Review of the Year

Britain is broken, can it be healed?

Mary Dejevsky looks back over a tumultuous year. Brexit had already divided the country, but in 2020 the coronavirus and the end of the transition period made those divisions harder to ignore

Thursday 31 December 2020 18:06
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<p>Farage addresses pro-Brexit supporters at the Leave Means Leave party at Parliament Square on 31 January 2020</p>

Farage addresses pro-Brexit supporters at the Leave Means Leave party at Parliament Square on 31 January 2020

I

t was late evening of 31 January 2020, and there seemed just a chance, a remote chance, of a reluctant coming together. The fissure exposed by the Brexit vote – a fissure that had by now spread cracks all over the once reasonably United Kingdom – might yet be capable of being, if not bridged, then respectably papered over.

I was in London’s Parliament Square that night – as were fewer people than you might have expected at what will be seen forever as a historic juncture: the UK’s official departure from the European Union. And some of us, at least – as I overheard from the Americans immediately behind me – were there for the history rather than the rejoicing, which was unexpectedly muted.

Nigel Farage, by now of the Brexit Party, though with a reasonable claim to have been masterminded the whole Eurosceptic project, had hoped for a sparkling Leave Means Leave jamboree to see out the UK’s 47 years of EU  membership. One by one, though, most of the grandiose plans had been stripped away by a central government concerned not to inflame passions further and by a city government whose voters had massively supported Remain.

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