Towards the end of Joseph Heller’s mighty Catch 22, Yossarian staggers around war torn Rome, lurching from scenes of murder and assault, decadence and poverty and wonders what it’s all about. Was it worth it? Is this the better world they were fighting for? Or just more of the same? Or tragically, is it worse than before?
It’s very easy to be sold on an idea, an ideal even. It used to happen to me every week. I’d be staggering home on a Friday night, a few cold beverages to the good, side-stepping my own ‘mini-Rome’ and be seduced, suckered by the mouth-watering glamour of the kebab. Not the actual kebab, of course, but the pictures above the kebab shop menu. The greatest creative, photographic trick ever pulled. The talent needed to produce photos of dodgy, re-hashed, processed meat lumps into the equivalent of food porn, clickbait for the peckish drunk, is one of the great unsung artforms of the modern era.
Brexit is the same. People fell for the ideal, the glossy picture, but the reality is distinctly underwhelming. What’s different of course is that when I, very occasionally, pointed out that my doner was nothing like the picture, the reply was a surly ‘so what’ shrug. The reply with Brexit is to point at the facts and say, ‘No. This is EXACTLY what we wanted all along.’ It isn’t, it wasn’t, it won’t be. I repeat, Brexit is a shitty idea, being handled shittily and by utter shits.
The government, in a rare act of competence, commissioned Impact Studies on the effects of Brexit. What will Brexit, in its various guises from single market through to the skirt-hitching, running away ‘no deal’ actually mean for the 58 industry sectors? Now, I’m not saying I know what the results of these studies are, but if the government is refusing to publish the results my guess is that not only do they not back up current rhetoric, they make a mockery of government policy and can be summed up neatly with a creek/paddle scenario. Or, that actually, Project Fear would become Project I-Bloody-Told-You-So.
Labour, also in a rare act of competence, have won the right to force the government to publish these impact studies. That will be Labour whose current policy is to support what used to be called a Hard Brexit, demanding the evidence that their own policy is, at best, flawed. The government’s argument for not publishing is that it would hand the EU an advantage in the negotiations if they saw the result of Brexit. Yes. Right. The thing is all the other nations have carried out impact studies and published them too with the upshot being that creek/paddle, certainly in terms of GDP, is actually the least worst outcome for the UK. Never mind there being no paddle, there might not even be a boat to sit in.
Do we even need these impact studies? The drip, drip of poor economic data continues. Except for the Service sector, Britain’s main exporting asset, which is thriving for now, but which will be hardest hit when Brexit actually happens, particularly in the event of a No Deal. I’m on new medication which is causing a constant, low level of flatulence – seriously, night times sound like the brass section of an orchestra warming up their embouchures – the slow feed of economic bad news is the same thing. Each one, on its own, can be handled, even amuse the kids, but a deluge would be too much, and deeply unpleasant. The government knows this, the opposition knows this, even the more rabid elements of the media know it too but they’ve promised a feast, a juicy, succulent, salad filled banquet and to admit to anything less is beyond them. A report has said that many companies, while preparing to move if Brexit does go belly-up, are also preparing their non-Brexit excuses, fearing a backlash if they tell the truth. Liam Fox continues to bang on about chlorinated chicken, totally misunderstanding that it’s not the end result of the meat itself, yes, chlorinated chicken is ‘less dangerous’, but the humanity of the processes involved. Boris Johnson pledges that the rights of EU citizens ‘will be universally protected, no matter what happens.’ As if a Boris Johnson pledge has any currency at all these days, and isn’t about as trustworthy as a knock-off perfume seller. Everybody is hiding from the reality.
The Impact Studies will be something tangible on which to hold them to account. They are a benchmark for just how good or bad Brexit will be. A paper trail that none of them want. I ‘won’ £229 off Ryanair for a €15 flight that they thought they could cancel and get away with, this is the same thing. Ryanair didn’t want me to know what my rights were and were forced into it. This government doesn’t want you to know the truth of what lies ahead, it would make them accountable. I suspect that there are members of the government looking for a Michael Fallon type escape route. Fallon resigned because his behaviour was ‘inappropriate’ and his initial defence was that it was apparently the norm ’10 to 15 years ago.’ Firstly, you can’t blame everything on the last Labour government and secondly, no it wasn’t. Unwanted sexual molestation wasn’t ever the norm, it’s never been right or acceptable. Sexual harassment or assault never had a heyday, it’s a crime of entitlement and bullying not a fashion item. But he jumped too quickly for me, desperate to get out even in disgrace. He won’t be the last.
I was staying at a five star hotel in Manchester and it was two in the morning. Overnight room service in the UK is a forlorn effort at the best of times, a sandwich if you’re lucky, a pizza with no toppings if you’re really desperate. This one had curry on the menu and I rang down to the lone security guard on reception. A sweaty, overweight man in his 60s whose job was security, receptionist, porter and room service waiter to pampered famished comedians.
‘It’ll be about 10 minutes.’ He said gruffly. Ten minutes, I thought, that sounds a bit quick.
He knocked on my door 30 minutes later, the tray in one hand and he leaned against the door frame, out of breath, though the lift was just yards away. He looked me in the eye apologetically and lifted the silver cloche off the plate. It looked like an old scab. Burnt around the edges and a reddy, brown colour.
‘Sorry mate.’ His accent was pure Manchester and he was genuinely apologetic. ‘Sorry mate.’ He repeated. ‘I’ve fucked it.’
Who will be the first in the government to admit the same?
This is the 61st Full English Brexit blog, so far it has had hundreds of thousands of reads, which is just lovely. It will – hopefully – be part of a book. But when that book comes out is difficult to say. It’s with a brilliant agent and the feedback is good… but, you know, Brexit innit?
My other best-selling books are available here IAN’S BOOKS.