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Brexit and Balfour
December 2017 / January 2018


Roger Scruton: The British are an insular people, but that should be a cause for celebration, he argues (Princeton)


As the British take their leave of the European Union, the temptation to become obsessed with the process to the detriment of the destination must be resisted. Important though the terms of Brexit undoubtedly are, they are less significant in the long run than the uses to which we may put our new-found freedom to shape our destiny. We need a national debate about the kind of country we now hope to be; and we need it now.

It is at such moments that nations turn to their philosophers, particularly those thinkers with the widest frame of reference and the deepest insight into their predicament. High on any such list is Sir Roger Scruton, who has earned his place in public esteem by virtue of sustained reflection on the condition of humanity in general and of England in particular—a life not merely of contemplation but of action, too. His convictions have been forged in a lifetime of ideological battles: some lost, a good many won.

At the heart of Scrutonian thought, however, lies the insight encapsulated in the title of his latest book: Where We Are. For this is above all an analysis of what we mean by a sense of place, of identity, of country. The British, Scruton argues, are indeed an insular people, but that is a cause for celebration rather than apology. Their distinctive legal and political system, their culture and character, are uniquely bound up with their islands: the home where they belong.

Scruton admits that he, as a global intellectual whose livelihood is as mobile as his ideas, counts as an “Anywhere” rather than a “Somewhere” in the taxonomy coined by David Goodhart. But he insists that “anywhere people need roots as much as somewhere people” and are all the more grateful for finding them. And in a luminous chapter on “the networked psyche”, he shows how the young, who have been most deracinated yet yearn to belong somewhere, react angrily to global “spectral powers” that undermine the economic and political basis of a homeland, which is accountability.

Upon this extended meditation on the meaning of nationhood, Scruton builds his case for a post-Brexit healing of internal divisions and an opening to the wider world. He is enthusiastic about Britain’s role in European civilisation, especially in establishing its foundation: the nation state. The EU, however, has evolved to meet the particular needs of the Germans for a new identity and the French for security. Brexit poses an existential threat to both, so he sees the task of British diplomacy as primarily one of reassurance. Freed from the iron hand of EU bureaucracy, Scruton says, the British will be able to reshape economy, environment and society to restore the common values that can enable us all to belong together in our islands.
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amcdonald
December 8th, 2017
3:12 PM
Because of the deal announced today Mrs May was able to state that there would now be extra resources for priorities at home. IDS can now get specific about the `staggering amounts` and how many council houses and flats are to be built. A Labour government is perfectly capable of sorting it.

Lawrence James
December 5th, 2017
8:12 AM
The Balfour declaration confirmed the Ottoman policy of allowing Jewish settlements in Palestine, which then and later were on lands sold to them by local landlords.

amcdonald
December 1st, 2017
9:12 PM
IDS said there will be staggering amounts of money for the UK when the Brexit deal is done (BBC). So no more austerity crap from the Tory party ? IDS also criticised George Osborne three times. So it`s Brexit Bardot ( metaphorically) for us and gruel-propaganda/anarchy in the EU. Nobody from Aristotle to Zizek is as famous philosophically and materialistically as Brexit . Happy Christmas.

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