As the Brexit vision fades, it is worth asking why the issue has been so heated and why, in particular, Remainers have been so convinced of their tenure of the Moral High Ground.
Justin Welby put the case with uncharacteristic candour*.
The EU, he told the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) in Serbia, was ‘the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Western Roman Empire’; it had ‘brought peace, prosperity, compassion for the poor and weak, purpose for the aspirational, and hope for all its people’.
Behind the pragmatic arguments, based on economic self-interest, which are the stock in trade of the political class, there lurks, it seems, an ideological substratum. It can, perhaps, be sloganized: Confederation good; Nation State bad.
Such a sentiment may be attractive to the twenty-seven (most of which achieved statehood and national identity in very recent times). It is arguably less potent in a country whose unity dates back to the ninth century and whose democratic institutions were forged in the seventeenth.
Why, we must ask, would such a country sink its distinctive identity in an emerging entity dominated by France and Germany (nations which, together, have wrought untold havoc in the European homeland), and which includes a majority of states with very doubtful democratic credentials? Why, moreover, should an island nation embrace the policy of wholesale transhumance which has been established as the sine qua non of such an arrangement?
The Archbishop of Canterbury will no doubt take time off from his day job to tell us.
*Note: There is greater unanimity among the bishops of the Church of England over Brexit than over the doctrine of the Eucharist.