actions and consequences

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Brexit. There I’ve said it. Brexit has become the Voldemort of British politics: he whose name shall never be spoken aloud. Even though it’s the only explanation that fits the multiple societal crises we are currently experiencing, from petrol to natural gas via CO2 and blood, and from prosecco to pasta via pork and plumbers, it remains largely absent from the public discourse. However, it’s the common denominator that runs through all.

I do of course appreciate there’s a European shortage of HGV drivers but not on the scale that we are experiencing. Furthermore, I’m aware there are EU companies that now avoid delivering to the UK as a result of a massive increase in red-tape and costs. Yes, there’s been a cold-snap and demand for gas is high but it was our policy decision alone to hold much smaller reserves than our neighbours. I also hear there’s no shortages of anything in Northern Ireland as they’re still technically being treated as part of the EU. Ooops.

Brexit, followed by the pandemic, has created a void, a disconnect from the previous eras of David Cameron and Theresa May and allowed Boris Johnson the opportunity of avoiding taking any responsibility for the fallout. It’s as if they are the legacy of some party other than that of his own. Rather than face the uncomfortable truth that Brexit has not made a jot of difference to our immigration numbers, to the amount of bureaucracy a society needs to function or to any supposed cash injection to the NHS, our erstwhile PM now clothes the decision in a new cloak of invisibility, that it was to fix and replace a supposedly broken economic model. Call me a short-memoried cynic but I can’t recall the transition to a ‘highly paid, high skilled, productive economy’ being mentioned much before the script of his latest conference speech being written let alone pre-2016? If ever there was a more shameless re-writing of political history then I’ve yet to see it. Clever perhaps, but lies nonetheless.

And just before you think this a left-wing rant (no, it’s far more of a remoaner’s rant – ed.), Keir Starmer’s 14,000 word Road Ahead essay contained only five references to Brexit and they were all in the past tense. I find it incredulous that the opposition, largely a remain-focussed opposition, continue to be compliant in their failure to utter the word and highlight its influence.  

The reason Brexit keeps coming around again and again, like the carnival horse on a carousel, is that it requires BoJo to acknowledge that choices have costs, and not in the glib manner of Jon Bon Govey who recently stated that Brexit was a bit like moving house: “a hassle at first, but remember you are upgrading”, which is certainly up there with his pre-pandemic opinion that we’ve all had enough of experts! Perhaps the clearest example of actions and consequences is going to raise its ugly head again later this week when our country’s Brexit negotiator, belligerent Baron Frost, will undoubtedly again deliver a wildly unrealistic set of demands on the Northern Ireland protocol to Ursula von der Leyen. Followed shortly thereafter by a diatribe of how intransigent and entrenched they continue to be. At least St Theresa had the honesty to face the truth that in avoiding a hard-border on the island of Ireland, there had to be one somewhere, and that only left between the mainland and the island. One or t’other.

Whenever he finds himself in the sticky-stuff, Johnson proves again and again that he is the Harry Houdini of political escapology but it is an act that wears thinner with each repetition. As any Millennial would be able to remind him, in the end Voldemort was defeated, but first he had to be named. To make Brexit work this surely needs to happen.