Rachel Johnson's Diary: The tiny things will turn into the final nails in Brexit's coffin

PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 January 2019

Boris Johnson  Photo: PA / Aaron Chown

Boris Johnson Photo: PA / Aaron Chown

PA Wire/PA Images

All of this talk of the Blitz spirit is nonsense, Britain won't cope with the inconvenience of a no-deal Brexit, says Rachel Johnson

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There are basically two clashing narratives around no-deal Brexit. The first (espoused by folk like Ed Husain, Owen Paterson, Rory Sutherland and a bloke called Boris Johnson) is that chaos is a price worth well paying for getting big-swinging-dickhood back – or, as my bro wrote this week: “In the final analysis, the public seem to think that in so far as there may be short-term challenges, they are worth meeting now, in order to gain the benefits of Brexit, in free trade and self-government.”

In the Spectator, Sutherland advances the argument that the reason short-term chaos isn’t cutting through as a Remain counter-argument is because identity is, in itself, a form of wealth that economists can’t value. “In a democracy the government should do what people want, not what economic theory says is good for them,” he writes.

You can’t put a price on sovereignty, we are told – in answer to which I tell my bro, and anyone else who will listen: “Actually, I’ve always been quite happy to pay to be bossed around by the Germans for as long as possible”.

The no-dealers make out that it’s a question of making do with prawn cocktail rather than cheese and onion crisps for a limited period and even the softest snowflake would cope with that.
But even there I disagree. In my view it is the tiny things that will turn into the final nails in Brexit’s coffin.

‘Short-term challenges’ are far more challenging to a person who completely loses their shit if there’s no hot milk for their Americano (ie me). The idea that this country will keep calm and carry on when Kent is a lorry park and they can’t take their pets on hols in France is utterly barking.

Think of all the emergency calls made by British members of the public in a real crisis. As North Yorkshire Police tweeted last month: “We’ve received a 999 call from a woman to report that she has ordered two portions of fish and chips but that the chip shop will only give her a sausage.”

And remember how consumers collectively went shouty crackers after Mars put a mini-Bounty on day one of its Celebrations advent calendar, rather than the “more popular treats” – ie Twix or Maltesers. Short term challenges are the ones that will break us. I’m afraid this narrative is far more persuasive than the heroic assumption that the British people will rediscover their Blitz spirit for the greater glory of getting their country back.

I am always triggered at the quarterly arrival of the invoice from our pest-control chap in Somerset. My husband has become rather pally with our local rat catcher there. He has met him a few times and they chat about bait and traps on the phone, whereas I don’t know him. I also regard pest-control – and anything to do with wood and fires – as one my husband’s very few sole preserves. And yet the bill is always addressed to me, as if anything domestic must be the responsibility of the wife. I feel unseemly irritation every
time.

As a symbolic gesture. when the bill arrives I ceremoniously place it on my husband’s desk in his study. (I don’t have a study but that’s a whinge for another day!) OK. it’s not throwing myself under the hooves of the king’s horse but it still makes me feel I have at least registered a feeble protest against the continuing lash of the patriarchy.

Speaking of which, the hideously-named ‘Festive Period’ is behind us. Last Sunday was January 6, as you know – but did you also know that in Ireland this is called ‘Women’s Little Christmas?’ No, me neither. Someone sent me a little brief note about this high day and holiday. “Irish families were large, and men weren’t expected to help with housework (plus ça change... see above). On the feast of the Epiphany, men would stay home to take over the chores and child-rearing…” The womenfolk would gather at a pub or have – wait for this – a meal cooked for them by the rest of the family. Women of Ireland had one meal they didn’t have to shop, prepare, cook, serve and clear up as their special annual treat. I am so lost for words that I leave you with the news that Women’s Little Christmas is still celebrated (if that’s the right word) by some.

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