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Old England is dying: The Disunited Kingdom of Brexit

5 3 15
05.12.2018

Still he sings an empire song
Still he keeps his navy strong
And he sticks his flag where it ill belongs
Old England is dying

Hothouse Flowers played the Ray D’Arcy Show the other day, and they performed a characteristically heartfelt and freewheeling version of the Waterboys’ Old England is Dying.

Old England is Dying comes from the Waterboys’ 1985 album This Is The Sea. The song takes its title from a line in James Joyce’s Ulysses, and the phrase “You’re asking what makes me sigh now / What it is makes me shudder so” comes from the WB Yeats poem Mad as The Mist and Snow. Mike Scott wrote Old England is Dying in protest at Margaret Thatcher’s social and economic policies, which Scott saw as feeding a growing sense of despair among England’s young and poor, and giving rise to increasing levels of substance abuse and heroin addiction.

Man looks up on a yellow sky
And the rain turns to rust in his eye
Rumours of his health are lies
Old England is dying

When Ray D’Arcy – over time and eating into Drive Time’s slot – wrapped up Hothouse Flowers’ cover, he said, perhaps unnecessarily, “That’s the Brexit song, really, isn’t it?”

It is, though. What started out as David Cameron’s ill-advised attempt to quieten finally the Conservative Party’s Euro-sceptic wing has turned into a full-blown existential crisis for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it threatens to leave that exhaustingly named conglomeration shorn of many of its extremities, and left possibly reduced to just Old England.

In granting the Brexiteers a referendum, Cameron betrayed his own arrogance and ignorance. Any Irish voter could have warned him that referendums have a nasty habit of taking on a life of their own, and can often become about something vastly other than what they were supposed to be.

The Leave Campaign was built on outright lies, with career charlatans like Boris Johnson simply making up nonsense claims about straight bananas, over-regulation and £350 million a week going from the NHS to the EU, to better appeal to a burning sense of resentment on the part of English nationalism. To the Brexiteers, the EU represented the Fourth Reich, with Germany, having........

© The Avondhu