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So farewell then, Europe…

Brexit is finally going to happen. Barring a complete miracle, the UK will be walking out of the EU at 11 pm on January 31st 2020.

Boris of course has got some celebrations planned: splendid 50p pieces have been minted (again), there’ll be a lightshow on the Houses of Parliament, etc and so on.

Whoopee. Hooray.

Angleterre profonde

England-without-the-Cities, what the French might call “Angleterre profonde,” will have dragged the Cities, part of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland away from one of the most successful economic alliances ever and into a very uncertain future.

The question of Brexit should never even have been put, or if put, it could and should have been put in a referendum that required a supermajority for the kind of constitutional change that Brexit involves. It has bedevilled politics for the last three years and a half.

It has now been definitively answered.

Rabble

A general election is the usual way that this sort of thing is dealt with in the UK. The Dec 12 election had, on one side: a rabble of parties, “led” by a party that couldn’t make up its mind on whether it wanted Brexit or not; and on the other side: the Tory social media juggernaut of “Get Brexit Done.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the Tory landslide that followed, with 80 seats handed to Boris to do with whatever he likes. But I was surprised for various reasons, one of which was that I can see absolutely no rational arguments whatever for leaving the EU. Plenty of emotional reasons, true, which are what matter in politics. So that’s me shown.

Lump it

However, it’s all done and dusted now. Boris has the mandate and is getting Brexit done, as he promised – helped of course by that 80 seat majority. The People have spoken – ie England-without-the-Cities – and Remainers like me just have to like it or lump it.

Personally, I prefer to lump it. I’m sad. Forgive me if I don’t cheer. I won’t be having a party. If I find any of the celebratory 50ps in my change, I’ll save them in a jar to get them out of circulation. The Houses of Parliament will have to dress up in gaudy lights without me.

I think it’s a tragedy, frankly, for so many reasons.

Bay City Rollers

For a start it takes us straight back to the early 1970s, which weren’t exactly a happy time for the UK. Remember the Three Day Week of 1973-4? Remember the IMF loan of 1976? Remember godawful food and the Bay City Rollers? Probably most of you can’t, on account of not having been born then, but I do. There was a reason why punk rock was so aggressive.

True, the Marxists and Soviet agents provocateurs that destroyed British industry with strikes and walkouts, had a lot to do with the general unpleasantness. Most of the traditional industries were dead or dying. Britain had lost the Empire to America, the Commonwealth wasn’t great, and it had no idea of what to do with itself. To speak anthropomorphically, it was lonely.

Referendum

The first time I campaigned in a Referendum for staying in the EU in 1975 (which I wasn’t old enough to vote in), it seemed that the Common Market, as it was then called, might actually rescue us. Remain won, by the way, with 67%. And the Common Market did rescue us. .

Make no mistake. Britain joined the EU chiefly to halt its relative economic decline. In 1950, UK’s per capita GDP was almost a third larger than the EU6 average; in 1973, it was about 10% below. The decline flattened out from 1973 to 2010.

The difference in Britain between 1973 and 2010 is enormous. Not all of the change has been good, but our prosperity rose steadily until Austerity started throttling it in 2010. And the difference isn’t just in economics, it’s cultural and emotional as well.

Perked up

That sounds a bit much to put on a trade alliance, but even so, later on, after we had got used to it, there was a feeling that being part of the EU was the way forward. It was the future. The problems would solve themselves. There was a feeling that we could do this European thing and the whole place perked up.

But maybe it perked up in the Cities, not the Countryside. Maybe there were many people in the Countryside who felt left out of the party and blamed Austerity on the EU. It’s true that the people in the Cities aren’t scared of immigrants or foreigners and tend to look down on the yokels – and that is a big mistake.

Australian billionaires

Of course The Sun, Telegraph, Dail Mail etc regularly screamed themselves into fits about wrongly-shaped bananas and outrageously meat-filled sausages, but we pro-Europeans thought that the British public’s sturdy common sense would see through the transparently self-interested propagandising of Australian billionaires and their cohorts.

We were wrong.

Why did Liverpool stay Labour-supporting while the so called Red Line of Labour constituencies crumbled on Dec 12? Was it because, since its utterly foul behaviour at the Hillsborough disaster (1989), the Sun newspaper has not been sold in Liverpool? Possibly.

Visas

Our horizons have got shorter, our freedoms fewer.

We’ll probably need visas to travel anywhere in Europe after 2021. It will be harder, more complicated and expensive for young people to travel or study in Europe. Cultural and scientific exchange has just got orders of magnitude more difficult.

I feel robbed by this ugly result of old duffers’ nostalgia for an England that frankly never existed. Britain was always more complex than cricket and bicycling home to tea. Probably in the future, the high point of the 21st century in Britain will be seen as 2012, the London Olympics and Danny Boyle’s bravura opening ceremony. I may watch it again to try and cheer myself up.

I’ve already written a blog on what happened after the last time we struck out on our own – The Very First Brexiteer – and whilst England may recover again after century or two, this isn’t much consolation for anyone alive now.

Poorer

Yes, I expect the country to get significantly poorer. A lot of industry will leave for the better-connected countries of Ireland and the Netherlands. The finance industry is also likely to move since we can no longer act as a bridging point between the USA and the Euromarkets. This will cause even more problems for government finances, which will lead to even more stupid Austerity, though probably by another name. Will they call it Prosperity, I wonder?

Sooner or later there will also be a major crash in the world of money (we’re overdue for one right now) to which we’ll be horribly vulnerable and that will probably trigger a massive sell off in the UK property markets. Where that will go, I have no idea – and probably no one else has either.

Climate crisis

Most importantly, the climate crisis calls for us to unite as a species against the massive threat of runaway global heating. Plucky Brits that we are, we’re not uniting, we’re splitting and doing the exact opposite of what we need to do to fight the rising CO2 in the biosphere. I have zero belief that Boris will do a single thing that he’s promised on climate change, the NHS or anything else.

Of course the USA is the arch-ostrich about climate change. I suppose we can be its MiniMe for a bit before the USA turns against us as well – once it’s gulped down the last remnants of the NHS. It’ll be quite ironic if we flounce out of Europe only to end up as the 51st state of America.

Enjoy

I hope all joyful Brexiteers have a lovely time with the light show and the 50p pieces and the unseemly triumph of the Murdoch group papers which have been desperate to get us out of the EU ever since the 1990s.

Enjoy your Brexit.

So farewell then,

Europe.

It was nice to be with you for a while.

I wish we weren’t parting.

Maybe one day,

when the demographics change,

and the old farts and boomers are dead,

and the robbed generation is in its forties and fifties,

We’ll be back.

With apologies to

E J Thribb, aged 100

Ref: https://voxeu.org/article/britain-s-eu-membership-new-insight-economic-history

4 Comments

  1. Barbara Cantwell says:

    Oh, I am so sorry you have to live through this. (Of course, I ‘m sorry I have to live through Trump) How does Brexit affect your teaching job in Hungary? I know it will all be the same in 200 years…but that is cold comfort. So….. Have a nice cup of tea and read a fun book!
    -Barbara

    1. I should be getting my Hungarian passport and ID card in a week or two – after which I will be safely European. At least until Viktor Orban gets Hungary chucked out of the EU.

  2. Margot McLennan says:

    Hi Patricia,
    Thankfully for all sensible Australians we can no longer lay claim (not that I ever wanted to) to Rupert Murdoch (or Muddoch as I prefer). He became a US citizen many years ago to buy one of his multitude of publications. And we don’t want him back.

    1. Sorry, he’s still yours, just as the absconded Lord Lucan is still ours. If Boris got a passport from Mars, he’d still be ours.

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