The Chinese curse you with “May you live in interesting times”, and the last six months have been nothing if not interesting. From the election of Trump and the non-election of Wilders and Le Pen to the self-destruction of May there has been nothing like it, in my memory at least. I’ve struggled at times to make sense of it all, and I’m still not sure if there’s a pattern running through it. Rather than try to link all these things I’ll stay with what concerns me most; the UK.
A year ago David Cameron lost his battle with the right wing of his own party when the British people voted by a slim majority to leave the EU. Many of those keenest to leave had no idea what the EU actually was; they just didn’t like things the way they were and voted for a change. A year on and very little has actually changed; we’re still members of a dictatorship run from Brussels by the German Chancellor and forced to pay astronomical sums of money to prop up Greece, Italy and a load of eastern European countries we don’t actually know the names of. Millions of Turks, Syrians and Africans are pouring into the country, raping, robbing and murdering British people in our own cities and causing huge queues for hospital treatment or school places. Our world-leading companies are buckling under the weight of stupid Brussels bureaucracy and we are becoming poorer by the day.
Once we are free of “the failing EU” all this will change. After we shut our borders, billions will be available to pour into schools and hospitals and we will all be able to buy 6-bedroom houses in leafy suburbs once their current foreign owners have departed or have been deported. Our businesses will flourish again, making deals with whoever they like. Chief among those queuing up to buy Union Jack teapots are the great nations of Atlantis and Narnia but there must be hundreds more. We certainly don’t need the Europeans as much as they need us, so even after we’ve left it will still be easy to buy a German BMW or a bottle of Italian prosecco.
I think that just about sums up the Daily Mail view of the world. So now to reality.
I write this 2 days after the election called by Prime Minister May delivered not the expected thumping endorsement of her hard Brexit plans but a thorough kick in the teeth, reducing her previous slim-but-workable majority to an unworkable minority. She is unlikely to see out the month as PM, so June truly was – as promised – the end of May. In a world where all options are bad ones, this is cause for some quiet satisfaction. No, I’m sorry, this is actually cause for wild merriment at the sight of the insufferable, over-inflated arrogance we have been forced to tolerate for some years now having been comprehensively punctured.
As an expat living in Europe I am very much in favour of Britain leaving the EU. No, you didn’t misread that. A year ago I voted to remain, but over the months gradually came to realise that what the EU needs most is a decade or two without Britain to slow them down, and that over the same time Britain needs to reassess its place in the world.
The Britain of today is in dire need of some lessons in humility. We still believe that just by being born British makes us in some way superior to all other nations, from whom we expect respect and concessions even as we deliver insults on a daily basis. We believe our “Mother of Parliaments”, with its childish rituals and name-calling, deserves respect and admiration around the globe, and that the adversarial system that underpins it is the only way to get results. We cling on to expensive and outdated symbols of Imperial power, chief among them the so-called “nuclear deterrent”, ignoring the fact that threats to our society no longer come from armies but from computers. And worst of all we meekly accept the God-given right of Establishment figures (“posh” people) to lord it over us, take most of the rewards and leave us with only scraps.
The June 2017 election was as much as anything a rejection of those God-given rights. Theresa May and her cronies are isolated from the realities of normal life but until now believed that you can fool all the people all the time, promising them a better future without spelling out how it is to be achieved. The people voted last year to leave the EU but they didn’t vote to be poorer. Most sensible people know that the one implies the other but the poor British public have been fed a diet of lies from the Daily Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph for so long they bought the lot. The promised goodies failed to arrive and it started to become increasingly obvious that things were going to get a lot worse before they’d get any better. The Prime Minister, listening only to her advisors (hand picked to only say what she wanted to hear) believed she had achieved empress status and should cash in on it while the going was good, especially as those same alleged newspapers kept telling her how Jeremy Corbyn was a throwback to the 1970s with no idea how to run a party let alone win an election, that the Labour Party was finished and that the Tories were set to get a mandate for the next 2 or 3 decades. What could possibly go wrong?
“Hard Brexit” of the kind that will bankrupt the country is now dead in the water. If the Government tries to push it through they will be ejected. It looks very much like Britain will have to adopt the Norwegian Model after all. This is the one where you have all the benefits and all the costs of EU membership but don’t get a say in what decisions are made. Over the last year Britain has demonstrated that it simply isn’t mature enough to be allowed to take part in decision-making with the adults. When and if one day we come to our senses, replace our arrogance with humility, learn how to cooperate instead of confront, treat people equally, recognise the Tory Part for what it is – a club for rich people who don’t have your interests at heart – and banish the foreign billionaires who run our poisonous newspapers, then maybe we’ll be able to rejoin as full members, but until then the EU is far better off without us.