IT is hard to believe that within the lifetime of many people reading this Britain alone upheld the flame of freedom for Europe.

Hard to believe it was from these shores that D Day (Deliverance Day) was mounted.

Hard to believe it was chiefly the sacrifice of British lives, together with those of our by-then ally the US, that released Europe from one the most vile tyrannies the world has known.

And don’t we take pride in having remained unconquered since that unfortunate blip down at Hastings almost a thousand years ago? That misfortune was just bad luck – the product of a chance arrow strike and the exhaustion of our troops, who had just made the long, wearying march from a battle in Yorkshire.

Yes, Britons never, never, never shall be slaves. Except we are now offering ourselves up as such through what has become the national shame of Brexit. For in place of the defiant stand-alone nation which, on the back of its centuries of independence, defied the Nazis, Brexit has revealed us to be now supine and spineless.

Throughout the negotiations we have acted as supplicants, begging favours. But Brexit should simply have been us telling, or rather informing, the EU that we intended to leave, by the process laid down by the EU itself. Goodwill from both sides should then have achieved a workable, amicable parting. But the EU adopted a blocking policy, to which our craven response has been to make concession after concession.

The upshot is that when Brexit arrives in just nine months’ time, we will remain largely bound to the EU but, crucially, no longer with a vote in its affairs. This self-wrought thraldom is a complete humiliation. According to close EU observers it has led the nations we saved from the Nazis to now view us with scorn and derision.

We have only one card left to play – whether joker, trump or misplaced snap card, who knows? We can quit immediately, withholding the £39bn we have offered to pay despite there being no obligation to pay even a penny. I believe Theresa May’s ratings would soar if she announced this dramatic step. But this much is certain. The EU sells more to us than we sell to them. Maintaining that UK market is vital to the EU. Sensible arrangements would surely follow.

RARELY has the saying “every picture tells a story” been better proved than with the pictures that accompanied the reports in this newspaper, and its sister The Darlington and Stockton Times, of the recent major high street shop closures.

The Echo’s front page picture of Binns in Darlington shows just nine people outside its long frontage.

Only two people are visible in a picture outside Binns’ Middlesbrough store. And, apart from a lone figure on a seat, the pavement is similarly deserted in a D&S picture of Stockton’s doomed M&S.

We’ve abandoned the high street – or too many of us have. “What does Amazon sell?” my wife asked, reading of the carnage. Neither she nor I have ever bought anything online and we seldom visit a retail park. But we’re survivors from a fast vanishing world, and we and it will soon be gone. That sprinkling of figures outside those obsolete stores will just be ghosts.