In This Review

Dreams of Leaving and Remaining
Dreams of Leaving and Remaining
By James Meek
Verso, 2019, 272 pp

This book’s title belies its content: it covers dreams only of leaving the EU, not of remaining in it. Indeed, the book belongs to a distinct genre of journalism that has recently emerged, in which a distinguished member of the chattering classes sallies out from London, New York, or a university town to record (for metropolitan consumption) the thoughts and feelings of populist sympathizers in the hinterland. Meek, an editor at the London Review of Books, visits a fishing village, a farming town, a former Cadbury chocolate factory, and an urban medical complex. He relates colorful and engaging tales of such places that his readers rarely visit and of the common folk who live there. He concludes that British supporters of leaving the EU view themselves as heirs to the legacy of Saint George: they must slay a foreign dragon, regardless of the practical consequences. It is tempting to think that such stories accurately capture the decisive sources of support for Brexit and other populist movements, but it is impossible to know for sure. More interesting is Meek’s own left-wing analysis of the EU, which ignores local prejudices and instead highlights foreign investment, battles over government subsidies, industrial decline, labor shortages, and other reasons for mass discontent among the older and more rural citizens of the United Kingdom.