Britain fought wars to save Europe

Everybody here in continental Europe knows how attached the British are to their military victories. Waterloo, on the outskirts of Brussels, remains a little shrine to British might in the face of dastardly French imperialism. Dunkirk – although hardly a victory – has been evoked many times in the context of leaving the EU. Yet, behind the easy historical analogies lies a fundamental truth about the rationale for Brexit. Put simply, the idealised memories of British victories in the Great Wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are impossible to reconcile with the reality of Britain’s actual global role in 2019.

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