The real reason why we are in this Brexit mess is, essentially, because we do not have devolution in England and the UK is one of the most centralised countries on the planet.
In basic terms, half the people here, it seems, just do not understand the point of the EU – or political cooperation, consensus and coalition in general. But also, in the long-term, millions of English people are politically disenfranchised and their situation will not improve while a central government has to make all the decisions for them. It’s not just a matter of policies – it’s the system: Genuine attention to important, regional issues around the country can not all be managed by a central government – and the gap all the way down to the zillions of toothless councils is too big. No other Western people put up with it. Only the English.
That’s the basic environment which the hard right-wing have used to further their agenda. With no competing narrative, they have reframed the discussion with things like immigration, the modus operandi of the right-wing since, like, forever. They know the core argument is that, for example, even if you like immigration, being in the EU means you have no control over it – a question of political decision-making and sovereignty. But they don’t want anyone to get that far, instead they want us all to be weighed down by the fighting and arguing, accusations of xenophobia, and the rest, orchestrating the faff with their dog whistles.
Because if we ever got to that central issue of sovereignty – and actually discussed it sensibly – we might realise that the political decision-making that people really need got commandeered by Westminster long ago, not Brussels.
In a nation of 66 million people, the issue of devolution is both the cause of Brexit and the antidote.