Full English Brexit: #33

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Johnny Marr

Maybe I’m just in a bad mood. This winter has now lasted officially longer than the first Ice Age, to the extent that we now only have enough firewood for two days at most. I am whacked out on a combination of various medications, Tramadol, Artotec and Piescledine because my spinal cartilage has decided to seek sunnier climes and buggered off; leaving in its wake, raw nerve on spinal disc. I have also, since Christmas, developed arthritis in my hands, and in the space of a few weeks gone from having a pair of pristine, potentially model-worthy hands, to having Davros-like claws. I’m even now wearing one of those mumbo-jumbo magnetic bracelets because ‘it did wonders for the dog’s arthritis’. Add to that, despite being physically decrepit I practically ran across Paris yesterday in an attempt to make a nigh on impossible connection home. Breathing heavily, wracked with pain and barely able to talk I got on my train at 12.14, the departure time set for 12.16. Then I watched as the train I should have been on pulled away on the platform opposite, leaving with me a look on my face that was neither anger nor frustration but just sheer numbing awe at my own rank ineptitude.

So, I’ll admit. I’m a bit cranky.

I’m stubborn you see. Whenever I’m travelling home I’ll take the earliest route possible. It doesn’t matter how hard, physically, that route is, I just have to get home. The time between not working and heading back is dead time. I can’t sleep, I can’t write, I’m just solely focussed on the journey and my connections. Natalie has often said that I should take my time, try and travel in a more relaxing, less demanding way. It would be easier on my body for one, and also I wouldn’t be so shattered and grouchy when I do eventually fall in the door. But no. This is the way I do things, this is how I want to do things and I will continue to do things in exactly this way despite it being obviously pig-headed, physically debilitating and, at times, just plain wrong.

Sound familiar?

I was always against the idea of a second Brexit referendum. I think people’s views are too entrenched. There may be a few waverers, but what would happen if there was another shot at the thing but this time Remain won, and by the same flimsy margin? Chaos, that’s what. But that of course depends on the question asked. It strikes me that if Tim Martin, chairman of Wetherspoons pubs and a very vocal Brexit campaigner, is publicly saying that the British economy needs immigration, then Britain needs immigration. But the government’s stance seems to be all about stopping immigration at the expense of everything else. Few businesses can afford for Britain not to be in the Single Market, the infrastructure and legal framework doesn’t exist to suddenly go it alone without a deal and yet that’s the likely outcome.

So maybe we do need a second referendum question. Something that is more nuanced than the first one, how about:

Are you willing to enter a deep and lasting recession with threats to your own livelihood, home, national security, education and future prosperity? Would you therefore allow further murderous cuts to public services, the dismantling of the NHS and unbalanced trade agreements with Donald Trump just because there’s a Polish Supermarket opened where the shoe menders used to be?

I think that’s fair. It’s about where we’ve come to in the argument so why not make it official? This is basically how the conversations are going now anyway. ‘Yes, I know we’ll never be able to eat again but rather that than smoked Romanian sausage.’

The government of course is doing its best to appeal to the narrow, rose-tinted spectacles market. The promised return of Grammar Schools is just neat language in the argument, ‘Ah, the 1950s, weren’t they great?’ they’ll say and their audience goes all misty-eyed and cheers wildly. National Service will rear its familiar head sooner or later no doubt, though with 90% of hospitality workers about to become illegal immigrants and face deportation, I suggest National Service should be renamed National Silver Service and include battalions of highly trained Baristas and sandwich makers.

Then there’s talk of Empire 2.0. Liam Fox is keen that Britain, once having left the world’s largest trading block, should boost its trade with New Zealand and Fiji and the like. The truth is that Britain leaving the EU is actually something of a blow to other Commonwealth countries as they can no longer use their relationship with Britain for their own goods to gain access to the EU market, something that may cost them as much €800 million a year. There is no chance that the Commonwealth could come even close to replacing the markets lost by leaving the European Union. And who came up with the name Empire 2.0 for Christ’s sakes? It sounds like an old computer game. The kind of convoluted, adventure nonsense that bored most of its players into submission, all soft music and unrealistic bird noises as I remember and utterly dull. I know it’s all nostalgia driven and so on but I don’t think ‘Empire’ is necessarily a good starting point in trade negotiations anyway.

‘Hey we’re back! We nicked your land, ransacked your raw materials, enslaved your people and enforced cricket on you! Miss us?’

Honestly, Empire references, war references, why is it always about looking backwards? And how far back do we go? Is our Monarch going to nostalgically cause a schism in her own religion? Shall we invade Malta? May as well, it is in the Commonwealth. Are the government going to announce a heavy investment programme in the Spinning Jenny? All this banging on about a world that no longer exists is the trade off because no one is being honest about how they’re screwing up the future.

It’s the bluff, middle-aged white man certainty of the language used, grammar schools, war, empire, foreigners and so on that’s so utterly depressing; like a bleak drama of a dystopian present. They talk about leaving the EU as a ‘divorce’ and that is an obvious comparison, but they talk about divorces as if they’re easy things with no fallout. Well, maybe theirs were, but this is no ordinary divorce. This isn’t the splitting of two people, this is the splitting of one from 27 others. This is a Mormon divorce. And each of those 27 wronged spouses has their own gripes and wants and no amount of burying your head in history books is going to sort that out easily.

Like I say, maybe I’m just cranky, but there is an all-round dishonesty going on here, a wilful ignorance and obfuscation about the reality of the situation our government has put us in and it’s making me despair. It would make me angry too, but the meds are seeing to that. It would also be getting my back up, but then I no longer have one. I just can’t get past the feeling that as a country Britain is now sitting on the wrong train, on the wrong platform and at the wrong time and I have some experience of how that works out.

Thank you for reading this blog, so far it’s had over 200,000 views. Feedback is always welcome, from all sides, but keep the abuse to a minimum because, as you’ve read, I’ve got a bad back am whacked out on painkillers and liable to kick off.

This will form part of my new book about Brexit, my quest for French nationality and the perennial issue of arsey goats and cats. If you are a publisher/Literary agent interested in talking about the book version, please get in touch. It will be ready and finished by the end of March and could be out in time for the Brexit anniversary.

You can buy my two best-selling books here.

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  • Don says:

    Very enjoyable read, Ian.
    I like the way you neatly brought us back to and concluded with the wrong train metaphor. Beautifully done. Very satisfying.
    Brexit means “We took the wrong train”.
    I hope it’s not our epitaph .

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