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Brexiters’ adoption of war language will stop Britain from finding peace

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Brexit’s wounds will always bleed. Britain cannot “go back to normal” whether a deal is done or not. Normal in Britain now is a civil war without the bloodshed. The warring parties cannot sign a peace treaty and pretend the fair-minded, sensible Britain of the national myth will carry on as before. That land is dead and gone, however loudly our trash prime minister tries to atone for his guilt with promises to “bring the country together”.

The language of war has been the language of Brexit. The right raids the dressing-up box for Battle of Britain uniforms. The prime minister damns half the population as quislings advocating betrayal and surrender. Dominic Cummings’s hero Bismarck fought three wars to unify Germany. Cummings talks as if he’s ready to unleash one to break up Britain. Paranoid fear of enemies within, once confined to the rightwing press and far-right politics, now defines British conservatism.

Call Conservatives far right and you must expect the sound of wailing. “You can’t compare the Brexit referendum to Trump’s election,” they declare. “You can’t say it’s racist to worry about immigration.” “You can’t say Farage and Johnson are extremists.” For people who say they believe in freedom of speech, Britain’s Conservatives exhibit a neurotic compulsion to police debate.

For all their censorious cries, Conservatives once believed in small government, the avoidance of ideological frenzy, and tradition. Now they do not. In 2005, the authentically Nazi British National party stood on a manifesto that said nothing should stop us leaving the EU. Britain must........

© The Guardian