While I’m obviously in favour of anything that seeks to ameliorate the dreadful effects of Brexit on sectors of our business, is the Independent Commission on UK-EU Relations (“Brexit isn’t working; we will do our best to clean up the mess”, TNE #271) being ambitious enough?
Can the mess of Brexit really be cleaned up and fixed, as Lionel Barber believes? Can it be made to work, as Keir Starmer believes? These slogans, to me, make as much sense as “let’s fix alchemy” and “make time travel work”. Kerry Graham
The new Independent Commission appears to regard the damage caused by Brexit as mainly, if not entirely, financial and economic. But Brexit is disastrous in many other ways: socially and culturally (it’s about what sort of people we are and how we relate to others); environmentally (flying meat from the other side of the world instead of shipping it across the Channel); ethically (lowering food safety and animal welfare standards); educationally (the loss of Erasmus); politically (it has given succour to right-wing forces across Europe, notably in Poland and Austria); and morally (we should, for example, be alongside France and Germany in supporting the EU stance on gay rights in the face of growing bigotry).
Brexit was voted for overwhelmingly by the old. The young – whose lives it will blight – voted to stay in the EU. The only way to ‘fix’ Brexit is to reverse it.
Looking around us at the shambles Brexit inflicted on us by the economic ignorance of the hapless, can there be anything more galling than being told, “We are united on one matter: there can be no question of refighting the Brexit referendum or reopening the question of UK membership. The war is over, the Leavers won.”
What part of “the Leavers didn’t win; we all lost grievously” don’t the Independent Commission get?
While it’s unlikely the UK will see common sense and reconsider, (although an independent Scotland could – and soon) don’t we need to boot out of office the numbskulls whose arrogance and EU antipathy reaped the embarrassing and economically damaging deal they inflicted on us?
Shouldn’t we go back to the table, with our tails between our legs and build a relationship to at least allow a renegotiation in line with those who have closer ties with the EU?
I instinctively bristle when I read things such as, “there can be no question of… re-opening the question of UK membership. The war is over, the Leavers won.”
However, Remainers/Rejoiners must learn to be pragmatic. I now regret my enthusiasm for the People’s Vote campaign when we might have forced a weak Theresa May into a softer Brexit that protected farmers and fishermen and kept alive some element of free movement.
Rejoining the EU will happen, but in a series of small steps rather than one giant leap. I think that, sotto voce, the Independent Commission recognises this.
The sorry statesman
It is sad to see that, in facing the growing migrant crisis, our prime minister prefers bating President Macron to joining with relevant EU countries to attempt to solve the problem (“Calais, a war of words without sense; a tragedy without end”, TNE #271). Why else would he engage in tweeting his proposals before, at least, having the courtesy of giving the French leader the opportunity of studying them?
The tactic drew the predictable response and gave the cynical charlatan in Number 10 the opportunity to play the role of an affronted statesman. No doubt the nationalist boneheads loved it, no matter the harm to our relations with our closest neighbour.
As usual, Johnson’s concept of statesmanship is the antithesis of the real thing. Exploiting a tragic situation for an opportunity for teasing the French is, of course, typical of the man.
Freedom’s no free-for-all
Liz Gerard’s otherwise impressive article on migration (“Our baying, obsessed press wants to weaponise misery”, TNE #271) was wrong about EU free movement.
She writes: “If people from across the world could make it to Europe and establish a right to stay, they would be able to come here at will.” It takes seven years to become a German citizen.
On a Flixbus coach from Brussels to London in 2017, I met a young German woman who said she had made friends with the teenage children of Syrian refugees “who are learning German really quickly”.
She gave me an odd look, by way of “of course I do”, when I asked if she supported the policy.
Free movement is not a free-for-all, because of the three-month rule which states that migrants to one country must find a job within that period, and because of the habitual residence test. Citizens of one EU country in another must be treated equally, but cannot be an unreasonable burden on the host country.
Bourne End, Bucks
Eton mess is hard to digest
Alastair Campbell’s views on public schools, and Eton College in particular, are spot-on (Diary, TNE #271). Yes, what a (Peppa) pig’s dinner these Eton lads in Westminster have made of things. I sometimes wonder if John Betjeman, were he still alive, would consider reworking his poem “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough…” shifting his focus just a mile further south.
Bradford on Avon
While I am in complete agreement with Alastair Campbell, he omitted to mention the equally devastating book One of Them, in which Musa Okwonga gently but devastatingly, eviscerates the Eton brand.
What’s the big idea, Keir?
Re: Alastair Campbell on Labour strategy (Diary, TNE #270). I am a bit blank about what it currently is, and the public don’t know either. Policy has got to be crystal-clear, accompanied by punchy soundbites.
I recently attended the SW Regional Labour Conference which was, in parts, very uplifting. However, well-known figures within the party continue to be deluded enough to believe that we can win the next election in one single swipe, as they told us to go forward and prepare for government. That rang a hollow and distant bell which I am old enough to remember.
We also need to consult with those who are on the same page as us and not simply demonise or dismiss the Greens or Lib Dems. I feel strongly that without some form of strategy in the form of a political alliance plus PR we aren’t going to travel very far – except in our collective imagination.
We desperately need to defeat the wood rot that is this present government and if we are honest with ourselves we know we can’t do this alone. I also have a storming soundbite: “Health and education build a nation.” Will that help?
Scandal of the Islanders
Thank you for the informative article by Joe Wallen regarding the appalling treatment of the population of Chagos Islands (“Another Windrush”, TNE #270).
In 1982, some Falkland Islanders felt they were going to suffer a similar fate when the US proposed their forceful deportation to depopulating Scottish islands, to appease Argentina. Presumably, at least the Falklanders would have retained British status for their families, whilst the Chagossians have been treated despicably, despite compliance with enforced resettlement.
Surely, when dealing with such a small population, who have, in international law, been treated unjustly, enabling their families access to British citizenship/ education facilities would be deemed a small compensation.
Birth of a republican
I read with interest Bonnie Greer’s article on Prince Charles (“Fit for a king”, TNE #270).
I could take issue with a few of her observations. However, I’ll simply relate my own experience of coming into “contact” with Her Majesty.
At the age of 10, my school took me to New Brighton along with hundreds of other children, sat us on the promenade each with a Union flag on a stick in the drizzling rain. After what seemed to my young mind hours a big, black, posh car drove past, through the window of which I could see a hand wave.
I was later reliably informed by my teacher that this really had been the Queen.
I kid you not, but it was at this point, with me cold and wet, that my flag became detached from its stick and I decided that when I grew up I would not be a backward-thinking, forelock-tugging genuflecting peasant (obviously some paraphrasing here).
Cummings and goings
Much as we love The New European, I feel that a grovelling apology to the good folk of Barnard Castle, County Durham, is in order, for suggesting they live in North Yorkshire (“A litany of lies and laziness”, TNE #270).
The editor writes: We need an eye test.
English can’t be trusted
I suppose the headline on Alain Catzeflis’ article (“Secession: Is this UK drama nearing its finale?”, TNE #270) provided a clue as to where the piece would go.
He concludes that: “Britain needs to be re-imagined as a genuine partnership of nations.” The trouble with that is that the English establishment supported, wittingly or unwittingly, by a majority of English voters, demonstrated in 2016 that they are not interested in genuine partnerships of nations.
England has always wished to dominate, first an empire, then a commonwealth and now perhaps just an increasingly disunited kingdom.
I can see no circumstances where England would agree to a federation where its interests might be outvoted by any or even all of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland and England are on increasingly divergent paths and the rate of divergence will only increase the more the so-called Union is perceived as a union of force and not one of consent.
Many in Scotland, perhaps now a majority, want independence for Scotland and I would wager that very few of them who look through the end of the telescope would call that secession.
King had a flaming cheek
Charles II was not the first British monarch to have a book burned (“America’s fever approaches Fahrenheit 451”, (TNE #270). In 1615, James I, acting on information from his agent in Danzig, despatched a top diplomat to the Polish court to protest at the publication of a libel which condemned him as a mother-killer and usurper.
He demanded the punishment of both author and printer and the seizure and burning of the entire stock. This contravened the terms of the Polish constitution, then the most tolerant in Europe, but the book was eventually burned by the public hangman in Warsaw’s marketplace.
In Charlie Connelly’s article on book-burning, we meet a right-wing Christian called Rabih Abuismail. Now that’s what I call an unholy alliance! Jim Trimmer
No trace of free tests
We were going to “take back control” – control our borders – yet through each wave of the pandemic this is the one thing that we have failed to do. Now it looks as though we may already have let the new variant, Omicron, in to seed further infection.
Apparently, it is more transmissible than Delta, so we must hope that the vaccines still provide protection and/or it is a ‘milder’ disease. We will find out in the coming weeks.
When we need people to be tested regularly, the people handing out the free lateral flow tests at stations and supermarkets have vanished. Ask at a pharmacy and you are told that you need a ‘code’ – no code, no tests.
Given where we are, and all that we have come through, is now the right time to put an unnecessary blocker in place to stop people testing as much as we need?
Selly Oak, Birmingham