We live in utterly surreal times here in the UK. Or, more specifically – England, as it’s unfair to tar the Scots and Northern Irish with the Brexit brush. We’ve spent the past two and a half years since the referendum on a slow course to self destruction and now we’re teetering on the edge of the cliff. Whilst we’re perched there, our political class infight and squabble, posture or play out fantasy scenarios that are so divorced from reality that you have to wonder – are they really that deluded, or are they doing this for their own ends? There’s a few honourable exceptions from both sides: Anna Soubry and David Lammy being two of the voices of reason.
Since the referendum result I’ve been hoping for an outbreak of sanity. It was obvious as soon as Teresa May drew up her red lines that Brexit was undeliverable, she was asking for the impossible. Before that it just might have worked. We’d never have had a better deal than our membership of the EU – that was always certain, but we might just have managed a less worse scenario and the utter chaos than we have now. Instead, she triggered article 50 and the countdown without any plan.
Since the referendum we’ve gone from the impossible promises of the Brexit fanatics to our own Government talking about mobilising the army to cope with a ‘no deal’ Brexit, whilst the Health Secretary is buying 1000s of fridges to stockpile medicines for the NHS. This is insane. How can a country inflict such things on itself in peacetime? And all for what? The threat of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is no threat to anyone except ourselves. All we’re doing is holding a gun to our own heads. It’s a surreal game of ‘chicken’ that no decent politician would ever inflict on their own country, yet that’s exactly what our politicians are doing, and some of them are genuinely serious about it as Brexit is like a religion to them. It’s an article of faith that no amount of fact based evidence and events of the past two and a half years will shake them from. Here’s a reminder of the broken promises and fantasy claims made by some of the architects of our downfall.
Will any of them admit to being wrong? No. They cling to Brexit as if it’s the word of God, despite the fact the EU made it crystal clear from the very beginning that it was not going to change the rules of the club just because we’d decided to leave.
I believe several things have led us to this. Once is English arrogance and exceptionalism, the bizarre belief that because we once had an Empire and were on the winning side in two world wars, we were somehow ‘better’ than everyone else, that we were blessed because of an accident of birth and could do no wrong. Whatever happened, we’d always come out on top. The second is complacency about the state of our democracy and a lack of engagement or understanding of the political institutions that underpin both our country and the European Union. I’ve lost track of the numbers of bonkers conversations I’ve had (and still have) with people who clearly have no idea how these things work, but who spout whatever slant they’ve been fed by the newspaper they read, or social media group they’re part of. I’ve never been a fan of conspiracy theories, but now there’s too much evidence out there not to appreciate how a few very rich (so powerful) people have used their money and the media (which they own) to manipulate opinions. It’s been going on for years in the way newspapers like the Mail and Express have poisoned the debate about immigration. It came to a head in the referendum, with massive manipulation of social media – such as targeted ads on Facebook directed at people who’d been identified by harvesting their data. Social media has proved to be as much of a curse as a blessing. We now know the problems, but the problem is no-one is doing anything about it. Our democracy is broken, but no-one wants to ask the awkward questions (unlike in the US, or EU) never mind find ways to fix it.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are caught up in the insanity of it all – including the business community, who are tearing their hair out at the uncertainty and unpreparedness for a major change in our economic relationship with our biggest market: Europe. Here’s an example.
To add to the shitstorm we’re seeing the rise of the far-right, who’ve been emboldened by Brexit. Racism has become fashionable again. Sadly, where I live (West Yorkshire), it never really went away. It was one of the things that shocked me when I first moved here in 2010, the fact you’d hear people use the term ‘Paki’ quite openly and unashamedly. It’s quite clear to me that a lot of the Brexit vote here was driven by attitudes to immigration. The supreme irony is that this is mostly about religion and skin colour – something that leaving the EU will do nothing about as these are Commonwealth citizens they’re normally talking about, not EU citizens. In fact, we’ll probably need more dark skinned folk from the Commonwealth and elsewhere to take the place of the EU citizens who currently keep the NHS running but who no longer feel welcome so are leaving!
Today the EU published what it would do in the vase of an insane no deal Brexit. It highlights the utter stupidity and dishonesty of the Leave campaign’s slogan “Take back control”
The main points are;
British airlines to operate flights into and out of the EU but not within in it
Hauliers to carry freight by road into the EU for a nine-month period without having to apply for permits
UK financial services regulations – in a limited number of areas – to be recognised as equivalent to the EU’s for one or two years
The icing on the cake?
“Brussels says the arrangements will be strictly time-limited, lasting only for a few months and will be ended without any consultation with the UK“
Our country has never been so divided, nor have so many of us been ignored by the political classes. Political discourse has been poisoned by sections of the media who label people ‘traitors’ in echoes of Nazi propaganda from the 1930s – another parallel I’ve always been reluctant to make – but not anymore. When we have the Brexit fanatics threatening riots in the streets if a ‘true’ Brexit (whatever the hell that is) isn’t delivered, and politicians from right and left back them up we are in deep, deep shit. That’s not leadership, that’s the sort of cowardice that opens the door to fascism.
Whilst we have all these forces in play, our politicians posture around May’s proposed deal that no-one really supports but where few MPs have the backbone to stand up and say “this is madness, what are we doing to ourselves”? Which leaves people like me deeply pessimistic about the future of the country and venting my spleen via a blog.
In just over a week’s time we’re off to New Zealand. I’m starting to regret that I’m not 20 years younger, otherwise I might not come back. 2019 is going to be a year when the shit hits the fan and we have no idea how far it’s going to fly…
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