Whatever you think of Stephens’s argument, his book is a crushing bore. It is supposed to be a book about Britain, but Britain is largely absent. His narrative never goes outside Whitehall, let alone London, and the only characters are a tiny handful of politicians and civil servants. At no point does a single non-political person say, think or do anything. He devotes nine lines to our first European referendum in 1975, yet more than five pages to Tony Blair’s interventions in Kosovo and Sierra Leone. He never looks back at the long centuries of British history, and never shows the slightest curiosity about people who voted Leave. Perhaps most extraordinarily, he says virtually nothing about Europe. It is just there, offstage: homogenous, unchanging, a beacon of high-minded sanctity, a standing rebuke to Britain’s lamentable self-delusion.
Granted, the book is called Britain Alone, but even so it is astounding to tell the story of the British relationship with Europe without saying anything significant about the latter. Not one book by a European is cited. The reason seems clear. Brexit is assumed to be a purely British pathology, a perverse refusal to enter the Celestial City, so no more needs to be said. This dogma is reiterated throughout, and like all dogma requires no proof. It will comfort the faithful, but I doubt it will make many converts.