If you think Brexit has been a disaster after just a year, imagine the damage it will do in a decade
Author’s note: This piece is a work of imagination. It may turn out, of course, to be much worse than this.
There is always the odd positive you can point to; Norfolk displacing Burgundy as the world’s premier producer of dry white wine is one, not that anyone at home can afford to drink the stuff as practically every bottle is shipped, tariff-free, to the Chinese. And Gareth Bale successfully coaching England-Wales to the semi-finals of the World Cup another.
But generally speaking you’d have to be an idiot, or a Daily Mail editor, to say things have turned out happily for Britain in the past ten years.
Next year’s celebratory Beacon Parties around the coastline of EW have been shelved.
Unlike the Republic of Scotland, the citizens of EW are in no mood to celebrate their ten years of ‘independence’.
Witness yesterday’s Ipsos-Mori-of-the-day: 84% of adults in EW felt the reduced nation was in ‘overall decline’, and 92% said they thought the Brexit Referendum of 2016 had caused the nation ‘significant damage’. Perhaps most interestingly, 87% of all those surveyed said they had themselves had voted to Remain. Ten years after the Referendum, owning up to a Leave vote has become deeply unfashionable.
Despite the anger towards Westminster politicians who had blindly carried the Brexit vote to its logical conclusion, most people in EW are weary of politics. The great splintering of both main parties failed to find a new solid centrist party; no Macron-style personality emerged to lead it. He, or she, simply didn’t exist.
Instead Westminster revolved in an endless flurry of minority coalitions and vote-trades that never seem to produce anything except chaos. Seven Prime Ministers in a decade! Even the Italians think we are a basketcase.
Cameron and his botched referendum, the gamble that led to this sorry place, then hapless May – then David Davis, sent back home humiliated after a stiff lesson in negotiation by Michel Barnier. The stage had seemed set for a certain Jeremy Corbyn – but they never really made up their minds on what they wanted. PM Hammond, the man who made John Major look like Liberace, couldn’t believe his luck. For a short while, it looked like there was a danger of stability. But Tories being Tories, they couldn’t help themselves; who can forget the farce of 2019, The Year of the Splits?
The various schemes and populist wheezes successive Governments have thrown up in reaction to crashing polls have flunked one after another.
The International Health Service rebrand was perhaps the biggest single embarrassment; the idea we could become the health service to the world’s elite was proven hopelessly ill-conceived. The world’s wealthy health tourists now make the trip to California for their facelifts and Shanghai for their liver transplants.
Meanwhile, the failure to backfill departing EU doctors and nurses from 2017 onwards with homegrown staff has led to a measurable decline in our national wellbeing. There are even suggestions that average life expectancy in the UK is projected to fall in the next decade, though the Government, of course, disputes this.
What they cannot dispute is the economy. It is not working, no matter which permutation of political parties tries to fix it.
The simple reality is the trade deals promised at Brexit never emerged. The old economist’s saw about ‘twice the distance, half the trade’ has proven mathematically precise. Exports to India, China and the Americas today come nowhere close to matching those we lost with our nearest neighbours after 2019.
The financial markets have been predictably brutal with EW. The nation’s downgraded credit ratings (currently ‘BBB+ unstable’ – on a par with Burkina Faso) and the backfiring of the 10% corporation tax strategy (no big multinationals relocated to EW. Turns out they were already paying far less than 10%) is having a devastating effect on great swathes of the nation. Some parts of EW are literally devoid of young people due to severe lack of work opportunities and chronically failing infrastructure.
The leaking of the Marley Pots Memo to the Sunderland Echo in 2025, and the subsequent rioting in the north-east, has again put the government on the back foot. The Marley Pots Plan, to essentially evacuate residents from areas of increasing poverty across EW, sent shockwaves across Europe. Offers by Germany and France to open the doors to economic refugees from EW have been angrily dismissed by the Government, and holidaying EW families are now bound to pay a £5,000 surety at departure points lest they fail to return. And, still, many fail to return.
The Great Pensions Crisis – which had of course been hiding in plain sight since at least the early 1990s – has finally come to a head. Potential solutions that once seemed politically and morally impossible only a decade ago, are firmly on the table. Is it any coincidence that the big summer box office hit of 2027 is the remake of Logan’s Run?
Without doubt, the last decade has been a tough one for the British economy. Chancellor Lucas’s opening remarks in her recent Mansion House speech that ‘frankly, our economy is on the bare bones of its arse’ may have been criticised for fruity language, but few argued with the sentiment: As a nation we are, ten years after Brexit, poorer.
It is true there have been notable moments of national hope.
Oh, how we were all distracted by The Gibraltar Skirmish. Certainly, the sight of a nuclear submarine surfacing in the Gibraltar Straits reminded us all, especially our EU ‘friends’, that when it came to international belligerence there are few nations who can compete.
But when the conning tower opened and the blond mop of PM Johnson’s head appeared, many felt he had overplayed his Maggie moment. Either way, the reaction from that Spanish gunboat was entirely unexpected. The sight of that same blond mop scuttling down for cover, so oft-impersonated by Spanish waiters on the Costas, continues to haunt our national self-esteem to this day. We have, literally, become a laughing stock. You have to be of a certain age to appreciate the irony in the fact that jokes about the Irishman, the Scotsman and the Englishman today these days end with Englishman as the clot.
Though few policies have united the various EW coalitions, their attitude towards media has been markedly consistent. The Curtailment Of Internet Freedom (Anti-Terrorism) Act of 2021 has now been deployed broadly, and its effects dramatic. Google, it seemed, had been right all along. While the new law has been highly effective at shutting down terrorism videos and the like, it has also been employed to ‘wipe clean the stench from this bullshit.com operation’, as Lord Dacre so memorably put it.
It’s not just Facebook and Twitter that have shrivelled in EW under the weight of the Dacre’s Law as it’s popularly known, but also online pornography, gambling, and a whole host of politically radical media has been eliminated from British computer screens.
(Interestingly, the absence of free online pornography has led to a remarkable resurgence in printed material; the so-called pop-up publication The New Reader’s Wives is still publishing long after its initial four-week ambitions. Only the Daily Mail today reports higher rates of circulation growth.)
Examine the disparity between the upbeat tone of the three surviving daily newspapers, the Sun, the Times and the Daily Mail, (headline from the Daily Mail last week, June 14, 2027, reporting inflation creeping down to 7.7%: ‘W-E’ve never had it so good!’) and the sentiment of broad disaffection reported by polling companies, and one may conclude there is an agenda at play.
But such seditious speculation is futile.
When PM Khan was asked last week, as he is asked at every one of his monthly PMQs, ‘whether now is the right time to reconsider the open offer from the EU to return to the fold’, he again wearily repeated what has now become the longest running joke in politics.
‘On June 23, 2016, the people spoke. We gave the people what they wanted and that’s precisely what they’re enjoying today. Next question?’