Simanaitis Says

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WHAT WITH ONE thing and another in the U.S. these days, Americans tend to have less than overwhelming concern about Brexit. On the other hand, Britain’s hyperchaotic intention to leave the European Union can have a certain entertainment value for us, with a dash of Schadenfreude as well.

The London Review of Books provides its usual witty and erudite observations on this in two articles in its January 3, 2019, issue: “Which Way to the Exit?,” by David Runciman, and “What Europeans Talk About When They Talk About Brexit,” assembled by LRB correspondents in countries ranging from B Bulgaria to S Sweden, with occasionally bits of X Xenophobia cited here and there.

Here are tidbits gleaned from these two articles.

The British Union Jack. This and the following images from

Questions from David Runciman. “Why did not one Tory abstain from the vote of confidence in Theresa May?,” Runciman asks. (The tally was 200 for the Prime Minister, 117 against her.) “The whole process felt a bit uncanny,” Runciman observes. “The poll was triggered in secret one night and fully concluded by the next. Turnout was a Stalinist 100 percent—a figure only achieved by allowing two MPs who had lost the whip over allegations of sexual misconduct back into the fold for this occasion—and there were no spoilt ballots.”

Our own 2018 midterm elections should have exhibited such complete representation. Or maybe not.

Runciman remarks about the British quandary: “Are we stuck because we are so divided or are we so divided because we’re stuck?”

Sound familiar?

A View from Belgium. Patrick McGuinness writes, “When people talk about Belgium and Belgians, they need to specify which Belgians…. Our families and communities, not to mention many of our trees and houses, have longer histories than our country. My family home in Boullion, on the French border, is decked with photographs of relatives who were born before Belgium was created.”

For the benefit of us Yanks, who mark all history from 1776, Belgium separated from the Netherlands in 1830.


I love McGuinness’ Brexit observation: “When Belgians—whether from the Flemish, the Walloon or the often overlooked German community—watch the Götterdämmerung of ineptocracy that is Brexit, they are baffled but entertained. There may be some well-deserved Schadenfreude as they watch what happens to a country that becomes addicted to fetishising its own nationhood and imbibes too many of the clichés it once produced for export: commonsensical, mild, tolerant people led by pragmatic, cultivated politicians upholding the dignity of their office in the Mother of Parliaments.”

Except for the Mother of Parliaments part, does this remind you of any other country?

McGuinness concludes with, “I found more preparation for Brexit on Zeebrugge port’s website than I’ve seen, read, or heard from British politicians or (most of) the media. Zeebrugge will be ‘entirely Brexit-proof,’ the port authority says. The view from Belgium is that the only place that isn’t Brexit-proof is Britain itself.”

Croatia “has more experience than most in entering and exiting alliances,” writes Dubravka Ugrešić. After the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918, it became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Then came a brief autonomous Banovina of Croatia (1939), a Nazi puppet state (1941), the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia (post-war), and Croatia’s leaving that alliance (1991).


“Croatia became the 28th member of the EU in 2013,” Ugrešić writes. “Although it acceded later than Bulgaria and Romania, the government took great pride in getting there before Serbia.”

Ugrešić observes, “Most Brexit-related articles in the Croatian press refer to Croatia’s alleged concern about what will happen to Croatian citizens living in the U.K. This is something of a joke. The Croatian political elite… has sold off everything that could be sold over the last 27 years of independence—there has been nepotism, corruption and all the rest.”

“After they had destroyed everything they could possibly destroy,” Ugrešić continues, “their unemployed and hungry citizens fled the country because any job in Ireland, Iceland, or on the Faroe Islands was better than digging through rubbish bins in Croatia.”


A Danish Newspaper sums up the Brexit quandary. Christopher Prendergast reports reading “a headline in English, though anchored in the land of Elsinore: ‘To Be or Not to Be, That is Not the Question.’ The real ‘question’ doesn’t concern the merits of Leave or Remain, but the complexities of a twin crisis, in both the UK and the EU.”

Gee, I’m glad we have no complexities of crises here in the U.S. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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