaceutical pricing. So it's lucky that BREXIT took so long that the British won't be having to make a trade deal with Trump, imagine if it had passed last year and right now was the moment the US/UK deal had to be signed.

  115. I do hope Scotland finds a way to leave and rejoin the EU. While Russia has had its way with America, thanks to Trump, the EU may be able to hold him back. Of course, big money is behind all of this, for it is its own country, and had bought its own politicians and army. The rule of the American Oligarchs is begun, and as in Russia, there is little to stop it, though we will vote in November with hope in our hearts. Hugh

  116. @Hugh Massengill It's unlikely that Scotland will vote for independence in the short term. The Nationalists make a lot of noise and, of course, the leader of the SNP has the First Minister's platform but there is no overwhelming urge by the majority to sever the link with England. That might well change and quite rapidly if Johnson really falters over Brexit (which I expect him to do). It is ironic those rabid Brexiteers blame the EU for the UK's woes while in Scotland the SNP blame Westminster (in both cases citing a democratic deficit). In neither case will splitting apart solve the underlying problems. What we need now is a proper (centrist) opposition in Westminster with a robust leader like Keir Starmer, with his forensic brain and calm delivery, holding Johnson to account. Brexit's false dawn will soon be exposed and I expect that in due time the UK will be back in the EU. I hope the UK holds till then. If not, then without an assured place in the EU, an independent Scotland will become an economic basket case.

  117. As well as big money, there's big media - in particular the Murdoch press. He's always hated the EU for the simple reason that he has no control over it and can't influence or intimidate European politicians as he only dominates English language media. So by encouraging Britain to leave, he no longer has to deal with laws being written and enforced by people he can't bully. Murdoch is now the happy to be the biggest fish in a small pond, it's just that it was in the best interest of Britain's little fish to be part of a lake.

  118. Mr. Cohen, One of my sons is, culturally, English. He always thought that, although the Brexit referendum was a mistake, its outcome had to be complied with. At the end, people decided to get on with it. There will be consequences. This is how history works. My heart aches, too.

  119. Reality has a tendency to poke hope in the eye, but conversely, doomsayers are typically as prescient as the cartoon figure in robes carrying a sign claiming “The world will end tomorrow”. The best and worst outcomes seldom happen. Progress is incremental, with occasional setbacks that sometimes are (or seem) cataclysmic in the moment. Life goes on, at least so far.

  120. @Jack Lord No question about it. Just as there is no question that Rome fell.

  121. "A bunch of flag-waving fantasists, at the wrong end of actuarial tables, have robbed British youth of the Europe they embrace." In 2017, I attended a lecture on Brexit by a dynamic young British Consul assigned to the New England region. Her key point was what Roger Cohen describes here so eloquently: finalizing Brexit was a death knell to the young cosmopolitan British youth most admantly opposed to it. At that point in time, I think she saw a way out of the turmoil caused by the dirty politics surrounding the vote. Her subtext was a second referendum, more informed, which of course never happened. What Roger Cohen mourns is what those of us here who still believe in democracy mourn--the loss of common sense and decency. The issues may be economic, but at heart, they center on our vision of ourselves and what we value as a people.

  122. @ChristineMcM Thank you for your comment which, as always, is right on point. It is a bleak time for those of us who value common sense and human decency. And yet - yesterday I saw a car with a bumper sticker that read, "Make America KIND again". Perhaps all is not lost. After I got home, I ordered one online.

  123. The British Empire is gone with the wind as Tara. Britannia won't ever rule the waves again. Won't the agonizing divorce of this ancient "scepter'd isle" from the borderless peace and trade among The European Union nations devolve into the nationalistic divisions between the people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? We are all stunned by today's reality of Britain under P.M. Boris Johnson bidding a Brexit adieu to the EU (its people and money, too). How did the victorious dream of a Churchill/Roosevelt union that smashed the fascism of Germany, Japan and Italy in 1945 develop into 2020's little countries without joy or hope? Would the abdication of England's ancient monarchy on "this scepter'd isle" be as staggeringly world-changing as Brexit and the acquittal of America's president Donald Trump from his impeachment by the U.S. Senate? We are all on the cusp of global and existential terrors. Thank you, Roger Cohen, for your "Requiem for a Dream",

  124. @Nan Socolow "Tara is grass, and behold how Troy lieth low. And even the English, perchance their hour will come."-Medieval Irish poem

  125. @wobbly GREAT words!

  126. Last night on a social media thread associated with a NY Times post about the midnight Brexit, a British reader said "they are singing Land of Hope and Glory in the streets" and she went on to excoriate those doing so, singing a century old song. It reminds me of what we are facing now in the United States. A senate that is willing to shred the Constitution so that they can keep trying to return us to when we were "great". I have never felt so ill at ease about my country and the world as I do now.

  127. As WWII came to a close, the European people, including the British, cried out that enough was enough. Centuries of bloody conflict, based on nationalism and often religious hatred, had to come to an end, hence the EU was formed. That history was seldom if ever mentioned in the Brexit debates. Must they return to insanity?

  128. @SDG Brexiters claim the EU has nothing to do with peace in Europe, it's all NATO. But WW1 taught us that military alliances don't keep the peace, amicable relations between countries do. Or in other words, social, political, economic integration between different peoples. That point was sadly lost on Brexiters.

  129. @Felix Interestingly (in light of comparisons made by some here to the current situation in the U.S.), the same point appears to have been lost on Republicans in Trumpamerikkka. A case of synchronized self-delusion, perhaps?

  130. @SDG Well considering the UK didnt start any European conflict certainly in the last 200 years!

  131. 43% of vote went to Johnson in the last election. There has never been a huge outcry for Brexit across the UK. Now its a resigned well get on with it shrug. A bare majority of a 70% turn out in a referendum. They've given up a giant guaranteed market that made the UK think it was stronger than it was economically. The Conservative party is grinding down the system that made the UK think was an affluent big player in the world. A trade treaty with US under Trump is a dicey dangerous leap into the dark.

  132. @c harris : I hope Nigel and his gang like chlorinated chicken foisted upon them from Trump's 'great' trade deal.

  133. Roger Cohen how eloquently you speak for me, a 70 year old Scot, Briton and until today a European citizen. That makes me sad and, yes, angry that we have lost such precious rights. On television here last night for the short time I could bear it we heard from Brexiters who were celebrating the end of this great enterprise for us. Most dispiriting was to see Union Jack festooned pubs filled with revellers some of whom spoke about Britannia ruling the waves as if we were back in the jingoistic first decade of the 20th century. What was cited as the most important benefit?- the ability to make our own laws once more (when could we not in the last 47 years) which would make us great again. Complete delusion. Some of the material came from Sunderland where the Nissan plant is located which provides circa 7,000 direct jobs and possibly a further 30,000 to 40,000 in support industries. It would be no surprise if Nissan decided to pull out as its original rationale was to export to Europe unfettered. Part of me hopes that they do for Sunderland was the first area to declare with a massive majority to Leave but in truth if we are to prosper at all we will need all the help we can get and so I hope they find a way to stay. We now are faced with very many difficult challenges and our Government is woefully inadequate and unprepared, led by a classically educated but empty vessel of a man who is not up to the job. Mr. Cohen is absolutely right we are much diminished.

  134. @Hopeoverexperience I agree that many of the people partying are dellusioned and will be disappointed and were pawns in a bigger game but I dont quite get why that is any different to any person involved in any democratic vote since time began. I would say that the moralising of the EU and Brexit is equally dellusioned. As if the EU gave the UK anything tangiable. It didn't, the UK was a net contributor in hard cash and had to fight for decades to get the services sector on equal footing as the movement of goods and it still isnt. Ultimately EU rules benefitted the old industrial giants in Germany and Italy and the argricutural sectors in other countries more than in the UK. UK industry tends to be more niche and high tech with larger export markets outside of the EU. The benefits to UK business is mainly on importing the supply chain custom free. Outside of the economy the UK has a long proud tradition (but not perfect) of immigration rights, human rights, worker rights and environmental and quality standards long before the EU got involved.

  135. @Hopeoverexperience Sunderland - perhaps fated by its name to a role in pulling a union asunder...

  136. When the first Brexit vote happened, a niece living in London expressed great apprehension. I reassured her, saying there had been a mass Googling of Brexit in Britain that day, and I was confident that the British would find their way back from that disastrous, ill informed vote. I was wrong. A beautiful piece, Roger, worthy of Auden’s lines which you have chosen as an epitaph. Except, it isn’t Europe but Britain that fits the bill.

  137. @VT Why exactly is the vote "disasterous"? There are plenty of benefits as well as negatives. I find it bemusing why someone in India or Canada would even care what the economic outcome would be either way as it would be measured in slight adjustments of GDP!

  138. Roger, I anticipate that before the next general election you will be writing another column on the end of the United Kingdom. Scotland will be seeking independence and once it achieves it will ask to rejoin the European Union. Ireland will unite as is its right by a majority vote of the north. (Ironic that Boris Johnson will accomplish what Michael Collins could not.) And the rump state of England and Wales will stagnate.

  139. @John Graybeard Admission to the EU requires a unanimous vote. I don't think that Spain would allow Scotland to join the EU. They would see it as a model for the Catalonians and the Basques to follow. The Irish are a different story, I think. We'll see.

  140. @Jim Walsh Spain has said they have no problem with Scotland as long as they secede lawfully and not unilaterally. Plus, there'd be enormous pressure on Spain from the other members. Spain is a major EU fund recipient, almost unique among western European countries.

  141. @John Graybeard Seeing as England, particularly London (only one of two Alpha++ cities in the world along with New York) is an economic powerhouse that subsidies the regions of Scotland and N. Ireland, I would love to know how dismantling the union will stagnate England exactly? I am sure the EU would love another mouth to feed on a vastly smaller budget now the UK isnt paying in.

  142. Probably, 25 years on from this day, I will not be alive. I have not been to GB often, but trips in 1979 and 2014 were very revealing. The earlier trip gave me a view of pre-EU and the latter gave me a view of how marvelous things were in the midst of EU-time. I have traveled and worked extensively in Europe and was able to experience and admire the life for EU citizens during that time Thank you for the mention of how this will adversely affect the youth of GB. I think that will reveal the true cost to GB and its people in 25 years.

  143. @RichardM With all due respect you do not seem to understand British history at all. The 1980s and 1990s economic boom was down to deregulation of the service industries particularly the financial sector. The was aligned with the US not the EU. It took a lot of British effort to get services treated in the same light as goods under EEC/EU regulation and still today, the the production of physical goods has far better freedom due to the old core of the EEC being created by Germany France and Italy. In what way will leaving the EU affect the youth of the UK?

  144. Brilliant, eloquent,and deeply felt! Alas, moral sanity is ebbing. Should be required reading for every elected official throughout the world.

  145. Perhaps this is why yesterday felt especially empty of all reason with both the United States and Britain cloaking themselves in their smallness simultaneously. The richness of both truth and inclusiveness lost on the same day and I weep. Thank you Mr. Cohen for validating my feelings of loss with such heart and eloquence.

  146. Thank you for your lucid writing, Mr. Cohen. I understand so much more now -- and I grieve with you.

  147. Powerful, heartfelt writing, keep hope alive.

  148. The US and England may wind up contributing little more to the world than a global language they don't even understand themselves.

  149. This is perhaps the best piece on the Brexit mess I’ve seen. As an American living in the U.K. the past two years, I’ve yet to hear one Brexiteer clearly articulate the actual gain from all this sturm and drang. And I’ve asked many, just because I want to understand. It just seems sad, really. Thank you for saying it so well.

  150. "It is an act of the imagination, inspired by an imaginary past, carried along by misdirected grievances, borne aloft by an imaginary future." This magnificent sentence is apt for are own situation here in the US. The reactionary radicals who have usurped the title "conservative" are doing exactly this --- advocating a return to a 1950s that existed only on black-and-white TV (if not to the 18th century or even farther back), willfully ignorant of history and devoid of human empathy, themselves reduced to money-grubbing xenophobes and wanting to reduce all the rest of us to the same condition. In the process, as yesterday's shameful Senate vote demonstrated beyond doubt, trashing every idea of that made this country, at least in aspiration, truly great. My parents' hope, based on the Marxist vision, was that the human nature which mires us in destructive selfishness could in fact be changed by a change in social conditions. If that is true (and in my old age I doubt it) it is now all too clear that we have failed to do so. Now that we have the means to destroy our own habitat, either in a few minutes or a few decades, our descendants will pay the ultimate price for that failure.

  151. I was born in London in 1967 and remember the feeling of euphoria when the UK voted to join the EEC in 1975. I'm not sure why I felt euphoric. It just felt right being part of the continent. Being South Asian and constantly harassed by the National Front and other Neo Nazis, I just felt more safe and secure "being part of Europe." Hard to explain the feeling, but there it was. It was a strong force. Even though I moved to Canada and now live in the US, it is those formative years in the UK that shaped me. The idea and promise of post-war Europe stayed with me. But now I mourn. I am bereft. I am shaken to the core.

  152. @Karim Ismaili So many of us have a mixed heritage and we can never buy into nativism. Conceived in Indonesia, born in Holland, raised in Australia and now living in the USA, I will never attempt to grade these or any other country and said one is best or first. May all those traveling have an open mind to the culture of other nations. May those now fighting coronavirus not be met with discrimination abroad.

  153. @Karim Ismaili I dont see what being South Asian and the UKs open post-war immigration policy has got to do with joining the EEC or the National Front. The EEC was just a trade bloc in the 1970s, zero to do with freedom of movement or the Strasbourg court of human rights, they didnt come until the Maastricht treaty in 1992. I think this just goes to show how much of the opinion of the EU is based on pure myth.

  154. @Leonie The alignment of "Brexit" with English nationalism is a myth. Brexit is about the economy and those who control it, the voters are being taken along for the ride/gamble. Nothing unusual there in any democratic nation. The UK had a generous immigration policy and allows dual citizenship (which many EU nations do not) long before the EU was a twinkle in Jacques Delors eye.

  155. To fully embrace the past, perhaps Britain should now try reclaiming its empire.

  156. Lots of bloviation in this article and reflects the author's disdain for democracy. Please note: 1) During the war, Britain's did not have "allies". It had ONE ally and it was the US, not France or Germany. 2) Yes, Brits have died and are buried in Europe. They died there to preserve British freedom first and foremost.

  157. @SG Erm, I guess Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc, don't count as allies? Remidner: None of these countries had any other than a moral obligation to support Britain. The US became an "ally" of the UK only because Japan foolishly attacked Pearl Harbour. The war in the Pacific entailed participation in the war in Europe. Oh yeah, the USSR became an ally of the UK an the US, too.

  158. @SG Did you forget the Soviets?

  159. @SG Read up on your history or, better yet, visit military cemeteries in Europe and study headstones. The Belgian military, freedom fighters from France, Poland and other occupied countries helped Britain stay alive. At the cost of millions dead in the Pacific theater due to the U. S. accommodating Churchill's "Europe First (read Britain First) mandate. Of course, history matters not to jingoistic myth worshippers who disdain truth for bald fabrication.

  160. Auden's words are just as apt for the USA a very sad time....

  161. A sad day indeed but... Trump's support isn't just apt, it's part of a new war, a global war on democracy, waged not with bullets but with weaponized social media, data analytics, blatant lies, laser-like targeting of vulnerable swing voters, massively financed by? Russia? 1% tax evaders? And for what ends? These are the questions we need to be asking...

  162. @sue denim ..."what ends" is money, money in the hands of the already rich, and money equates to power. Just look at what money has done for America, you can buy the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

  163. Today was a good day: The tedious and outrageous trial in the Senate was dealt a death knell--and then Brexit happened. No, this does not call for a dirge but rather a march triumphal!

  164. @toddchow Idiocy rules. "T'is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

  165. Another brilliant if tragic piece from Roger Cohen. But I think more of Donne than Auden; “No man is an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent “

  166. Captures the tragedy of this perfectly.

  167. Thank you for expressing what I feel after over 40 years as a British expatriot in France. My father and his World War 2 generation would be shocked, disappointed and witheringly critical of the direction the UK has taken. Fortunately, few of them are here to witness the sad affair.

  168. A poignant requiem for a once vital and forward looking country now plagued by national agoraphobia, digitally induced confusion, paranoid delusion and steep decline.

  169. Yes, this is a huge issue, especially if one is British. My questions are these. Did they ever resolve the internal dispute between Ireland and Northern Ireland? Will this be the impetus for Scotland to leave Britain that wasn't as compelling before? Will the European customs officials go into "postal worker speed" when any delivery to or from Britain or passport waving tourist/ businessman shows up at their desk? Will this be the precursor to many states in our Union (see the rubes in rural Va.) wanting to secede due to "our elite" forcing their will (at least the perception thereof) on them? Best of times, worst of times. Age of enlightenment, age of foolishness.

  170. The usual fine writing of Mr. Cohen here again. This current metastatic nationalism is hopefully only a transient expression of reaction against the demands of an eventual future that will be made upon us all, everywhere. It will not last and will become just another embarrassing moment in a history full of them. The Auden quote is apt, but dated. Jeffers poem seems to be our now, "keep a straight mind in the evil time. In the mad-dog time, why may not an old man run mad? History falls like rocks in the dark. All will be worse confounded soon."

  171. It has been stated that the EU needs further development in order to achieve that more perfect union. It may be that Britain, or its parts, will have the opportunity to correct its choice in coming years.

  172. Like much of the post war world, the real problem is the one we and every western style country is now grappling with and didn’t see coming. What to do about the millions of unhappy people who want to come to the west? Refugees and immigrants were, once, a small number of people assimilated in the host countries that while adding variety, didn’t threaten to overwhelm the host country. Not any more. Now, the numbers are so great and so unending that the very nature, character and substance of the countries they are going to are in danger of being changed forever. In some countries like the US there is a political party that welcomes this. In others they see no reason to basically upended their entire culture to accommodate people they share almost nothing with and in fact, aren’t particularly keen to adopt failed and often undemocratic new comers. This perceived existential threat has given rise to trump and national movements in many places. On a planet over run with people and real and potential immigrants the brits like much of the EU, saw it’s out of date immigration laws as a threat to its very existence as a country. How the west will deal with this issue is a far bigger one than who gets to sell cheese to who.

  173. @AL Excellent points, but we also need to look at the reasons why so many people want to leave their countries. Destructive wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc. have resulted in many refugees no longer having a home in their countries because their cities have been bombed to smithereens. And whose fault is that? Not theirs. Others need to leave their countries to survive poverty, gang violence, or destruction of their livelihoods from climate change. If the West doesn’t want people trying to immigrate, what is it doing to help address these issues? Trump’s response has been to cut off aid to the very countries that need it to keep their citizens from leaving. And he threatens another useless war in the Middle East that will cause more disruption. The West is not innocent of contributing to the reasons people leave their homes, but we have selfish leaders who care more about their corporate power than they do about working to solve at least some of the world’s problems.

  174. @AL The US is a very large country. Much of it — including Idaho — is rather sparsely populated and many of the dying small towns in this country would benefit from an influx of people motivated to improving their lives, ie. immigrants and refugees. Perhaps your fears of scary strangers arriving in your backyard and reproducing like rabbits might be allayed by the availability of safe, reliable and shame-free methods of birth control that could be possible if the political will in these sparsely populated areas was a bit more progressive. Then again, if our big fat corporations and their right wing political henchmen weren't so intent on commercially exploiting the areas of the world that these refugees flee from, installing puppet governments, fanning the fires of war for profit, destroying the local (and global) ecology, etc… etc… Then maybe there wouldn't be a refugee crisis in the first place.

  175. @bg Yes, but it’s going to be non PC and very unpopular and expensive to address the basic issues. One is religion and the accompanying subjugation of women. Telling people their religion is bogus and they don’t get to have 5 kids and girls get to go to school and not get married at 12, may not go over well. The right won’t be happy that family planning, including free, confidential and readily available birth control is as universal a right as any other freedom. The west will have to pay for this. As an example, in some ME countries, vaccination workers have been murdered because the fundamentalists see vaccination as a plot by the west to make Muslims, for example, sterile. This is an example of how cultural “diversity” doesn’t always make any society stronger or better. Importing these people to secular, liberal democracies has not gone well. The west will have to develop, pay for and export for free economic systems that are sustainable. This flies in the face of capitalism but we’d better move beyond that thinking, like birth control, pretty quickly if we are to make any headway.

  176. Very well expressed. The only hope for a planet facing over population, decreasing resources, climate change and moral and spiritual decay, is for its citizens to reach out across borders and walls and realise that we are all in this together and what happens in your back yard will have consequences in my own. It's a very sad day in British history.

  177. Sorta true. The only real solution is fewer people. And to do that, we’re going to have tough conversations with some people who see their “right” is to have as many kids as their “god” wants them to. In the west, the education of women has gone a long ways towards accomplishing this, but some cultures, which unfortunately make up the majority of humans and immigrants will fight this and will want to help make the overpopulation of the west worse. In the west itself the conversation will have to be about our wasteful, co2 producing lifestyle. The environmental issues we face have a simple formula. Environmental effect = number of people x lifestyle. We will have to step on a lot of toes to address both sides of the equation.

  178. I lived in Scotland in the early 1980s. Scotland was quite poor then and England not much better off. Subsequent trips to Scotland in the late 1990s astounded me with the prosperity I saw everywhere particularly in Edinburgh and Bridge of Allan where I had once lived. And the food in the U.K. had undergone an amazing transformation from overcooked vegetables and boiled meat to really nutritious and appealing food thanks to the influence of the EU and the availability of lots of fresh produce from Europe. I am saddened by the current meanest and racism I now see in England which has led to Brexit. I no longer have a desire to visit England again because as a foreigner (an American) I wouldn’t feel welcome. I won’t even transit there on my way to Europe. Scotland, however, remains dear to my heart. I hope Scotland regains it’s independence and rejoins the EU. It’s continued prosperity and openness depends on it.

  179. No matter how it feels, there is no end of hope, Roger. In UK, in America, anywhere ... ever. That we still are is evidence of that. Even with suffering. As for poor and unjust decisions that are made by or imposed on us? Opportunities in eventuating humility at the “right” time that becomes evident, to learn by and move forward from. A back and forth that favors forth. The moral order of the world we have been given to be stewards of is not finally within our control ... though we are able through abuse of freedom to make life miserable at times.

  180. @wak You do realise it was a democratic vote right?

  181. When Roger Cohen writes such a pessimistic column I get very worried. When a person reaches a certain age, the long view of history comes into sight. It seems to me that the future is not very optimistic for Roger nor the rest of the generation that have not seen a stable world for many years. Now it seems to be accelerating toward disaster. What will save us? There is no hope if the current folks in charge remain in stasis. We are threatened from within and without. These kind of changes are happening too fast to comprehend the future.

  182. @Betsy Herring It is a personal opinion piece nothing more. There is nothing inherent in "Brexit" that means any of the cherished points mentioned will even change. I think people are putting 2 + 2 together to enforce whatever world view prejudice they may already have.

  183. @B Gresham and that would include you, B. Gresham: ............whatever world view prejudice they may already have. Half a lifetime ago I held public office in a deeply divided, small community. There wasn't anywhere to simply put your head down and go about your business. I know first-hand how entrenched positions can lead to 'dangerous deafness,' as I named it then. That and 'invincible ignorance.' With the social upheaval that follows. Was I guilty too? No doubt and I do not admit that easily. After being crushed by an inability to even discuss much less argue different perspectives, I'm sure I was. Or became so. It taught me well the axiom about being 'beware [of] the man who has the tiger by the tail.' Cohen has offered an opinion piece. He is telling us his experience. He is not asking to be corrected or contested. My experiences inform me as well.

  184. The moralising here and elsewhere is overwrought. What next, schadenfreude? The article in fact neatly explains why Brexit happened but the conclusion is off. It goes on a journey through various dislocated European events to spin the myth of a single cultural family or more importantly a singlular destiny. This merely explains why each of the different constituants of the EU continue to feel a stronger positive sense of belonging than many in the UK. Whether it is France and Germanys political and economic alliance after WWII or the resurgance of the "tiger economies" in the 1990s generated from low coporation tax and large EU subsidies that included Ireland or the coming out from dictatorships of Span, Italy and Greece in the 1970s or the escape from Communism of the Eastern European countries in the 1990s. These are very tangiable and visible events to all generations of each of those constiuent parts. The UK joined the EEC for purely economic reasons after the Post War boom was heading for the buffers as the 1970s dawned. However on joining the EEC in 1973 the UK industrial collapse continued through the decade as Germany and France had already formed the EEC laws in favour of their inudstries, including the argricultural rules that has formed the backbone of the anti-EU backlash in the UK ever since. It wasnt until the Financial deregulation of the 1980s and dismantling of the Trade Unions did the British economy pick up and that was aligned with the US not the EEC.

  185. @B Gresham The Disaster Capitalists are waiting and salivating for Britain. If you think a bargain with Trump's America will save your economy, you've just made a deal with the devil.

  186. Cohen’s beautiful column was written in English, a language that is now the official language in about 60 sovereign states. English is the preferred language of business, the skies, and computing. Isn’t it kind of ironic that the English language is a mix of Norse, German, Celt, Latin, Greek, and French? Sounds like the EU every time I open my mouth. And as some of my fellow readers pointed out, Britain became great by reaching out over the waves. A naval power is inherently one whose power comes from engagement with others. Bye bye EU. Bye bye Britannia.

  187. The moment of Brexit coming on the heels of American democracy’s decline manifested by the feckless posturing of cowardly US Senators brings to mind the powerful words of the poet WB Yeats in the Second Coming: Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

  188. @TimothyG The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. I can’t find better words to explain our situation in the US. Thanks.

  189. @Maxi in the US, the best do not lack conviction. But we are hampered if not rendered irrelevant by voter suppression, gerrymandering, the electoral college, and evil authoritarians in the highest places of our government, all three branches.

  190. @TimothyG quite apropos! And self-inflicted. "On both sides of the pond."

  191. I got goosebumps reading this. The writer’s grief speaks for the loss I feel for my own country. What masterful writing. An elegy for what once was.

  192. My mother was English, my Father was Austrian. Brexit is for me too a personal loss. I've followed the Leave-Remain debates, and I've found that the Brexiteers tend to delusion and fantasy. The Remainers tend to gloomy resignation, unable to create a compelling vision of UK as part of Europe. I won't be visiting the UK again. Too depressing. But there's some hope: Eventually, the Brexit generation will die off, the young will take over, and the UK (what's ;eft of it) will petition to rejoin the EU.

  193. @Wolf Kirchmeir Talking of delusional and gloomy, you chose not to visit any nation outside of the EU? Seems a bit limiting and judemental. In fact do you actually know what Brexit means? You wont be visiting the UK again because the UK will no longer be paying billions into the EU project after 2020? Not sure why that would depress you so much, Austria, Germany and France can simply just pay more in. Problem solved.

  194. It was tragic on both sides of the pond: bad political decisions hurt both USA and Britain as the week ended. Britain has to rebuild after Brexit. US has to recover from the Trump era.

  195. Cambridge Analytica, Bannon and Putin had a hand in both...

  196. In 1973, when Britain was suffering with scheduled power cuts due to lack of resources, my market research job took me to Europe, to find out what Europeans wanted to eat, drink, wear and drive. Britain was planning for the great trade expansion that would result from joining the EU. And I was learning that Europeans weren’t always like their stereotypes. The Germans weren’t humorless, the French weren’t disdainful of the British, the Italians didn’t only eat pasta. I saw hope for a peaceful future for Europe and that’s what happened. Now Great Britain has morphed into Little Britain, largely forced their by my xenophobic contemporaries, and I feel I have no home there any more. I could weep.

  197. Mr Cohen, your words are so heartfelt that I am moved by them 1500 miles away here in Texas. My congratulations on your superb writing.

  198. Poignant and brilliant. Thank you Sir Roger.

  199. A powerful article about the sad absurdity of the Brexit moment in history led by fools like Farage and carried out by the fearful and timid folk in Britain. Wasn't it British to be a mercantilist, called by some a nation of shopkeepers, in not the most salutary meaning. Thatcher and all that mirrored that reality. But even more, the notion of a European Union was a stronger bulwark against the international trade made more competitive by the emergence of Asian markets, made stronger by the protection of one by the other whether a Sarajevo or a fiscal emergency. Merkel in her human response to the refugee problem met the Tories. Yes, this tragedy is matched by our own tragedy, that of Trump's reign. Excellent article; poem by Wintour striking.

  200. @Katalina the poem is by Auden, sent to Cohen by Wintour.

  201. Ireland has been helped by the EU, especially Germany, especially financially But the EU has been enriched by Ireland, especially culturally, in terms of both music and literature. But Cohen, chose his word carefully, claiming Ireland was "uplifted" by the EU. Roger we have forgotten your "beer soaked" remark.

  202. The stage, in England, is just about set for a "V for Vendetta" cultural scenario. Perhaps writers of fiction truly recognize and understand human nature better than most.

  203. Mr. Cohen, I feel for you that your dreams about a United Europe have failed. I suspect in 10 years you will have a different perspective. England will survive, possibly without Scotland, and I believe they will do quite well. The percentage of population aged 25-34 with a college degree is one of the 10 highest in the world. With the world evolving from a manufacturing to knowledge-based economies England is in an good position to thrive. The EU in its' current form was never going to survive. Economically it is a real question as to whether Germany and France can continue to carry the rest of their weaker EU members. Politically their is just to much history of conflict/competition/parochialism for the EU citizens to ever think of themselves as European as opposed to their own native country.

  204. Masterfully stated Mr Cohen. It is just sad to see the Britain self-destruct. This exit diminishes the dream of a unified and peaceful Europe. I believe that most Europeans know deep in their heart that their future is better united than the fragmented past. Europe has to continue striving to strengthen their Union. The crime of Brexit is against their own children and that is the worst of all crimes. This is the result of "rosh Katan" (small headed-nes) and also smallness of spirit.

  205. @Amos So a democratic decision not to continue with a United Europe is somehow morally wrong? Interesting. The movement towards greater European political union was always contentious in the UK ever since the main players in the EEC slowly raised the polictical union idea in the 1980s which morphed into the maastricht treaty in 1992, No national referendum was held even though it was vastly different to the EEC. The EU referendum in 2016 was in fact a bit of smoke screen either way. The question was a binary choice to leave or remain in the EU, but the status quo of remain was always a transient place. The Euro zone (which the UK is not part of along with a few other EU nations) means that economic union ie a central bank controlling interest and tax rates is inevitable and in turn an EU military force. This poses big questions to national democracy and sovereignty which people are not asking. If those had been put to the UK vote in 2016 the leave vote would have been a lot higher. The EU is in an unstable half-way house stage and has been for a while and has not faced the questions that are arising, e.g. should there be a two tier system for example. Ultimately the inflexibility of EU membership and its opaque purpose and future caused Brexit or at least sowed the seeds to enable it.

  206. Thank you, Roger. I am reminded of the nihilistic behaviour of the British soccer mobs going to Europe and behaving badly. When drunk the future does not matter. And again the old man in their dreams has diminished the opportunities for youth.

  207. Brexit is a large-scale version of one of the fundamental questions of civilization: are we in this together or as individuals? How much can we do on our own, and to what extent must we share our resources with the larger community? And what is our recourse if we don't like what the rest of the community is doing? Britain decided by a razor thin majority that they didn't like it, and they voted to leave.

  208. @mlbex The resources of the EU is hard cash. The UK has been a net contributor of UKP billions since the beginning. The people left out of the US led service sector economic boom in the UK since the 1980s (think rust belt US) thought it was a bit silly for them to be subsidising new roads in Ireland and new high speed railways in Spain. From that lens Brexit is a no-braniner and not laced with a moral over "sharing".

  209. @B Gresham : You write as if I took a stand one way or another. I tried to simply point out the parameters and how it mirrors the problem of civilization everywhere. Why should I, in California, pay taxes to support welfare in Mississippi? It's the same question, and I didn't try to answer it. Seen through that lens, to share or not share, and the fairness of that sharing are the issues I tried to point out. I believe you added the judgement.

  210. "Inequality, poor infrastructure, low investment, inadequate schools .... " This is the house that Maggie Thatcher built, alongside the same one we inherited from Ronald Reagan. There is a price to be paid for letting the rich skim it all off the top year after year after year. Brexit and Donald Trump are what is left over for the rest of us.

  211. This is a powerfully moving piece. Mr. Cohen proves yet again his mastery of English prose. And Brexit is indeed sad. You can't help but feel sorry for Britain's young; look at what their elders have done to them.

  212. Thank you Mr. Cohen for your opinions on the UK's withdrawal from the EU and the words of W.H. Auden. I, like you, and many of my friends have benfited from an open Europe: travelling to many countries without restrictions and living and working in Paris. My fear now is that the UK will be isolated and its Government free to enact any laws it sees fit to "protect" its people and restrict civil liberties. A small number of voters, based on inaccurate information, should not have been allowed to decide the fate of millions of Britons. Methinks it's time for me apply for French citizenship through my French grandmother and father.

  213. Thank you, Mr. Cohen. Sadly, you've written a powerful eulogy for that time, that place, that history. I hope that your narrative of the thing is preserved for future generations, as duller heads rise from the much and undertake to rewrite history. I vow to never forget. You've also proven that this is your language. You own it. Thanks for bringing back Auden; change Europe to England and read it a second time, and you see why poets are so feared by tyrants.

  214. A moving elegy for an era that need not have passed if it weren't for selfish and provincial leaders in the UK. The grief of all who treasure the accomplishments of postwar Europe is in these words.

  215. Thank you, Roger, for one of the most eloquent op-eds ever penned. Guess it's not a surprise that Donald Trump, who has the historical perspective of a gnat, was cheering Brexit on - as he tries to our own country backwards.

  216. After watching the video of Farage showing his colors and being dealt with by an adult I thought of a Brit from centuries past who coined the term "yahoo". Farage and his followers fit the description.

  217. 'Funny thing about the English, they dont want to be Irish'. - that Boris Johnson, uncouth as he may be, seems to have captured that the 2016 referendum was no anomaly. i have felt that Trump proved that America is no different from other peoples, nations in seeking a cultural identity that is, by definition, not universal. England, apparently, is no different either.

  218. Good for the British, they have removed themselves from the control of their overlords in Brussels. Nigel Farage's speech was outstanding.

  219. Always fascinating to read comments here from NYT US readers with firm opinions that appear to have no connection to facts. Surely everyone has had ample opportunity to research the network of lies that was spun concerning Brexit.

  220. This absurd spectacle is not only a defeat for a brilliant columnist and one of journalism's most nuanced and sensitive spirits. It is a defeat for all of those of us who, having studied what Hitler and Stalin did to Europe, were deeply satisfied to see Europe grow itself towards a truly peaceful and interdependent political culture. The great anti-Nazi martyr and Lutheran theologian, the German Dietrich Bonhoeffer, noted in his many fruitful writings during the war that the "wars of Europe" in previous centuries were actually a prelude to her necessary integration and unity. Now we witness a giant leap into darkness brought about by leaders of the two major English-speaking nations that led the world and Europe in the battle to rid the world of Hitler and all his works. Roger Cohen is right to lament what has happened. Germany had to come to terms with her history. We British and Americans are only in the beginning of the story we and our children will live to suffer and regret. May God have mercy upon us.

  221. An insightful and sobering take. Empire may have been won on the playing fields of Eton, but any great Britain was lost in the bowels of Bullingdon. With the devolution of US politics and the pending dissolution of the UK, we are witnessing the denouement of Reagan-Thatcherism. Western democracy gave over the temple to greed- and power-besotted moneymen. Our grandchildren will curse us for allowing it.