All I can say is that I hope the Brexiteers are happy with the divorce bill.
Fifty billion smackeroos has apparently been agreed as the cost to Britain for leaving the European Union. For this gigantic sum we get precisely nothing. Rien. Nichts.
Well, say the Brexiteers, demanding that sort of moolah – which would build scores of hospitals or schools, or even restore the defence budget to sensible levels – only goes to show just how nasty, avaricious and bitter those bureaucrats in Brussels really are. They may have a point there, but none of the hard-bargaining or exchanges of polemics, not even the penalty the EU has imposed for the British electorate’s perfidy, was difficult to predict. Brussels was duty-bound to take a negotiating stance of teaching those wayward islanders a lesson – if only ‘pour décourager les autres’. And I can only presume that paperwork will be produced detailing the breakdown of the payment, and how it represents a genuine obligation as opposed to a number plucked from the air. Even if and when something of the kind is produced, whether anyone will be able to make sense of it is another matter.
Now negotiations can begin on trade, although first there is the little local difficulty of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which, whatever solution the negotiators come up with, is bound to upset one side or the other and perhaps both. The Irish government – that is, the real Irish government, seems in no mood for compromise or sweet talk, and its minority status, mirroring that of Britain’s, has other issues to grapple with at the same time, including the possibility of a snap election.
But then, finally, trade talks can surely begin. Well, maybe. Some hard-liners on the Conservative back benches are now talking about first insisting on a parliamentary vote on the fifty billion. How is that likely to go, given Theresa May’s lack of a majority, especially if her Ulster ‘coalition partner’, the Democratic Unionist Party, has been left in high dudgeon over the border issue.
Britain, in two words upon which both sides of the EU argument can actually agree upon, is in a ‘bloody mess’, which gets bloodier by the month. The picture is grim: the economy is in a downward spiral; productivity is in decline; the government is hanging on to power by the proverbial skin of its teeth; the governing party is at war with itself on several levels; the country is divided as never before in living memory; Jeremy Corbyn and Labour wait in the wings with a manifesto that will reverse Tory (and Labour) policies of the last half-century; and meanwhile, trade deals have to be negotiated with the rest of the world as well as the EU by a government with as weak a hand as any poker player held.
Look for a silver lining, if you will.
I have, and come up short, other than to echo Mr. Micawber in hoping that ‘something will turn up’.
Ever the optimist, Micawber at one point exclaimed, as if he had emerged from the pages of Dickens as a Brexiteer: “Welcome poverty! Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!”!
For Britain, I fear, the end is not yet in sight.
Brexiteers, hang your heads in shame at what you have wrought.