“…Are you going to say that my job will go because you will not have an arrangement with the United Kingdom?…’
Ian Duncan Smith
“…It’s just utter bollocks that it will it should take ten years…”
Friday 22nd of March 2019 is a bright, warm early spring morning at the St Pancras railway station. The trains from the east midlands and the home counties are arriving more or less on time. As the thousands of people disembark they some might notice that there is a strange air of silence amongst the long, sleek, Eurostar trains that can be seen through the clear barrier. As the passengers descend the escalator they find a huge scrum of people in the central shopping area looking particularly glum. The Eurostar isn’t running today, or tomorrow or for the foreseeable future. Today is the day that the United Kingdom left the European Union and there has been no agreement on the customs arrangements for travellers arriving at Paris, Brussels and the new new destination Amsterdam.
Similar scenes are to be found at Schipol Airport in the Netherlands and the other hub airports in Northern Europe where all transatlantic flights have been cancelled because of a lack of agreement over how the air traffic control system would work between the European Union and Britain now they are no longer governed by one agreement. Most of the British airports are closed because of this problem with only transatlantic flights unaffected. The scenes in east Kent and northern France are starting to resemble a war zone as more and more lorries are turning up and are unable to be transported to or from Dover because of the lack of an agreement over how the customs system would work – after all there is no customs facility at Calais and only a very rudimentary one at Dover.
These frightening scenarios flashed through my mind as I watched the excellent Brexit: Britain’s Biggest Deal on the BBC iPlayer yesterday. Now of course it can be very tempting to dismiss this programme as a the usual BBC pro Europe bias and that things are going to be fine. The President of the United States has afterall identified the BBC as a fake news organisation so why should we listen to them? Well because we don’t live in the United States and most people in Britain know that the BBC has many faults but when it comes to the news and current affairs they reliable.
As I watched the programme the enormity of what we are about the embark on became more and more apparent. We are an integrated part of the European Union system and to try and disentangle forty years of integration in two years is mind boggling and one which few people who voted in the referendum had any real concept of what this would entail. To be fair to the voters few people in Government nor the European Union did either. I am still not convinced that neither side really is that much further forward even now, nine months after the vote. This is why the blandishments of the Brexiteers are still coming out with really really annoy me. We might well find a brighter future but it won’t suddenly happen the first day after we have left the European Union. I doubt that the it will arrive one year after but if it does arrive it will be many years before we all see the benefit of the freedom we now have. Yet we are offered no real guidance other than it will be alright on the night. Even the £350 million pounds a week has evaporated like the fake news it always was. It is not ‘Bollocks’ as Lawrence Tomlinson suggests to think that this whole mess is going to take a lot longer than two years to sort out.
Of course there may well be one crumb of comfort in all this because the plight of the United Kingdom will be quite rosey when compared to a newly independent Scotland who will be trying to come to terms with the new reality whereby they may have to wait up to ten years to join the European Union and whilst they do that they would have to reduce their budget deficit by a significant amount . At the same time their neighbour to the south will find little time to try and sort things out as they have got much big fish to fry. Even if they did try and help the Scots their electorate will definitely be in no mood to give the Scots any favours. If you think it is difficult disengaging a Union of forty years then what about one that is over three hundred years old. I fear the Scots may well find out just what English nationalism really looks like if they do vote to leave the United Kingdom – perhaps the result in the Six Nations might give them an idea. Before I get attacked by the nationalist hoard I think it is fair to say that I thought that Scottish Independence was a good idea back in 2014. (I don’t think that is the case now because, and I know this a rather quaint idea, but the 2014 referendum voted for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom and that was the end of it. Clearly the SNP don’t agree but I doubt that the Scots will vote for independence second time around as I suspect we have passed ‘peak’ SNP. BTW Scotland and the SNP are not the same thing much as they might wish you to think that to be the case. )
So there we have it. We are in one almighty mess of our own making. I want the government to make the best of this situation and I am not one of those who see that there is a great amount to be gained by pointing out the government’s failings in this endeavour. However, they really do need to be truthful with the British people just how complex and problematic the negotiations will be. They also need to prepare the people for the consequences of not getting any deal other than reverting to the Brexiteer guff of empty blandishments. We are are in a mess. It is a mess that we have brought upon ourselves and it is a mess that we will be able to sort out given time. It won’t be easy and it won’t be cheap and before you point to Iain Duncan Smith’s comments at the start just think about this:
“…I know there is the view in the UK that economics ultimately trumps politics….the economic argument for staying [in the European Union] was overwhelming yet the political arguments trumped the economic arguments….”
Brexiteer’s can’t have it both ways.