A sad juxtaposition of events: Parties need to be specific on Brexit

A sad juxtaposition of events: Parties need to be specific on Brexit

It is difficult to know how to regard a coincidence unfolding this week.

One perspective suggests despair, because yet again we show how deaf we can be to the hardest lessons.

A second perspective, one less challenging to collective sanity, is that if we can survive history’s great crimes then we can, or should, survive anything that might lie ahead.

One of those positions is based on fact; the second is just an expression of that most powerful, seductive salve — hope.

More than 200 Auschwitz survivors gathered at the murder factory yesterday, many for the last time, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.

One, Benjamin Lesser, a 92-year-old Polish Jew, whose family was condemned to Auschwitz in 1944, was forthright: “I have returned so that I don’t forget any of the details... so I can keep the memories alive, and stop the world from acquiring amnesia.”

It seems, tragically, that his fears may be justified.

One of Europe’s responses to that catastrophe, the second time the continent was razed in a lifetime, is the European Union.

That confederation, despite its many weaknesses, has presided over peace, trade, and economic growth that, for many decades, has averted the conditions that contributed to both world wars.

It is an unquestionable ongoing success.

It is therefore a great sadness that, just days after Lesser and his peers reminded the world of the dangers of the base nationalism that always promises national resurgence, when the clocks strike midnight in Brussels on Friday, Britain’s 47 years as an EU pillar formally come to an end.

By leaving Britain will, despite all the sunny uplands harrumphing, weaken itself.

Only the extent of that diminution is in question. Sadly, the EU will be diminished as well.

There will be no immediate impact as Britain, more divided than ever, enters an 11-month transition during which the status quo will prevail.

However, the house-keeping of departure, the lowering of Union Jacks so symbolic in Irish history, will begin.

British flags will be removed from EU offices, one of the European parliament’s flags will be sent to the EU House of History.

At the council of ministers, the Union Jacks will be put in a cupboard, joining flags of other non-EU states.

British access to EU diplomatic cables will end abruptly. EU maps will show Britain in beige — the blandness that denotes an alien country.

A sad juxtaposition of events: Parties need to be specific on Brexit

For a country more used to fleeing colonies under duress — if not an insurrectionist barrage — leaving by choice may seem novel, a fact reflected in the Westminster carnival.

This will see a countdown clock projected on the walls of No 10, Downing Street, just like Remain-voting Portadown, will be over-dressed in Union Jacks.

As it has taken nearly five years to reach this sad moment, the issue has slipped from public consciousness.

This, at the best of times, would be unwise.

In the closing days of an election campaign, it is reckless.

Brexit may have a greater impact on this country than any new government.

It is time that weight was reflected in the parties’ campaigns and how they are scrutinised.

Ask each party how it might manage the dreaded process and how they would protect our interests; continuing to indulge evasion is as stupid as it is reckless.

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