Alan Finlayson

Talk with Brexit enthusiasts for long enough and you begin to perceive the outlines of an unusual political philosophy. It makes use of the concepts you would expect – freedom, equality, authority and so on – but has, at its core, something surprising: the conviction that the future is unknowable. ‘You don’t know what will happen,’ these Brexiters will say if they catch you speculating as to the likely negotiating position of Estonia or the prospect of continued passporting rights for London-based banks. ‘Nobody can know the future.’ For the confirmed Brexiter there is no such thing as a more or less reasonable judgment of things to come. If you don’t know everything – about climate change, the economy or the political trajectory of Slovenia – then you know nothing. A line unambiguously divides the known from the unknowable. Cross it and you confirm the Brexiter’s prejudices: that you are a liar, an arrogant liberal intellectual, a ‘virtue-signaller’. The passionate intensity of Brexit’s true believers comes at least in part from their certainty that you can’t and don’t know what you are talking about.

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