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My 350 on BREXIT: Earthquake

“For my part, my sentiment is not just embarrassment, but shame. That we should choose the coward’s way of turning on the EU in its moment of need.”

Stein Ringen
5 July 2016

We are coming to realise the enormity of the decision. Deciding to join or not is one thing, leaving is something totally different.

British life – economic, political, social, cultural, scientific, and more – has become arranged around the fact of EU partnership. It all has to be disentangled: an enormous task. Out of it will come a different Britain, diminished.

The decision to hold a referendum unleashed the ugliest imaginable campaign. Nothing in this campaign was FOR anything, it was all AGAINST. There was no leadership, not an idea for deliberation, not a single memorable speech. It was a campaign of fear, fear of the modern world, fear of commitment, fear of those who are different.

Even the remain side did not have a kind word to say about the European project, or about anything else. The referendum was a spur of the moment decision by the prime minister, the people had not asked for it, and as things unfolded we were let down by a dysfunctional political system and an incompetent political leadership.

It is now dawning on us how ugly this was and is. In the aftermath, our political system is not holding up: we have no government, no opposition, no plan. The economy is in disarray. Britain – steady, sensible, tolerant Britain – made itself the one country in the west where the ugly political undercurrent which is now flowing through the democratic world has been allowed to prevail.

For my part, my sentiment is not just embarrassment, but shame. That we should choose to turn our back on modernity. That we should make racism and xenophobia respectable. That we should make ourselves wreckers in Europe. That we should make ourselves quitters. That we should speak of others in Europe in us-and-they terms as if they were enemies. That we should choose the coward’s way of turning on the EU in its moment of need and difficulty and seek out the weak spots where the boot could be put in.

In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.

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