Brexit and the Dunkirk spirit


By Ronnie Smith

I tend to see the excruciating Brexit process as a national collective physical and mental breakdown as a result of the accumulation of many factors over a period of one hundred and four years. Brexit is the arterial sclerosis of Britain’s political economy. The bloodstream of the nation has been coagulating since 1914 and we have eventually exhausted all available treatment.

Brexit has become something to observe rather than a political event to which one might, as in the past, usefully offer our tuppence worth. Sure there have and will continue to be plenty of tuppences thrown into the body of the patient but they will become stuck in its narrowing veins.

Our social media has become clogged up with tuppences, including the increasingly anxious ranting of Anna Soubry, the cold cynicism of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the utterly pointless common sense of Nicola Sturgeon, the anonymous mother of someone’s Twitter acquaintance who believes that ‘No Deal’ means that Britain will not be leaving the EU and the equally anonymous guy on LBC who vehemently wants to leave so that we can keep our three-point plug.

Yes, Brexit is a veritable festival of Britain, stuffed to the rafters with exhibits of every kind of timeless British eccentricity and finally drained of all useful intellectual content.

The Prime Minister’s current strategy to break the deadlock seems to be to give everyone time, over the Christmas holiday, to consider the consequences of rejecting her proposed deal with the EU. So, for her the choice is either her profoundly reviled deal or sailing out into the unprotected commercial oceans of the world without any kind of agreement with our ex-trading partners and no new agreements with anyone else.

Apparently incapable of any form of reasoned discussion, the Prime Minister instead threatens the entire country with vast levels of spending to prepare the government for the realities of No Deal, the horrors of shortages and rationing, the catastrophic collapse of our public services, the loss of countless jobs in failing industries and unaffordable services, the cutting of our energy supplies and the blocking of our roads at customs posts and, the piece de resistance, the return of civil war in Ireland.

Clearly all of these things are enough to ‘frighten the French’, as my mother used to say. A phrase concocted at the time of the Napoleonic wars. She also used to say that things were ‘in a worse state than China’, referring to the Middle Kingdom’s chaotic period of civil war and invasion by the Japanese, and she would be right on both counts. However, I suspect that Mrs May’s gamble on her catastrophic worst case scenario might backfire.

I’ve read many examples of enthusiastic Brexiters expressing the belief that the British are at their best when their backs are against the wall when things simply could not get worse. Mrs May’s theatre of horrors could not be any worse and is therefore exactly what many Brexiters have been waiting for.

Did we not stand alone against Hitler and his Nazi hordes when Europe surrendered at Dunkirk? (No because we were still at the head of the greatest empire the world has ever seen, at the time. Hardly alone but never mind.) Did we not endure terrible hardship after the war and retain our position as one of the worlds great trading nations? (No, we had to let the empire go, became the sick man of Europe and were obliged to call in the International Monetary Fund in 1976, not long after confirming our membership of the EEC. But never mind that either.)

The point is that Brexiters don’t fear No Deal because the Somme, Dunkirk, the Blitz, the sinking of the Hood and the fall of Singapore prove, beyond all doubt, that Britain thrives only in its darkest hour. So bring on rationing, power cuts, poverty, blood-stained hospital corridors and impassable motorways because that is what we are missing in this barmey, plucky little country of ours. That is what makes us strong. Indeed the recent chaos at Gatwick may, with hindsight, be seen as something to cherish.

Mrs May might have been better to focus more forcefully on the benefits of her deal rather than trying to scare people with the consequences of the alternative. Unless, of course, there are no benefits in her deal.