As I embark on my final day at the Hay literary festival I reflect on the theme of many of the sessions I attended over the last few days – the search for a new identity which may or may not have contributed to the Brexit vote nearly two years ago.
Many speakers talked about the difficulties of living and working as a minority in a multi-cultural society built on the remnants of empire, and how large swathes of white British people are struggling to come to terms with a loss of influence and prestige associated with that imperial past.
Many feel disempowered and confused about their role and their country’s role in the world and that is reflected in the people who represent them in Parliament, who are also flailing around to define what the new post-Brexit Britishness should look like.
It is an insecurity which underlines much of the racism those minorities encounter in our society and something that we will pay dearly for as a nation once we leave the EU. I have always defined myself as a European, as that encompasses a unifying, forward-looking role for the UK that includes our economic, cultural and security interests.
The fight to stop Brexit is one that seeks to avoid the UK becoming isolated without any proper purpose. The irony is that in the search for an identity those who voted for us to leave the EU have condemned us to a backward-looking longing for past glories without any clear path to a future role in the world.