‘It’s a funny old game,’ Jimmy Greaves used to say. ‘It’s a funny old game.’ He’d repeat ad nauseum. I wonder if Theresa May was thinking it’s a ‘funny old game’ the other night? I don’t mean the other night when she got her backside handed to her on a House of Commons silver platter, but the other, other night when the heads of the EU27 gave her a standing ovation and a ‘warm round of applause’ for her work in getting things to a stage where things might progress to the next stage. Do you think there were pangs of regret? Bitter, hidden tears? Some private grief that her erstwhile colleagues back home were gouging each other’s eyes out and sharpening their knives for her, while the people she’s trying to turn her back on gave her a display of public support in order to bolster her weakening position?
I’d like to think she got back to her hotel, raided the mini-bar, kicked off her slingbacks and texted her old man with a, ‘WTF! I just don’t know who I am anymore LOL.’
There’d be some irony if she was questioning her identity at this point, because that’s exactly the kind of unwelcome, exceptional position of self-reflection she’s dumped millions of others into. Remember, ‘Citizens of Nowhere’, they’re the problem apparently. I’m very English, I just happen to live in France but to maintain the status and rights I currently have as a British citizen, I must become French. At my French citizenship interview I had to basically pitch myself as a Frenchman. Was it a stretch? Did I feel tawdry and a bit mercenary? No. Once I might have. But right now, I have no affiliation with Britain beyond birth and tailoring. I am a one-club footballer who’s been discarded by the new management, and therefore happy to ply his trade elsewhere for a few seasons.
There’s millions of us like that, but they don’t care. Steve Peers, Professor of EU, Human Rights and Trade Law at the University of Essex wrote a detailed analysis of the ‘agreement’ to get phase one passed.
“I recently met a civil servant who admitted that the UK side is not interested in negotiating about such details, despite the UK government’s public expressions of concern for UK citizens in the EU27. The awkward fact here is that, due to the inherent reciprocity in this aspect of the talks, the UK government could not be an effective advocate for retaining UK citizens’ rights in the EU27 – because of its primary interest in curtailing rights of EU27 citizens in the UK.”
Don’t worry, the EU have our back on this. EU negotiator Guy Verhofstadt is always telling us so, isn’t he? Well, isn’t he? Here’s Jane Golding, chair of the pressure group, British in Europe:
“In May, the European commission offered to confirm our existing rights but the UK government didn’t accept the offer, and now we are left worse off.”
In other words, the EU promised to maintain the Freedom of Movement for British citizens currently using that right, for example a family living/working in Italy could still retire to Spain. But as The Guardian put it, ‘The EU reneged on this offer after the government put the curtailing of EU citizens’ rights before the rights of its own citizens.’
Blimey. Thanks a bunch everyone. The British government there, flushing away the rights of its own citizens so that it can pander to Farage and Red Top xenophobia. And now with EU acquiescence, because this wasn’t supposed to happen to qualify for the next phase of negotiations. ‘We’ve been sacrificed on the altar of trade.’ Said Ingrid Taylor, a Brit settled in Germany. British citizens aren’t even bargaining chips anymore, we’re the bar that can be lowered to set the sub-standard in citizens’ rights. At the risk of sounding like the old prisoner in The Life of Brian, ‘Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be a bargaining chip now!’
So, if the government and the EU no longer give a toss, maybe the British Parliament itself will come riding to the rescue? The ‘rebels’ having won a significant victory in scrutinising the Brexit process and final ‘divorce’ legislation will surely come valiantly to the defence of their citizens’ rights, yeah? Oh, hang on. Anyone who’s lived abroad for more than 15 years doesn’t get a vote, do they? So they’re of no interest or use. And the ‘opposition’ (I use that term very loosely, Corbyn’s as hard a Brexiteer as any Tory nutjob) are more interested in avoiding any definite position at all. Besides which, the House of Commons now resembles a brawl in a Wild West saloon, colleagues turning on colleagues as Cameron’s idea of ‘uniting’ the Conservative Party over Europe and the referendum continues to look about as calming as throwing chum into a shoal of piranha. Former Tory rebels having a pop at current Tory rebels because the current Tory rebels won increased Parliamentary sovereignty that the former Tory rebels once campaigned for. What an absolute shower.
Hardcore Tory Brexiteers claimed that the EU was undemocratic and unaccountable, and now that Parliament will be more democratic and accountable they’re behaving like indoor fireworks and bouncing off the walls. ‘We want democracy!’ They cry. ‘But not that kind of fucking democracy!’
Old Tory and Labour identities are blurring to the extent that both parties look massively out of touch and old-fashioned. Tory MP Nadine Dorries claimed that no Tory MP should be rebelling while ‘a Marxist is knocking at the door of Number 10.’ Now, I’m no fan of Marxism, nor do I think Labour are the threat to the Conservatives that people say they are. They are currently behind the Conservatives in the polls and to be behind this bunch of self-interested, incompetent, warring shysters is a Helluva feat. And anyway, if Marxism is a genuine threat at this point then perhaps take a look at the policies you’ve produced which have led people to consider that as a viable alternative. Very few people identify with Marxism in Britain, but few seemingly identify with your narrow, selfish mean-spirited divisiveness either.
I’ve said all along Brexit is about immigration and the current treatment of British citizens by the British government proves just that. Brexit, powered by vociferous British patriots so patriotic they’re based, financially at least, in Belize (seriously, if a pressure group called ‘Don’t Stop Belizing’ doesn’t emerge in 2018, we may as well all go home) by people like Arron Banks, Andy Wigmore and Lord Ashcroft, is now a terminal cancer. Not necessarily for the country itself, but for politics as it now stands. Something needs to change massively. A new generation, more honest, more flexible, less wedded to ‘the team’ needs to emerge.
Where from though?
I had a long chat with Samuel, my eldest son. He’s a 16-year-old born in England, raised in France and politically motivated by what he sees as a betrayal of his future and rights by a country he has literally shed blood for, defending the Britain he believed existed against playground taunts in French schools. The usual, ‘you’re different’, growing up stuff. He had planned to move ‘back’ to England to study and live, having always been fiercely proud of his roots. Not anymore. We had a talk about identity, about who he is, who he thinks he is. And not only is he turning his back on his country of birth, his talents and youthful enthusiasm will go elsewhere, but he actually regrets ever letting anyone know that he is British by birth. That’s how ashamed he is. That’s the standing Britain has among more worldly youth now. Generations of talent that has added to the richness and prosperity of Great Britain will be lost, the damage will be devastating and irreparable. Seriously Britain, it’s time to take a good, long hard look at yourself.
This is number 66 in these Brexit blogs, and it doesn’t get any cheerier, does it? The news fluctuates on whether this will be a book too. It was close for a while, then further away but I’ll continue until my French citizenship is either confirmed or denied. In the meantime, I really appreciate all the support, shares, comments and friends I’ve made so far. Have a lovely Christmas, and see you in the New Year. Unless of course, the Baileys grips me and I need to let off steam.