As the saying goes, Britannia may have ruled the waves and now it has disastrously decided to waive the rules (Representational Image: AFP)
"So come with old Bachchoo and leave the lot
Of nay-sayers and bigot-heads to rot
Let bogey-yogis spit their words of hate They are earth’s filthy odours, heed them not!" From the Rubaiyat of Bachchoo Ka Adda
By the time you access this column, gentle reader, Great Britain will have left the European Union. Brexit will be assessed as one of the most damaging confidence tricks in the history of the sceptred isle.
"Confidence" has its usual connotation of someone deliberately hoodwinking half a population, but it also means that millions placed their confidence in a self-harming delusion.
The narrow victory of the Brexiteers over Remainers was the result of both these "confidence" factors. The leaders of the Brexit campaign, among them two Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, would have been well aware of the economic and socially disastrous consequences of leaving the bloc of 28 countries, which buys over 40 per cent of Britain’s exports.
The EU was the insurance and safeguard against the global dominance of the American and Chinese hegemonies. After millennia of virtually genocidal wars within Europe, the 28 nations have found the path to unity and peace in a dangerous world.
Boris and Michael were undoubtedly aware of all this, but each of them had the overriding strategy to use Brexit to further their own ambition -- getting through the door of 10 Downing Street. Both of them used the persuasion which they knew a considerable number of the voters in the referendum would fall for -- British xenophobia (now renamed Brenophobia?). They openly lied to the British population. Their campaign said that leaving the EU would bring back to these shores millions of pounds a week which could go directly into the National Health Service. Even at the time these figures were analysed, challenged and proved to be a calculated lie.
Their campaign trotted out the falsehood that Turkey was to imminently join the European Union and millions of Turks, with their Islamic tendencies, would legally infest England’s pleasant pastures.
There were several significant politicians in the Tory Party who had, or whose spouses, relatives or partners had, holdings in hedge funds which profited to the tune of billions of pounds through the fluctuation of the pound sterling -- a direct consequence of the uncertainties in the money markets caused by the Brexit referendum and then by the vote. Was this an unconscious consequence of their deeply held nationalism? Has the Pope converted to Islam?
The all-encompassing appeal to Brenophobia was contained in their campaign slogan of "Take Back Control". Various surveys in the media ventured to test the appeal of this slogan and asked thousands of those who intended to, or did, vote for Brexit, which controls they wanted to take back. Ninety-nine per cent of the answers amounted to stopping immigration from Europe. Keep Johnny foreigner out! The other one per cent said they wanted to keep European fishing boats out of British waters.
Both Boris and Michael made much of the fact that breaking the shackles of European trade regulations would mean that Britain would strike fantastic deals with countries round the globe, principally the United States. President Barack Obama warned Britain at the time of the referendum that any trade deal outside one with the EU would have to get to "the back of the queue".
With Donald Trump in the White House and Boris’ fawning attitude to the clown, it may have seemed that Mr Obama’s dictum had been overruled. Mr Trump never specifically said anything that would benefit Britain at the cost of his own empty slogan of "Make America Great Again".
Perhaps little Michael and panto-Boris were confident that Mr Trump would stay in the White House after 2020 and they would find some subterfuge to cover up the sale of bits of Britain’s National Health Service to American privateers (pun intended!). Of course, they swore that that would never happen. As pet dogs swear to respect lamp posts?
Come January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden is all set to revive some Obama policies, which would involve the relegation of Great Britain to the back of the queue, not to mention its relegation from, to use a football metaphor, the Premier League of nations to the Littlehampton Lions Footy Fumbles.
The confident prediction, by even the right-wing Brenophobexit supporting think tanks, was that Britain’s departure from Europe will cause economic disruption several times that caused by the Covid-19 shutdowns.
More disastrously, Scotland voted to remain in the EU and will certainly now vote to secede from its 400-year-old amalgamation into Great Britain. Will Wales follow? And Northern Ireland, which also voted to remain in the EU, now unite with the Republic of Ireland and leave England on its own?
A minor irony of Brenophobexit is that the left of the Labour Party and its infiltrating Trotskyists, some of them my good friends, campaigned for the breach, alleging that Britain must break away from the "capitalist club" of Europe. And now they have it. At the cost of millions of jobs which will decimate working class communities. Perhaps they believe that Bojo and the Govester will now make trade deals with "socialist" Venezuela and Gabon and those will make Britain great again. Some Tories are already campaigning to change EU rules that protect workers and working practices.
As the saying goes, Britannia may have ruled the waves and now it has disastrously decided to waive the rules.