26. Over The Top
Is there a stage of grief which is beyond denial and anger? I mean I briefly did denial, and anger in one form or another has been pretty much ever present in my life since I was about five. But specifically with Brexit, is there a stage of grief that just has you rolling your eyes and muttering ‘oh for the love of…’ under your breath on a loop for 24 hours a day? Well I’ve reached that level now.
In many ways it represents progress that I’m not angrily stomping about at home so much anymore, though angry stomping is just about the only exercise I get these days in reality. Nor does it mean that I’ve given up or stopped caring. Quite the opposite. I think I’ve just reached the point where I greet every latest Brexit development with utter stupefaction. Disbelief that the UK is being driven off a cliff by ideologists so wedded to their own egos and half-truths that addressing ‘immigration’ is now more important than jobs, family security, education… everything in fact. Everything that should come under the auspices of government is now seen only through the prism of ‘how will it play to myopic xenophobes?’
That PM Theresa May, formerly of the Remain camp, is being heartily congratulated by the lunatics and scorched-earthers over at UKIP tells you everything you need to know. That this is less about pragmatic governance and all about keeping the Conservatives in power for a couple of generations. Something which Jeremy Corbyn, in total agreement with Nigel Farage, is determined to achieve as well, as he insists that Labour MPs vote through Article 50 no matter what.
“We’re reaching out to the globe!” Theresa May says while pulling Britain out of a market of 27 countries and half a billion people, which is like making the decision to add a conservatory to the house you’ve just demolished. And so, bankers and other businesses measure up for carpets and curtains on the continent, powerhouse Britain just looks feeble and a bit thick. Even Nissan who had promised to build its two new models in the UK back in October, presumably after being offered some covert sweeteners, this week said something along the lines of, ‘yes, well, we’ll have to wait and see…’
Then she tells Europe that we will all be friends and good neighbours as long as they do EXACTLY what WE want. Frankly if I had a friend or neighbour like that I’d be crossing the deluded narcissist right off the Christmas card list. And then that oaf Boris Johnson comes wading in with his usual half-witted anti-diplomacy and starts comparing powerful European leaders to Nazi prison guards. You know, for a country that bangs on about the war an awful lot, we have a pitiful knowledge of the actual thing itself. Britain wasn’t invaded, partly thanks to incredible skill and bravery and partly to geographical luck. If we’d been attached to the continent it might have been very different indeed and no-one should be in any doubt as to the scars that has left on the continent. It’s why the European Union was formed in the first place, to avoid anything like that happening again. It’s a project they take very seriously and if you think that 27 other countries are going to give up on that notion just to make Britain’s post-EU position all nice and cosy, you are more than deluded, you should have your belt and shoe-laces removed and be locked in a rubber bedroom until you wise up.
I know it’s a bargaining position, I realise that. It’s old-fashioned haggling. Start with outrageous demands and see what we get. But by making those demands in such a tantrum-like, foot-stamping manner you are going to look pretty foolish when you don’t get precisely what you said you wanted. And the press who hailed you as a cross between Margaret Thatcher, Boadicea and mother Kray won’t let you forget it either.
And still there is no mention of how EU nationals in the UK and us Brits in Europe will be treated, which seems worryingly like we are the trump card to be produced when necessary. My application for French nationality continues with all the speed and clarity of a James Joyce novel. I was awaiting one more document before I could finally post the thing off, though who to is still a moot point. Well the document finally arrived! Hurrah. No hang on, don’t celebrate yet. I had asked the HMRC to provide a letter to say that I have been self-employed since 1997. It’s the final piece, hopefully, in a convoluted jigsaw puzzle and my dossier just needed this and then…
I think bureaucracy in all countries has a specific department for mealy-mouthed hindrance but this document may one day take its place in a very dark museum indeed. Perhaps as the physical catalyst that finally drove me over the edge and to run amok trying to assassinate civil servants with increasingly foppish cravats. The essence of the letter is this,
“Dear Mr Moore,
We confirm that you applied for self-employed status in July 1997.
But if anyone asks us, we’ll deny everything.
The word Kafkaesque is overused, as is Orwellian and neither really do justice to this nonsense. I’m thinking more ‘irresponsible, institutional gargantuan fuckwittery’. If I were to include that letter in my application, after translation naturally, the French bureaucrats would be at my door asking me to take them to their new leader. It would certainly do more harm than good. The single most important thing when applying for anything of this nature is to make sure there is nothing vague, nothing that will invite question. This doesn’t so much invite question as set up a four year degree course with the possibility of a doctorate at the end of it.
Then there’s my S1 health form which ‘was sent to me on December 19’ and which still hasn’t materialised.
“Can you email me a copy please?” I asked a polite lady hidden in a cellar somewhere in the north east, in another wing of the HMRC. “You see, I’m currently without health cover and that really is why I still pay my taxes in the UK.”
“Email?” She laughed, “Ooh you are a one.”
When I imagine British bureaucracy I imagine something like Bob Cratchit’s office, all sloping desks, cobwebs and those wrist guards to stop the ink getting on your shirt. Not exactly the thrusting, open for business Global Britain that’s going to once again conquer the high seas of international commerce. Maybe this adherence to the past will actually be Britain’s saviour, May and Johnson will prattle on about the war, the ‘papers will caricature Europeans as hopeless effetes, yet meanwhile the civil servants actually responsible for sending the formal notification of Article 50 will have mislaid their carrier pigeon. It’s beginning to look like our only hope.
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