To be great again

Brexit will remain the main theme of discussion for years

By Anabel Loyd
  • Published 9.09.18
  • a few seconds read

Over the past few months in this part of the world, the news to go with the sun, sand and ice creams has rarely been good. Europe, after a long period of record-breaking heat and drought in parts literally went up in flames with horrific fires in Greece and Portugal, and here, less disastrously, in the Yorkshire moors. As temperatures moderated to something more like our usual British summers, the morale and the essential services of this country have struggled ever more under the strain of the government's total immersion in exit strategies and border issues as the pound has continued to fall. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, who has rarely put a foot wrong during his tenure, has been lambasted by the Brexiteers for telling it as it is with regard to a no-deal divorce, and the occasional cabinet minister, including the chancellor of the exchequer who has come close to doing the same, has been denied not only by his opponents but by his next-door neighbour in Downing Street, the prime minister. Now we look forward to who knows what at annual party conferences in September with both the government and Opposition parties split beyond redemption and the Labour leader accused of anti-Semitism to boot, an accusation that seems unfairly to be gathering strength as his efforts at mitigation invariably strike the wrong note somewhere, including with the former Chief Rabbi.

Lately, even the most rabid Conservative Brexiteers, while railing against the prime minister and her attempts to cobble together some sort of workable deal, have begun to admit that the effects of our split from Europe - the good effects, that is - that they have preached throughout the process, may not be seen for years, quite possibly decades. How dare they? These are not the people unable to find work and living in extreme poverty by the standards of this country, who thought change would help them onto the ladder at last. Wrong but understandable. No, these are the men, women, too, but they are presently less to the fore, who are white, generally wealthy and successful and likely to be able to provide for their children and grandchildren to live in similar style, with private healthcare and education when public systems break down as they are already beginning to do. Not to beat about the bush, they make me sick sitting in their hugely valuable London houses, surrounded by the good things of life and smugly saying that Britain will be 'great' again once she is all alone because, and this is the really unbelievable thing, look at the Empire and what this country once stood for.

Oh and they collect authors like G.A. Henty, imperial tales of patriotic derring-do that reek of jingoistic racism, although Wikipedia informs me that his novel, With Clive in India, includes an Indian servant who marries a white woman. Whew! Actually, Henty told cracking tales in the remit of his day but they were the sort of things my grandfather, who was far from anti-European by the way, or maybe my great-grandfather, whose political views I have no idea of although his family were generally liberal reformers, again within the standards of their day, read when he was about eight. Henty died in 1902, he is not an author to be collected by adult men in our theoretically more enlightened times, however seductive the covers of early editions of those old books. People like this, who would forcibly deny any such accusation, are not much different from the extreme Right that is once again rearing its head across this country and greater Europe and which again we need to combat as a united and European force.

We are just returned from our usual summer family gathering on Islay, better known for its whisky and where indeed another new distillery, the second in a decade, is about to open. These days they also produce hyper-fashionable designer gins in spare moments and the annual whisky festival in May attracts visitors from across the world, in particular China. The Scots, as we know, may have been keen to leave the United Kingdom, happily not yet enough of them to succeed, but they most definitely want to stay in Europe. Whisky sales are unlikely to be much affected by Brexit, but distilleries these days employ remarkably few people whereas Scottish industries and businesses in general are suffering the uncertainties of the present situation as badly as the rest of the Union. Meanwhile, the best-known former Scottish Nationalist leader, AlexSalmond, who spearheaded the Scottish independence referendum, is fighting for his reputation against accusations of sexual harassment whilst in office. His success in a few days' crowdfunding for his legal costs in a fight against the Scottish government that he once led seems likely to fracture yet another of the United Kingdom's political parties.

Dear me, this is all terribly repetitive and I feel I have written more or less the same thing every month since the European Union referendum but Brexit is all our news. Theresa May has been improbably and unrhythmically dancing her way round potential future trading partners among African countries this week. Well, apart from the dancing and full marks for not caring if she looks ridiculous by joining in with groups of young people regardless of the world press, all the news from there has been against the background of anticipated Brexit losses, the positive constantly outweighed by the negative. There is nothing else happening on which we can focus for more than a brief recuperative moment in some escapist entertainment. I wonder if one day there will be something to write about again other than Brexit or its after-effects? Probably not, as I am sure I have already said ad infinitum, in my lifetime. On present forecasts, along with those for a world that will overheat perpetually until or unless someone finds a solution or it explodes, possibly not in my children's or grandchildren's either. I am trying hard to think about other things and look for the glass half full in directions where we may still hope to succeed and survive.