John Harris

Journalist & Author

England can be better than the Brexit caricature. We have to make the case for it | John Harris

It’s time we started building a new England – one that is modern, diverse and open

There are two kinds of questions to be asked about Brexit. One of them defines the day-to-day grind at Westminster, and is about an urgent set of issues that encompasses everything from the most basic framework for trade to the future of Northern Ireland, and which still seem all but insoluble. But as all the parliamentary drama on goes on, it is the other big Brexit conundrum that shows even fewer signs of resolution. To use a phrase habitually deployed by the prime minister herself, what kind of country do we want to be? Put another way, who are we?

To some extent we know the answer, and it is not pretty. Whatever the varied motivations of many of the people who voted for it, our exit from the European Union looks to outsiders like an expression of nostalgia, introversion and a very unbecoming belligerence. Some of the most powerful branches of government seem to be operating on much the same impulses. As evidenced by the Windrush scandal and a steady stream of heartbreaking deportation stories, the Home Office now seems to be institutionally sociopathic. So does the Department for Work and Pensions.

The public gets what the public wants, even when it ruins the lives of many of the public themselves

Related: No longer recognise your country? Look beyond our toxic public life… | Frank Cottrell Boyce

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