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Brexit Anniversary

22 Jun

If a week is a long time in politics, then the last year seems almost like a decade – so many seismic events and unexpected twists and turns. And somehow, here we are, one year on from the EU referendum, a time to reflect on what has happened …

As chance would have it, last year, on the day after the referendum, I was booked on the train to Scotland.  I’d forced myself to go to bed at 2 a.m., when the first signs that Leave might swing it, had begun to emerge.  It was still a surprise to find that that was what had happened, as I scrambled to get the last of my stuff together, and headed out the door later that morning.  The atmosphere on the train was unusual – a lot of thrown-together people looking slightly shell-shocked and talking in hushed tones into their mobile phones.   As we powered through the country, there were patches of flags from either side of the debate – the mood seemed one of surprise.  The news was still sinking in.

When I eventually got to Edinburgh, my first stop was the pub.  Scots were juggling the results of two successive referenda – one over independence from the UK, one over membership of the EU. I got talking with a bunch of people having an after-work pint and chewing over the day’s news.  They were a mix of Yes and No voters in the Scottish referendum, but all said then, in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, that given a choice, they would vote to leave the UK in any second referendum, and seek Scottish membership of the EU.  Unlike in England, the subject of Ireland, the border and the peace process came up quite soon in conversation.  My unrepresentative little vox pop confirmed a picture of urban Scotland as firm Remain territory. I’ve often wondered if the people I met have changed their minds meanwhile, as the falling oil price and political turbulence in the year since, has seen support for a second Scottish referendum apparently diminish, and a desire for stability (ha!) become perhaps stronger.

What else has changed in the year since, concerning Brexit? In some ways remarkably little – in spite of the triggering of Article 50 and the recent snap election, we are only slightly further on in our progress towards exit.  When thinking about what will happen with reciprocal rights for UK and EU citizens living in each other’s countries, or overall freedom of movement, or being in the Single Market, I’m often reminded of that round in the QI panel show, where they ask an obscure question, and all the contestants wave a paddle in the air, signifying that ‘Nobody Knows’…. The form of Brexit we will eventually experience remains up in the air, and the complexities of disentangling ourselves from laws, supply chains and regulations often seem to be intensifying rather than resolving.

In other ways, things have changed quite a bit – the vote to leave has led to a greater understanding of divisions and inequalities in the UK, with analysis of voting behaviour showing fault lines between urban and rural populations, highly educated people and school leavers, older and younger voters.   UKIP is basically a spent force, and the recent election, paradoxically perhaps, heralded a return to two-party politics, as the Brexit vote made for a complex set of interactions with broader party allegiances. In the snap election, Labour capitalised on frustration with the consequences of social inequalities, while the Conservatives emphasised the importance of leadership on Brexit, in an electoral strategy which imploded around the failure of leadership demonstrated in the campaign. They won the election, but lost their majority, and are now all too aware of issues around Ireland and Brexit…

One year on, we have election winners who have lost, and losers who scent victory next time – which could well be considerably sooner than anticipated by the Fixed-Term Parliament Act.  Theresa May has just been  in Brussels for a dinner with the European Council, where she was looking to outline Britain’s negotiating position in more detail.  It seems that she may be aiming for Brexit a la carte. Funnily enough, we don’t have a ready English phrase for that – unless perhaps it’s cherry-picking – which is something we need Eastern European seasonal migrants to do …. There’s no chance of an all-you-can-eat buffet of options on Brexit terms, so can we hold out for some Chef’s specials? Brexit is often discussed in terms of having our cake and eating it, but we have yet to discover what proof of pudding is in our eating ….

 

 

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Theresa May writes that letter … (with apologies to the Great American Songbook)

28 Mar

I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter

And make believe it came from the EU

I’m gonna make deals oh so sweet

They’re gonna knock me off may feet

Same terms as Single Market

I’ll be glad I’ve got them

 

I’m gonna smile and say I’m really feeling sovereign

And sign ‘with love’ the way you do

I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter

And make believe it came from the EU

 

I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter

And make believe it came from the EU

I’m gonna make deals oh so sweet

They’re gonna knock me off may feet

Falling immigration

Is my aspiration

 

I’m gonna smile and say I’m really feeling sovereign

And sign ‘with love’ the way you do

I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter

And make believe it came from the EU

And make believe it came from the EU

 

 

 

Brexit music for a Friday

3 Feb

The other day I could have sworn I read that there was going to be a ‘Hard rock Brexit’ – turns out it was actually ‘rock hard’ – but hey, it got me thinking about Brexit expressed in musical genres, and so a list was born …

 

Hard Rock Brexit: Well if it is ‘rock hard’, clearly nothing by AC/DC, and leaving the Single Market means no Norwegian death metal options, but hopefully our negotiators Are EU Experienced …

Funky Brexit:  Harks back to Parliament – if it all goes pear-shaped can escape in the Mothership …

Punk Brexit:  Feat.  Walking on the Blue Flag Beaches – with street fashion –  think Article 50 bin bag with safety-pinned Amendments

Brexit Musicals:  West Side of Europe Story, Anything Goes incl. ‘I Get a Kick out of EU’ by Coal Importer  (Don’t say The Lady is A Trump)

MOR Brexit: For when sovereignty is More than a Feeling …

Hip Hop Brexit:  Anything by Outkast

Soul Brexit:  What’s Going On? Feat. (Maybe not) Flying high in the Friendly Sky

Happy listening everyone!

A Post-Truth Christmas Stocking

21 Dec

Well, 2016 has been quite a year.  As it comes to a close I’ve sketched out the contents of a post-truth Christmas stocking, to remember what has been and carry into the year ahead…

Every stocking has a toy gimmic – and what better this year than the mini-boomerang?  Carry in your pocket, and when you have an opinion, you can voice it as you throw the boomerang, and watch it come right back at you.  It’s the portable echo chamber we all need to remind us how far ideas travel:

boomerang-mini

 

How about some stationery?  The post-truth Christmas stocking contains your own ballot pencil – guaranteed indelible and conspiracy-proof should you wish to vote on anything:

stub

 

… and if you do need to rub anything out, try the 2 sided post-truth eraser – as you rub out the facts, see the lies grow bigger and bigger :

facts2

littlelies

A pocket game is always welcome, and this year it can only be Top Trumps:

trumped

 

Last, but not least every stocking has something sweet, and for Christmas 2016 the selection is embassy favourite, Farageo Rocher, and a post-Brexit Toblerone – a fitting reminder of the peaks and troughs of an epic year:

chocs-away

 

Merry Christmas everyone!  See you in 2017

Forever Autumn Statement (with apologies to Jeff Wayne et al)

23 Nov

The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds might be much colder
When EU’s not here.

We watch the points track south across the autumn graphs

And one by one they disappear
We hope we won’t be tracking with them
When EU’s not here

With development funds EU came to support us
Like a loose counterfoil EU’s blown away

Through autumn’s gold spreadsheet we used to click our way
We always loved this time of year.
Those falling points may disturb now
Cause EU won’t be here

With development funds EU came to support us
Like a loose counterfoil EU’s blown away ….

 

 

 

Lazy Friday (with apologies to the Small Faces)

10 Sep

A-wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours?
But they make it very clear, they’ve got no room for Brexiteers

They stop me from groovin’, they won’t build me wall

They doing me Regional Development crust in, it’s no good at all, ah
Lazy Friday afternoon
I’ve got no mind to worry
I close my eyes and drift away-a
Here we all are sittin’ in a rainbow
Gor blimey, hello Mrs. May, how’s old Guy Verhofstadt’s negotiatin’? (he mustn’t grumble)
(Tweedle-dee) I’ll sing you a song with no words and no tune (twiddly-dee)
To sing in your Party while you souse at the moon (oh yeah)
Lazy Friday afternoon, I’ve got no mind to worry
Close my eyes and drift away-a

Root-de-doo-de-doo, a-root-and-branch-recovery
A-root-de-doot-de-dum, a-root-and-branch-recovery…

 

 

 

A century is a long time in politics …

1 Jul

I remember very clearly the first time I heard the word ‘quagmire’ – it was when I was in secondary school studying the First World War.  Our history teacher was rather old school, and after a brief outline of the day’s topic and a bit of class discussion, he would dictate notes to us.  As he expounded on the nature of trench warfare, the horrors of going over the top, and the terrible physical conditions endured by the soldiers, it all culminated in a ‘quagmire’ of mud and fallen men.  The image has always stuck with me, reinforced by the war poets.

 

And today, after the most tumultuous week in post-World War Two British politics, the word ‘quagmire’ came to me again.  A sticky swamp of unreason seems as good a metaphor as any for the leaderless void in which we have found ourselves post-Brexit, with implosion in both the major parties, and economic and political uncertainty of a kind not seen for decades.  Events, dear boy, events doesn’t quite cover the pace of change in the last few days.  As the pictures of Somme commemorations shared the airwaves with latest machinations in Westminster, the Tory leadership contest and disorder in Labour, it was hard not to juxtapose these two vital periods in history.  And it occurred to me that First World War vocabulary has been around a lot – people talk of being ‘shell-shocked’ following the Brexit vote; ‘bombshells’ have been dropped, and both Boris Johnson and Angela Eagle have been styled Blonde Bombshells.  The language of political shocks was forged in wartime experience.  And the particular narrative of class division between leadership and frontline experience, which is part and parcel of the narrative of the First World War, resonates now: social media abounds with ‘lions led by donkeys’ echoes.

 

In the middle of all this, another part of the story seems more muted.  After the devastation of not just the First, but also the Second World War, countries came together to build a peace.  During the EU referendum there was a lot of talk about being bound together by fear – fear of outsiders on the one hand, fear of economic collapse on the other.  But there was little celebration of the power of internationalism for co-operation, for peaceful co-existence, for prevention of extreme abuses of power.  Many of the challenges we currently face cross borders – it’s not just about people.  Ideas – political, economic, scientific – are built on collaboration as well as contest, on wide debate as well as narrow self-interest.  These richnesses of stable cohabitation lie underneath the imperfect European Union.  I am keen to see how they can be preserved in some new form of partnership. It has been made more difficult, but we mustn’t give up now.

 

The other big story this week has been European football – and we all know how in the trenches at Christmas, British and German soldiers declared a truce and played football in no-man’s land.  As the England team dropped out of the Euros this week, and as our understanding of Brexit unfolded around a story that a long-overlooked population had decided to stick it to the man, I hope we have not forgotten how to play the ball.  That requires teamwork and an understanding of the other side.

 

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