This is it then. Hard Brexit. We’re off the cliff. No longer the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but a Disunited Kingdom of Tory Brexitland.
There have been indications for weeks now that they’d take us out of the single market (very deliberate phrasing; they have a democratic mandate to invent whatever Brexit they feel like my arse), but still actually seeing the announcement yesterday was chilling.
There’s a lot of talk at the moment about how Fascists are taking over the world, but I’m noticing something arguably more chilling. Not that Fascism ‘aint chilling, mind you – just yesterday I saw a Twitter thread between two EU nationals who’ve lived in the UK for decades discussing their various experiences of “we voted you out, go home” over the last six months. It was heartbreaking and infuriating – and embarrassing.
I honestly thought we were better than that.
But what sort of frightens me more is that we’re being taken over by people who want to time travel. In America, there’s a whole movement of Trump voters under the impression that he can somehow click his fingers and take them back to a world where a man (obvs) could support his family with a high school degree by working with his hands. It’s as though they all want to close their eyes and dive headfirst into a Norman Rockwell painting.
Equally, a lot of the Brexit rhetoric over here around “they need us more than we need them” conjures an image of the Britain on whose empire the sun never sets, who rules the seas and dominates the world. In short, a Britain which hasn’t existed in the best part of a century. I thought we learned our lesson during the two world wars, during which Britain unquestionably distinguished herself – but in both cases the Allies won the war.
And it’s chilling because it’s deluded. You can’t debate the pros of the single market with someone who genuinely believes the world still trembles at the sound of British cannons; you can’t point out Trump’s utter incompetence to someone who thinks Obama is responsible for the passage of time.
It’s also troubling because it’s seductive. There is – luckily – a pretty small minority who’ll proudly admit to being racist, but paint a captivating picture of Nativity plays performed by blonde cherubs wearing kitchen towels and tinsel, of afternoon tea on the cricket green, of Rule Britannia free of pesky EU Human Rights Acts or, you know, other people – and you start to gain ground. It is because pantomime baddies like Farage and his ilk managed to twist the national rhetoric to suggest that if you’re not xenophobic you’re not British (or indeed, not a “real, ordinary” person) that we’re in trouble.
And in trouble we are. Because throwing us into economic chaos for years won’t bring back cricket on the green (err, not least because it never went away). Making EU migrants in this country – and British ones throughout the EU – insecure and threatened won’t resurrect Lord Nelson. Battening down the hatches to become an isolated, obscure little nation everyone half forgets is there won’t undo the American War of Independence.
But apparently we’re doing it anyway! Excellent.