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Brexit Sweat and Tears

For years after World War II, Britons were aware of the palpable shift in the country’s fortunes. But there was a deep aversion to accepting the UK’s diminished status, and the failure – beginning with Winston Churchill – of successive generations of politicians to address it is what has led to the current impasse.

LONDON – I recently saw an American play in London called “Sweat,” written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Lynn Nottage. It was performed previously on and off Broadway and was described by the Wall Street Journal as a play that helped to explain Donald Trump’s election as president.

Nottage had spent some time talking to the residents of a poor city in Pennsylvania which was losing jobs and its modest prosperity because of the contraction of the steel industry. Competition from cheaper manufacturers and lower-paid workers around the world had devastated an already-weak economy and provoked conflict between friends, relatives, and races.

Economically marginalized workers were also feeling culturally beleaguered. The world in which they had grown up – its values and fixed identity – was, it seemed to them, being systematically trashed. They turned – not necessarily in the expectation of answers – to a billionaire outsider who, unlike the political elites, had not yet let them down and appeared to share their contempt for the establishment.

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