Bonnie Greer: Daydreaming BeLeavers are in a Dam Busters timewarp

PUBLISHED: 09:00 29 October 2017

Still from The Dam Busters (1954)

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The playwright, author and critic on Brexit's false sense of English patriotism

There is still a Leave demographic, slowly shrinking, but still resilient. Many ask why this is, even in the face of another possibly fatal intrusion of reality threatening that coup d’état against reason known as Brexit.

As anyone really paying attention knows, the only side ‘negotiating’ in the true sense of the word is the UK. Why?

Pascal Lamy, former head of the WTO, has recently pointed out that Britain’s exit from the EU is an existential crisis for the Union, nothing more and nothing less. The EU is in a fight to safeguard its institutional integrity. This and this alone, is the key issue, the chief reality.

The EU must demonstrate to its members and to the world what exiting really looks like. David Davis – the equivalent of taking a knife to a gun fight – is clueless concerning this, and the depth of instruction Michel Barnier must demonstrate to one and all vis-à-vis les rosbifs.

That Theresa May and ‘My Team’ (as she referred to her cabinet during her own-goal snap general election) do not seem to grasp this looks bewildering. But this inability is partly due to the civil war now raging in plain view within her party.

The clueless Secretary of State for Exiting the EU is now openly threatened at home by the Foreign Secretary, the otherwise Machiavellian Boris Johnson. The man known as just plain ‘Boris’, breaks cover only when there is blood in the water and palace intrigue afoot.

So in addition to this ‘trouble at t’mill’, May’s emissary must return to Brussels for his political diet of moules-frites, leaving the country unprepared for the ultimate EU realties.

Davis – the man Vote Leave’s ‘evil genius’ Dominic Cummings described as “thick as mince” – seems oblivious to the fact that any final conclusion to the Brexit talks must be ratified by 27 national assemblies. And the killer blow: if any one of these objects to any of the terms and refers the matter to the European Court of Justice for adjudication, Brussels can stop the clock.

None of this is even hinted at in the largely right-leaning to right-wing UK press, largely owned by offshore-dwelling moguls. Instead, these papers rail against what, to them, is the inevitable treachery of any man who goes by the name of ‘Michel’ or ‘Jean-Claude’. Their political pages are a print version of the soundtrack from The Dam Busters.

How else to explain the answer from an otherwise benign cabbie to my question about how he felt about Brexit? He replied that he would like to “put that Jean-Claude Juncker up against a wall and shoot him”. When I asked, in my strongest American accent, who Jean-Claude Juncker was, the cabbie could not tell me.

And so a Leave electorate remains, staunch and clinging to the void. This is because we have now arrived. Welcome to the Age of the Bright Shiny Object. All roads lead here.

Exhibit A – the bright shiny object of ‘Be Positive’. As Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, is pointing out with increasing desperation, Brexit will not create a ‘global’ Britain. It will, instead, create a de-globalised Britain. This was graphically signalled by the head of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein.

Blankein, who has the ability to what is ominously termed ‘move markets’, sent out a rare tweet recently. It rejoiced in the qualities of Frankfurt, where he intended to be spending more time.

This declaration was a dog whistle to Wall Street and the wider financial world. Yet anyone who remotely suggests that there might be Brexit of big banks and investors is labelled a shill for that Brexiteer catchphrase, Project Fear.

That the UK is largely a services economy, and services are not in the remit of the WTO, does not quell the cry of allegiance to ‘Be Positive’. Because somehow the UK will ‘make this happen’. Dismissed is the fact that 21st century trade happens amongst nations, as well as between nations. Trade is an intricate web of alliances; allegiances and balance.

The EU will now have to reconfigure its own interstices, its own highways and byways and that alone could create hostility. Of course, this is dismissed as ‘glumbucketry’.

Any notion that the UK is not a major player, not a big deal, is jeered at and booed.

The fact that the UK’s economy risks being overtaken by others is overlooked. Since Brexit is imbued with a false sense of English patriotism, the devolved nations will simply get in line, so the ‘positive’ people will have us believe.

This is sold to the populace, even though Wales, in particular, is waking up to the fact that their Leave vote may have been a very bad idea. Any hint of Welsh buyers’ remorse is denounced and ridiculed.

The ‘Be Positive’ cohort wants Boris Johnson, the Poundshop Churchill, to head the government.

Every day, every second, his pronouncements would ring out to the sounds of cheers and a marching band.

The dangers of this are self-evident and cruel.

But hardcore Brexiteers – those zealots, true believers and haters – want us smile through it. All the way.

Exhibit B – the bright shiny object as bile. Some years ago, Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail parliamentary sketch writer and drama critic, was enthusiastically described by his local paper as: “...a man renowned for his forthright views about people in the public eye”.

This was written on the occasion of the publication of his 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain. “I could have done about 55, but no more than that,” he pronounced at the time.

But he was premature. Letts has now published Patronising Bastards: How The Elites Betrayed Britain, a book which strangely leaves out his boss, the uber elite Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail.

But maybe that’s because this Via Dolorosa through Letts’s psyche is largely about Remain – 100 people appear, torturers on the way to the ultimate goal, that resurrection of leaving the hated EU.

This bright shiny object ends up illuminating nothing more than its author.

Letts will understand this verdict for Patronising Bastards – No Stars.

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