I want you to imagine that it’s just before Christmas, 2022…Brexit is still under regular discussion, at family tables, in pubs the length and breadth of the land, in offices and in school playgrounds and indeed everywhere that people gather.
We had a “Hard Brexit”; not that there is anything remotely positive about the way in which it happened, even though there are plenty of times and places where hard and hardness are seen as positives. None of them apply here.
In the first six months after March 29th 2019, over a hundred people are separately arrested and charged with smuggling related offences. Their crimes were in fact to have, in desperation, attempted to source medication on the black markets in Europe (and in a few cases in Canada) and then bring said medications back into the UK for their children, spouses, parents, siblings, cousins and even friends.
Not a single one of these people is later shown to have planned at any point to profit from these activities, and yet all of them are now still in prison, serving sentences of up to eight years.
At the same time, the “for profit” black market in medication continues to somehow fox the government and the Police. We live in times where people with better things to do are going out to score some insulin or some anti-convulsives so that someone they love doesn’t die.
Many of the ongoing discussions that one might have expected to have died away in the space of four years are indeed about the disappointment felt across the country by people who were told that the money previously spent on EU membership could be used to improve the NHS. I say disappointment, but really we are talking about naked anger, seeing as the NHS is still suffering from drug shortages and to add insult to injury is now no longer “free at time of use”. Even the poorest in society are expected to stump up a minimum £25 fee whenever they access primary healthcare.
Only the very poorest are able to reclaim this money via the Universal Credit system, but it takes months, and is often denied if the visit was later adjudicated to have been unecessary.
Even the middle class is feeling the pinch, but they expected to. While more and more of them are turning to the internet for second and third jobs to pay for the health insurance they need to avoid lengthy adjudications on need, some of them are exploring less savoury lines of work, but it is very hard to blame anyone for doing what they need to in order to protect their families. Of course the ones who were able to have all left; the top 2–5% of the skilled and professional Middle Class are now living abroad in places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, China, Indonesia, The Philippines and various Caribbean Islands. While this talent-flight has not completely crippled the British economy, it has definitely played a part in the overall decline.
And so we need to talk about the economy… None of the comprehensive free trade deals that the fantasists had spoken of have been remotely achieved. In fact negotiations have not yet begun with any major nation, the EU needing to complete its trade arrangements with the UK in order to properly and legally satisfy its existing comprehensive free trade agreements with other nations. The much vaunted return to baseline WTO rules while we negotiated was simply a lie, if for no other reason than it would have required a hard border between Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland, a price that it turned out the UK government was not prepared to pay. This was perhaps the only thing to their credit. As such a succession of extensions to the transitional arrangement have led to ever increasing inertia on the part of the UK’s successive negotiating teams, after all while we are still in transition there are at least favourable terms with the EU and through it the rest of the World.
And society? How are the British People faring in the post-Brexit World? Well, unemployment has now reached an eye-watering fourteen percent, and it’s worth remembering that over 3.5 million EU citizens have now pretty much all quit the country and indeed the talent-flight total is nearly up to a million, so in round figures that unemployment is fourteen percent of a lower total than at any time before in the twenty-first century. Sure, that means less unemployed, but the proportion of people that are un or under employed in the country is greater than at any time in the modern age.
The divisions in British society have worsened as well. Differences have been magnified, battle-lines have been drawn. The educated, the middle-middle and upper-middle classes have shrunk and retreated into their safe havens around the edges of the larger cities, truly becoming the Metropolitan Liberal Elite that they were accused of being. The Working Poor are increasingly crammed into the inner cities or scattered to desolate coastal towns, surrounded by pale reminders of happier times. Farming has changed out of all recognition, remaining the province of those so rich that they do not need to work the land that they own, or the agri-corporations that quickly appeared to buy up failing family farms and automate them and aggregate them in order to maximise profitability. Rural life has become the preserve also of the wealthy or the trapped. There is no work and there is little in the way of public services.
Britain’s infrastructure and services other than the NHS, that we have already examined, are also struggling. Roads, even major arteries, are increasingly dangerous with driving surfaces that are unfit for use and failing lighting and line-markings. The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge over the Thames has been closed indefinitely after structural problems render it unsafe for use, but there is no money available to make repairs. About one third of all ferry services around the UK are no longer being provided; in particular life on the Western Isles and the Orkneys and Shetland Islands is untenable for many, and the populations have been quitting their homes and heading either for Northern Ireland, Scotland or North West England. The entire rail network is about to collapse, the withdrawl of European investment from the operating firms and falling revenues to the Exchequer making the commercial reality bleak and unfavourable under almost all circumstances.
To add to all of this, Public Sector workers have been hit almost the hardest in terms of redundancies, and while it seemed an easy way to save money in the first instance, the reality of not having qualified people to help run the day to day of the country at almost every level is now starting to show. Schools are closing on a weekly basis, because the teachers cannot be retained, or because necessary maintenance cannot be organised or carried out. The government’s own research suggests that the poor level of service and oversight is allowing a much larger proportion of the country to evade Council Tax, Income Tax, even things that seem small but really add up, like the Television Licence and Vehicle Excise Duty. As the machinery of civil society crumbles, less and less people are concerned by the idea that there is anything wrong with not paying their taxes, and considering how much more expensive it is becoming for them to maintain a lifestyle that they never questioned before Brexit, it is hard to blame them.
The hatred that burns on both sides of the debate that will not die grows by the month as more and more of the Britain that both sides loved is carved away in another attempt to stem the bleeding or stop the fires. The Liberals oscillate between compassion for the many that were lied to and hoodwinked into voting this nightmare into existence, and unbridled hatred and anger that their fates were stolen from them through the selfish and short-sighted actions of an ignorant and credulous electorate. The working and jobless poor hate everyone above them, unable to distinguish between the real architects of their suffering and anyone who can still afford fresh vegetables. The genuinely wealthy are now even richer, the Conservatives having clung to power long enough to transform Britain into a tax haven and capital destination. The much-vaunted, eleventh hour victory that enabled the City and our Financial Institutions to carry on operating within the EU by operating satellite offices in France or Germany, has kept us in the G20 but has shown little benefit to the average Brit. Most people see London as a separate country and it is certainly the only part of the UK where one can reliably still buy an avocado, though they are now usually over five pounds each(*) for a medium sized specimen. Of course, London’s problems have grown along with the country’s, and there are now over a million living on the streets of the capital, people who had believed that merely getting to London would allow them to save themselves, only to discover that they did not have the skills or prospects to be of use to the true elite. Crime is rampant in the city, and many who live there describe their dream being having enough money to get out of the capital, even possibly to buy a business on the continent and have enough left to secure visas.
(*current 2018 UK prices for a medium avocado is about £1)
The finest minds in the field of economics expect that the next three years will bring more damage, greater separation between the wealthy and everyone else, and an overall decline in the UK’s prospects. No one sees a beginning of an improvement within another decade, most agree that it will likely be the middle of the century before any kind of recovery becomes possible.
It’s all pretty bleak, in that little shadow play I performed for you there with my words, right?
Now imagine if I am right about a third of it? Perhaps a quarter of it? Let us not even dwell on the ways in which what I have foretold may come to pass but in a deeper, more pernicious way, such as the death toll we may face from medication shortages…
If you have read this far, I need to understand why you would throw your weight behind anything less than a full on abandoning of Brexit? I imagine that if you have read this far you either already agree with me that our only hope is to pull the ripcord and bail out of this Brexit freefall as soon as possible, now that the European Central Court has said that we can, unilaterally. I suppose you might be a hard, hard line Brexiteer and you want to make sure you’ve read all of my Remoaner “Project Fear” rubbish so that you can make some pithy remark below. Save yourself the trouble, there is not a single, creditable voice in your camp that has ever said anything above the level of self-deluding fantasy. My thinking about the future we face comes from the writings and words of people that actually have studied the situation, that understand the nuances of the laws and treaties that govern how we will proceed once we leave the EU. You may be tired of experts, but I am tired of wilful ignorance and pathological self-delusion.
We need to come up with some ways to act, now, soon, before March 29th.
We can march on Westminster all we want, and I am not suggesting that we stop doing such things. Similarly we can all write to our MPs and the newspapers and the television stations and we can do our level best to raise a hell of a stink about the whole thing, but I am becoming firmly of the opinion that we need to do more.
The problem is that I have no idea what.
I am serious, come at me with suggestions — anything short of armed rebellion, which I cannot condone, nor do I think would be particularly successful in this case — let’s all think as inventively as possible. There have to be things that we can do to force this issue, and to activate the indignation of the percentage of the population that are already regretting their “leave” vote, and get them on side too.
I don’t want to watch my country fall into ruin. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life filled with anger and hatred for the people that voted for this gigantic cluster-fuck of self-harm. I don’t want to feel this way any more.