The image of senior politicians from the former heartland of the British Empire vociferously condemning the European Union for its alleged attempts to reduce the United Kingdom to the status of a “colony” is more than a little ironic given that the UK has spent the last several decades extolling the virtues of its own colonial history. Indeed, the Brexit movement is driven in part by the widespread belief that the country’s former imperial territories are only too eager to return to London’s oversight, creating a mercantile Empire 2.0 for the 21st century.
Has the term “colony” now become a bad thing in the British political lexicon? Boris Johnson, Britain’s ex-minister for foreign affairs and a leading Brexiteer, certainly seems to think so, as he outlined in an opinion piece for the right-wing Daily Telegraph:
I want you to savour the full horror of this capitulation.
Under Article 50, the UK is at least able in theory to leave the EU. We do not have to consult any other authority.
But under these proposals we are agreeing that the EU would have a say on whether this country is capable of making that final exit from the EU’s essential institution, the customs union.
In other words, we are on the verge of signing up for something even worse than the current constitutional position.
These are terms that might be enforced on a colony.
The only horror here is the chaotic mess that passes for British government and diplomacy, as the UK tries to negotiate its way out of the EU, convinced of its own innate exceptionalism. And unable to compromise in that belief.