Columnists > We have become in these islands an extended family that does not know itself

27 July 2016 | by Peter Hennessy

We have become in these islands an extended family that does not know itself


In 1930, Winston Churchill said: “The compass has been damaged. The charts are out of date.” He was speaking as a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the aftermath of the Great Crash of 1929.

I recalled those words after the EU referendum as our individual and collective imaginations began to play with the pitfalls and possibilities in what will be a long adjustment in the UK’s geopolitical and geoeconomic positions in Europe and the wider world. In terms of post-2016 charts and compasses, the only certainty is uncertainty.  

Shortly after the Brexit vote, at Westminster I fell into conversation with Sir Nicholas Soames, veteran, Conservative MP and Churchill’s grandson. “It’s the end of the post-war settlement,” he said. An intriguing point. As a child of the early post-war years, his assessment set me thinking. The post-1945 grain has been pretty consistently in the direction of European integration. In 1947, the year I was born, the US Secretary of State, George Marshall, came up with his plan for the reconstruction of Western Europe.


Subscribe to The Tablet from just £19.99 quarterly
3 options available

Share this story

Article List

Post a Comment

You can post as a subscriber user...

User Comments (0)


Sign up for our newsletter

Sign Up

Latest Issue
Digital/PDF Version

PDF version (iPad-friendly)

Previous Issues
Tablet Subscription

Manage my subcription here