Paving over paradise may not seem an apt metaphor for leaving the EU. How long have we railed against rules, regulations and the complexity of getting agreements amongst 28 States? How long have we bemoaned the deadening bureaucracy and the overhead costs of managing projects that must necessarily be communitarian to qualify for funding? How much easier, we might imagine, to go our own way?
Set aside the heretical thought that much of that complexity might have been of our making – that some determinedly perverse interpretations of EU directives might just have suited UK governments’ ideological agendas but could conveniently be blamed on some distant malevolent conspiracy.
Gradually, barely perceptibly, as layers of revelation are unpeeled, the true value of that bureaucratic buffer zone can now be measured. Paradise is not absolute but relative.
Relative to the prevailing chaotic confusion, that buffer zone may be revalued as a paradise. Yes, that drag, that discipline, that ‘better togetherness’, those huge hurdles to gain consensus, to seek collaborative advantage and moderate nationalistic fervour, and in doing so reduce action to the most essential issues, is looking increasingly attractive. Paving it over to erect parking lots for ministerial cars carrying a new set of homegrown zealots is no great bargain.
And, while we are thinking about absolutes, think what it means to be English or British. Ish, sort of, defies the absolute. The diversity of ish is in our very nature. We delight in approximation and ambiguity. The global success of the language owes much to its flexibility. Its roots reveal remarkable transformations – like the origins of heresy in the ancient Greek word hairesis – a choosing.
So the country has chosen – and one half (or the other) has opted for a heretical path. The fabric, so carefully woven over decades, must be unpicked and refashioned in a different style for some new leader who will doubtless speak of unity as thin cover for naked ambition.
Paradise may be scheduled to be paved over. “Don’t it always seem to go, that we’ll not know what we’ve lost ‘til its gone”.*
* Joni Mitchell, a singer