Instant Opinion: four years since Brexit ‘everything and nothing has changed’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 23 June

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson on the campaign trial during the December 2019 general election
(Image credit: Ben Stansall/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe, in The Guardian

on the four year anniversary of the EU referendum

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It’s been four years since the Brexit vote: everything and nothing has changed

“While leaving has proven harder than leavers were willing to admit, the process has underlined the validity of the longstanding Eurosceptic claim that the EU, as Douglas Hurd once put it, had inveigled its way into the nooks and crannies of national life. And like an invasive creeper, its removal is causing damage. In both Northern Ireland and Scotland, Brexit is undermining devolution settlements that were designed with EU membership in mind. Shifts in the constitutional status quo may be occurring slowly, but there has been nothing slow about the transformation of politics. The post-referendum period has witnessed, among other things, a reassertion of the dominance of the two large parties; a shift in their electoral base; changes in leadership; numerous expulsions and Conservative victories in former Labour strongholds.”

2. Sean O’Grady in The Independent

on changing one's mind about Brexit

Four years ago, I voted for Brexit. If only I’d known then what we all know now

“I did not vote for - or desire at any rate - a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ that will have a hugely damaging effect on the economy and jobs. We don’t have free trade deals with anyone else, and even we did they would not - cannot - make up for the loss of trade with the single market. Even now, four years on, we don’t know our terms of exit. When they become knowable, they will still lack democratic legitimacy; we really should have that second referendum - the ‘final say’ on Brexit. If I knew then what I know now, I’d never have voted Leave... On the media, our political discourse is still entirely national; we don’t watch a EU finance minister, say a French centrist, arguing with a Spanish leader of the EU opposition about cutting taxes. The customs union, single market, the euro, the flag, the anthem and direct elections and powers for the European Parliament have all failed to create a European political identity that commands wider respect, let alone loyalty or respect. And that is what went wrong four years ago.”

3. Paul Goodman, editor of ConservativeHome, in The Times

on the PM’s ‘rough and ready’ approach

There’s method in Boris Johnson’s madness

“To be clear, the present bottlenecks in the system aren’t a design flaw, they are the design. Mr Cummings, with his proven record as a campaigner, unproven as an administrator, dominant at the centre for as long as the prime minister wishes him to be, is ultimately an expression of the latter’s will to power. Mock or knock Mr Johnson’s way of doing business if you like. In its rough and ready, breeze-sniffing, finger-to-the-wind way, it often gets him to where he needs to be, though slowly and not always surely. Take his response to Black Lives Matter and the vandalising of statues, in which he has gradually fleshed out an initially hesitant response. With his Commons majority of 80, Labour still re-forming, and the best part of four years until the next election, the prime minister ought to be able to muddle on without terminal difficulty, despite the horrendous economic downturn ahead, and perhaps a coronavirus-ravaged winter too.”

4. Catherine Rampall in The Washington Post

on a world leader stumbling, not running

The U.S. is falling behind its peers. Americans - if not their leaders - are starting to notice

“Americans’ belief in American exceptionalism is declining - and that could be a good thing. National narcissism has rendered us complacent, even impotent, in the face of multiple crises. On our biggest societal problems, the United States seems to have given up. Not because we can’t do better - but because many political leaders, particularly Republicans, apparently don’t think we need to. Their faith that America is already Living Its Best Life means there’s no need to learn from peer countries, or even gauge our relative performance... Faith in American exceptionalism has curdled into resigned acceptance. We got so accustomed to resting on our laurels that we fell asleep.”

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5. Charlie Warzel in The New York Times

on how the kids are not alright

Gen Z Will Not Save Us

“Generation Z is disillusioned by a country and its myriad institutions whose moral arc seems to bend toward corruption and stagnation. It is also, like any generation, not monolithic. And the way that its justified disillusion will play politically, culturally and socially is unknown... Indeed, Gen Z activism so far skews both idealist and dystopian. A common thread between that idealism and dystopianism is most likely a deep feeling of alienation, which Joe Bernstein at BuzzFeed News argued last year was one of the definitive effects of technology throughout the 2010s: ‘Feelings of powerlessness, estrangement, loneliness, and anger created or exacerbated by the information age are so general it can be easy to think they are just a state of nature, like an ache that persists until you forget it’s there.’”

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