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22nd Sep 2018

Alone and Forsaken – The Brexit dream is moving closer to a dystopian reality

Dion Fanning

When the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, some wondered how Euroscepticism would cope now.

For forty years, Europe had been a useful whipping boy, the entity that could be blamed for everything from banana shapes to the threat to the great British fry-up. Once the UK left and they didn’t have the EU to blame anymore, what would they do? Well, now we know. They’ll blame the EU.

As Britain edges closer to the no-deal craved by the sadomasochistic wing of the Brexiteers, the EU is being blamed for not altering the position on something they insisted they would never alter their position on.

The UK will insist it had its red lines too, but mainly it just had its lines – ‘Brexit means Brexit’, ‘A Red, White and Blue Brexit’ and, of course, ‘No deal is better than a bad deal.’

Right now, no deal seems better than a no deal which is preceded by the kind of penny-ante tough talking which usually ends with someone slipping in a tub of curry sauce outside a chipper on a Friday night.

But this tough talk is just the flip side of the vision for a Brexit Britain. There was no real idea for how to get there. Brexit – like the invasion of Iraq – was the dream of ideologues who gave no thought to the aftermath. So this week, in the absence of a workable plan, they were able to return to the comforting position of blaming the EU.

How could they do anything else? Brexit isn’t a political position, it’s a syndrome.

And those who suffer from the disease, like all infected by nationalism, feel that their strains is one which is benign and doesn’t need a cure.

Instead they have infected half the country. When David Cameron promised an in/out referendum, it implied there was a simple way of detaching from the EU. Cameron is long gone and now the UK, like Alan Partridge in his travel tavern, is sitting in its underpants staring at a dismantled Corby trouser press while trying to blame everyone else for the pieces lying all over the room.

The events this week were the latest misadventure in the series.

Of course, the EU are monstrous negotiators, even with those who require compassion like Greece.

The UK probably needs some compassion too. It is a divided country, split between those who can’t believe that the self-destructive tendency could have been encouraged by a prime minister as dim as Cameron and who now despair at where their country is going, and those who believe taking back control will make a difference to their lives.

The people in the country need a deal and it is in Ireland’s interest to encourage that deal as well, for economic reasons and because the relationship, as Simon Coveney said on Thursday, is the closest we have, even if nationalism has disrupted that relationship again.

May did acknowledge on Friday the right of the three million EU citizens living in the UK to remain, but they may now be wondering why they would want to stick around in a country that has been led by the clueless on the most fundamental matters.

Protecting those EU citizens’ right is not just the correct thing to do to, the UK desperately needs them to stay as it tries to find a way out of this mess.

There is, of course, no way out of a calamity like Brexit unless it doesn’t happen, but being led by the worst collection of politicians in memory doesn’t help the UK. Cameron, of course, didn’t so much lead as invite someone on stage to be sawn in half and then scurry out through a fire exit when she was actually sawn in two, with blood splattered everywhere and sirens wailing loudly in the distance.

May has tried to fix the mess but this is a mess that can’t be fixed, even if she was good at fixing things, which she isn’t.

And now, the worst of all outcomes becomes more of a reality. For those who have fetishised Brexit there is nothing to fear, although more precisely this means that for those with great wealth, there is nothing to fear. For everyone else, there is a dystopia taking shape.

A no-deal in these circumstances may be even worse than the financial forecasts because it will be about a lot more than simply the financial forecasts.

If the EU is prepared for an economic hit to preserve a political concept, then the economic hit in the UK will feed into the most destructive political narrative.

In a no-deal world, it is easy to imagine a scenario where any evidence of the changed relationship across Europe will be reported as hostility by sections of the media in the UK. In this burnt out land, the tensions will grow. Britain will not be bold and free, it will be embittered, shrunken, distrustful and dismayed. And it will need someone to be dismayed at.

This is the Brexit dream that moves closer to reality. Salzburg underlined that Brexit is not a blow for freedom, it is the latest stage in a crippling obsession.

This is just a precursor to a deal in the autumn say many analysts, but they may be overestimating the ability of this bunch to pull a rabbit from a hat, at least a rabbit that is still functioning as a rabbit.

“I will not overturn the result of the referendum, nor will I break up my country,” May said on Friday but her country is broken anyway, destroyed by the psychic strain of this act of self-destruction while the chaos of the negotiations could propel the country further into isolation.

The Brexiteers will know who to blame for that. And so they will never be free, even as they take back their freedom. The illness is in their head, the obsession rages and consumes them.

They are standing up to Europe, they are talking tough to Europe and they are taking no nonsense from Europe. May will get a bounce as she ‘comes out fighting”, the Express can talk about her finest hour and this posturing has always played well, even if it’s the reason the UK is in the trouble it’s in.

This talk is empty and meaningless, a tone deaf misunderstanding of where they stand now. The Brexiteers can talk tough all they like, but the painful and grim reality is that soon they will be talking to themselves.

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