Monday, 24 October 2016

Time to panic?

About 40 posts ago (40 posts!) I wrote that this blog might involve fact-finding, wild speculation and light-hearted updates on the effect of Brexit on my emotional state.  Along the way there's been quite a bit of fact-finding and certainly some wild speculation but I've not really posted at all about how Brexit has altered my mood. Do you fancy joining me for a post that is 100% grade A unadulterated solipsism? 

I've noticed a darkening of mood in my posts as summer turned to autumn and autumn now gives way to early winter.  Autumn is my favourite time of year so this can't be explained by the shortening days and the misty mornings.  Way back when I started this blog I wrote about the feelings of fear and despair that gripped me as the EU referendum result became clear.  Those feelings have started to return but this time with fewer pop videos and not-hilarious anecdotes.  I know this is completely irrational because I'm not in a vulnerable position where I'm seeking sanctuary or expecting to be tortured or harmed in any way. Nevertheless, a kind of madness seems to have taken hold of UK politics.  I just don't know where this will end.

I watched a documentary about the history of skinheads on BBC4 recently.  Now, I was always more a fan of futuristic pop music like the Human League so I have zero interest in the history of skinheads. It turned out, however, to be a fascinating snapshot of social history.  It portrayed a world back in the 70s and 80s where terrifying levels of racism and violence erupted in the streets.  Some of the footage was really disturbing - mass Nazi salutes; Asian shops being smashed up; fear to leave your own neighbourhood; street movements orchestrated by shadowy far-right political groups.  This all happened in my lifetime.  Will it happen again?  Is it already happening now?  There is plenty of evidence that racial hate crimes are already on the increase, particularly in England.  How long before the EDL morph into something even more repulsive when they finally work out the government will not protect them from the forces of globalisation? The rhetoric from the government does nothing to stop the rise of xenophobia, while the press is doing everything but lighting the fuse.  A recent case involving C4 journalist Fatima Manji springs to mind.

The answer is probably that she's an excellent journalist.
Back in early July there was talk of a tit-for-tat war involving EU and UK citizens living and working outside the nation listed on their passport.  Is this really going to happen?  Back then it seemed so remote that it was easy to talk about it without churning my stomach but now it seems more like a reality.  The relationship between the UK and the EU has taken a path that has ended in outright acrimony and the real talks to leave the EU haven't even started. I've irrationally began to worry this could soon become a thing - letters to your address giving notice to leave, trips to lawyers to begin the appeal process, trains and buses laid on, and braying mobs giving Nazi salutes to the departing workers to round off the whole sorry saga.

A few years ago I lived in central Birmingham. Nobody would ever call Birmingham a beautiful city but it does have a fascinating industrial heritage.  Just take a stroll along the canals but make sure to go past the inviting bars and cafes right in the city centre.   Within 10 minutes you are in a world of abandoned factories and forgotten industry.  If you're tall like me you can even peer through the broken windows and see that there are still machines inside patiently waiting for the workers to return. I'm guessing these all closed in the orchestrated recession of the early 80s.  The current government seem to be on a road to economic ruin, all in the name of "taking back control" and appeasing the rising shouts of racists and xenophobes.  Are we going to see derelict office buildings and ghostly business parks in the near future?  The collapse of the pound is so sudden and so responsive to Ministerial pronouncement that it reminds me of the economy's response to the monetarist experiments of the early 80s.  What would happen if tax revenues from Canary Wharf dip significantly due to banks relocating to Frankfurt and Dublin?  It's not going to be a good time to be poor or reliant on welfare or waiting to cash in your pension.
Leaving the EU might lead in time to the repeal of the Human Rights Act and withdrawal from the ECHR.  Are we going to see the return of the death penalty?  That's certainly what David Davis wants.  What about corporal punishment in schools?  Rights of access for wheelchair users?  What about the remains of the right to take industrial action?   Brexit has emboldened everyone who lauds the 50s as a peaceful time of order, conformity and empire. Whatever happened to progressive politics?  Is that era now at an end for the UK?

The endless parade of jingoistic tirades that we see in the press suggests we are sleep-walking towards a future of unquestioning patriotism.  This is perhaps the most worrying turn of all.  Last year on a sight-seeing trip to Heidelberg I got chatting to a Russian who was there on business.  He painted a grim picture of life under Putin's rule where people who disagreed with the rising tide of nationalism just retreated into their own private world.  One thing he said that struck me was that it is no longer allowed to hold dual passport status if you are Russian - applying for citizenship outside Russia means giving up Russian citizenship.  This is designed to stop Russian workers leaving and to punish those that do. Is this the kind of measure we an expect in a post-Brexit UK? Is all of this just a blip that will blow over or the start of something far more sinister?

I've never been more glad to be living and working outside the UK.  I've never given Swiss citizenship any serious thought until now but then I'd never fully appreciated the stability and pragmatism of normal life with rational governance.   I have just 3 years to go before I can begin the process.  What will happen in those 3 years?  Where will the UK be by then?

Over and out,


PS There is a huge discrepancy between the language of the government and its action.  The government have actually done next to nothing to resolve the many issues of Brexit.  In the meantime, they have been boxed in to a corner by their public pronouncements on migration and trade.  Instead of keeping options open, they are closing them down before they have time to think of balance and consequence. Instead of seeking allies, they are making enemies.  Instead of consistency and unity, each Minister jostles for attention, playing to the gallery. This is not rational in any way, yet opinion polls show huge support for the Prime Minister.  The public is therefore behaving equally irrationally.  The Labour Party, meanwhile, well, I don't want to even go there. This is a vicious cycle that cannot end well. 

PPS Where can we find a cold-hearted rational response to Brexit? Foreign exchange markets.  Bloody heck, what a mess.


  1. I wonder: Did we ever send anyone with Christian heritage to report on the troubles in Northern Ireland? Did a "str8" reporter ever cover a gay pride? Did an able bodied person ever report on the Paralympics?

    Ok. That's that then.

    Yes. It's getting frightening in the UK. The level of hate crimes is rising scarily and despite this the Daily Diana and its fellow travellers in the Britnat world continue to fuel the fires with hate stories almost invariably completely made up.

    Of course they feed off one another. The audience love this stuff and the papers provide it, and the audience loves it more and so the papers provide more.

    And the morons in Westminster can't see the dangers in this open racism, or if they can they won't do anything because they see it being to their advantage in the crap deal they are going to get. Indeed, to keep their baying mobs at a distance, they add to it.

    Frankly, any agreement that involves any free movement is now out of the question. They are boxing themselves into splendid isolation. But we're British. We don;t need other people. We're America's bestest friends. They will look after us... won't they?

    The amusing thing is that many of the people who are the most vociferous in their complaints against foreigners are the very ones with the most to lose. They're the hapless poor sods that will find themselves being dragooned into picking fruit and veg on farms on piece rates all summer, rain and shine. Back breaking if you ask me!

    It's a little ironic too that we independentistas in Scotland, berated for "narrow nationalism" only a couple of years ago, are now being blamed for being internationalists and wanting to let the world and its dog into our country.

    If I had the opportunity to look around for an alternative to British nationality (which, I suppose I do through working ever harder to achieve independence, but that apart) I would certainly investigate it.

    I have friends who have parents or grandparents of Irish, Polish, Italian, French origins who are now going about the business of investigating joint nationality.

    Sadly, my family is boringly Scottish.

    1. I think it was Andrea Leadsom who suggested a UK army of fruit-pickers. She could have been the Prime Minister by now. Narrow escape.

      FoM does seem out of the question now. There is still a chance of a fudge, I suppose, but the signs don't point that way. The problem for T May is that she has to make it look as though decisions are being made. Today, the First Minister confirmed my worst fears that they still have no substantive plan. The war of words will continue for some time yet. Perhaps allies are being courted behind the scenes. I just don't see any evidence of that, given the constant sniping and we-dont-need-them rhetoric.

      I need to hope that this all blows over soon and that rational heads will eventually prevail. That would need a change of personnel.

      I'm also boringly Scottish. I like being Scottish but right now I could do with just a subtle hint of Euro glamour.

      For entirely selfish reasons I am rather banking on Scottish independence to extricate myself from this. It still seems a long way off and the juggling act required to get there will require serious skillz. Even learning what problem needs to be solve is dependent on a proper UK plan. That means more waiting around while the clock ticks away.

  2. Repeat after me...
    There's NOTHING boring about being Scottish.

    Repeat for a hundred times and don't EVER forget it.

    1. Well, you know I didn't mean that. But it would have been nice to be a little Icelandic or French or something so that, if by some nasty quirk of fate (or Tory double dealing) we end up remaining as a part of the UK, I can get the hell out of here.

    2. It would be great to have a hint of glamour and intrigue in my family tree. Maybe Great Great Uncle Vanya had served coffee to a young Lenin, or Aunt Dagmar had been the studio engineer for ABBA's first hit.


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