The Smell of Face Palm in the Morning
People generally agree that the Vietnam War was a pretty dark episode. A war fought by a complacent superpower superficially defending its way of life; a vainglorious show of strength, epically misconceived, that divided a nation and which, even now 40 odd years after it ended, has left deep scars.
I read this week that Brexit is now our own Vietnam. That’s how bad it’s got. The comparison being that it is quite clearly an excruciating balls-up, but that no-one in any authority has the nerve to say so publicly. So, we are doomed to see it through to its unsatisfactory and bitter end while generations to come will pick at the scab of it and ask, quite rightly, ‘What the Hell, man?’
It’s always tempting with an analogy to run with it, take it to the extreme. Liam Fox for example is John Rambo. A scarred veteran, operating behind enemy lines, leaving a trail of destruction in his single-minded pursuit to free chlorinated chicken. Sniping away at British business for its steadfast refusal to see his role, and I suspect Fox in particular, as anything other than a bloody farce.
I run out of comparisons after Fox to be honest though. Who are the Vietnam equivalents to May, Davis and Johnson? I don’t see any. Johnson could be like for like of course. Waiting in the wings for power. But that’s about it. Also, who is our Hanoi Jane? The symbol of anti-government, anti-war protest, or, depending on your point of view, a vile traitor, doing the enemy’s work for them? Well now, that’s easier. They’re bloody everywhere apparently.
It is still one of the most confusing and disheartening aspects of Brexit, that to express doubt not even on the validity of the Brexit vote itself, but the actual result is regarded as undemocratic. How can using free speech to offer a different opinion on a democratic decision be undemocratic? Do these people know what democracy is? ‘You’re defying the will of the people!’ No, I’m not. I’m engaging in healthy and open debate about a decision I happen to disagree with. If the argument that opposing the ‘will of the people’, i.e. a voting majority is undemocratic, then why do we even bother with opposition parties? Ah, of course I forgot, in Labour we’ve done exactly that. Which is why they voted with the government to enshrine into law leaving the Single Market and Custom’s Union.
There’s also the notion that the country isn’t allowed to change its mind. I’m not talking about another referendum here, but politicians saying publicly and often, despite mounting evidence of how Brexit will unfold, that ‘we’ve made our choice.’ What utter nonsense. Read a bloody history book. Countries, monarchies, politicians, economists are constantly changing their minds. It’s called rationality. It might even be called grown-up. I might be wrong, but we’re not still dunking witches, are we? No? Why not? Did we change our mind on that? The first General Election in Britain was held in 1708, the Whigs won. Are they still in power? No. We changed our minds apparently. Man, we’re flighty. And frankly, I resent the notion that people aren’t allowed to change their minds being bellowed by politicians who are on their second or third marriage. Oh no! Did someone change their mind?
While we’re at it, I also strongly resent that the reason Brexit continues to go belly up is because of people like me who happen to think it’s batshit crazy. Honestly, take some responsibility in your lives. If you were mis-sold PPI despite a friend advising you that PPI was a bad idea, you know who’s fault it isn’t? Your friend’s! But that goes against Brexit logic. And by the way, Brexit is not collapsing because of ‘remoaners’ and ‘snowflakes’ like me, it’s collapsing because it’s a potty, unworkable, divisive, self-destructive idea.
There was a brief moment when people like me could have been brought on board. If May had had anything about her then when she took over she could have said this. ‘I take your decision on board. We will leave the European Union. But, if you think that means an end to economically necessary immigration, flouncing out of the world’s biggest trading bloc, or committing unnecessary economic hardship on top of six years of austerity just because some twat wants a blue passport, you’re wrong.’ She could also have said that Article 50 wouldn’t be triggered until full economic and social impact assessments had been made, or, for example, that Brexit would mean Brexit, once we had determined what Brexit actually means. An important and honest national dialogue could have begun, instead of hiding behind shameless jingoism.
She didn’t. She threatened and bullied. Appointed rank incompetent after rank incompetent. Made a series of appalling errors of judgement and then committed us to a timetable that because of crippling under preparation will mean a bad deal or no deal. And yet, people aren’t allowed to question that?! Your definition of ‘democracy’ and ‘choice’ is so narrow we just have to let gross, national mismanagement pass with a ‘mustn’t grumble’? If I see someone readying to jump off a bridge, I’ll try and talk them down, whether they think I’m the problem or not. Again, it’s the grown-up thing to do.
The flag-waving patriotism in lieu of scrutiny is numbing, and itself an argument against democracy. In the last week alone, the European Banking Agency has moved to Paris, the European Medicine’s Agency has moved to Amsterdam (drugs to Amsterdam, who saw that coming?), we are barred from the tourist boosting European Capital of Culture; for the first time in 71 years there is no longer a British judge on the International Court of Justice. A leading Brexiteer, John Redwood, who campaigned for punishments if businesses didn’t get behind the cause, now in his part-time job advises investors to put their money in Europe, not the UK. We have a Chancellor of the Exchequer who says there is no unemployment in the UK and a stunning, criminal ignorance of the Irish Border which could well see a return to violence and division. And amidst all this, the Brexit Minister urges the EU, in a frightening and fundamental misjudgement of how it works, that governments ‘put prosperity before politics.’ Not only that, but I’m being lectured about it largely by people who won’t feel the economic and social impact of their ideology; a bit like a Vietnam vet being harangued on bravery by a posh boy who got a deferment for fallen arches.
And I’m supposed to keep quiet about that, am I? Or take the blame for it even? Are you insane?
As Chris Taylor says in the film Platoon, ‘Hell is the impossibility of reason, and that’s what this place feels like. Hell.’
This is the 63rd Full English Brexit blog. It will hopefully form part of a book about my need/attempt to gain French nationality, in other words the personal fallout from Brexit. Any agents/publishers want to come forward with suggestions, please do so!
My previous bestselling books are available here.