Writing this comment after Britain just voted for Brexit feels like an obituary to a dear friend.
Not to the EU. But to my own country.
A freudian slip by my local authority illustrates this. Referendum polling agents were invited to attend last night’s count at the town hall on a ballot to decide what it described as whether “the UK should leave or remain in the UK”.
How prophetic. Because today the UK is no longer a united kingdom.
It’s not just the 52-48% fracture, the renewed prospect of Scotland leaving or revived pressure for a united Ireland, it’s that in England and Wales the overriding perception is that we are no longer a country comfortable in its own skin.
The divisions between young and old are especially acute and depressing. As a dad I am ashamed my generation let them down. What damage have we done to help our children’s job prospects and other opportunities across our continent?
But we have to acknowledge that millions do feel a real sense of loss of control – even on a day when they have had thousands of pounds uncontrollably wiped off the value of their hard-earned pension funds.
For many that perceived loss of control has given them personally poor or no jobs, inadequate housing and declining public services. It resonated well but it had nothing or little to do with the EU. It was this anger that made the difference.
And Leave campaigners cheerfully rode Farage’s xenophobic wave to exploit these understandable anxieties and tip the vote in favour of Brexit.
And it has left us as a divided nation. It seems it is no longer at ease with itself.
Some will urge “don’t mourn, mobilize!”. Yes, after a period of grieving mobilisation will happen, after which we may have to accept our new constitutional fate and hopefully build a more genuinely united country that is more content with itself and with its continental neighbours.