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Brexit Night – what a difference two years didn’t make


AS THE public outrage about Partygate lingers and someone named Sue Gray holds the keys to No 10’s fate, I can’t help but recall the fanfare leading up to January 31 2020, an evening which felt it would never arrive, when the United Kingdom finally left the European Union in the Brexit the public cheered Johnson for ‘delivering’.

I’ll wager everyone in the land remembers where they were when the clock struck midnight on leaving day. I had started out early before sunset from Westminster Station and was walking to meet some friends at a pub after which we moved to a private club in Pall Mall to ring in the festivities.

The final run-up to Brexit had been beset with drama, from the moment the Queen, on the advice of PM Boris Johnson, ordered Parliament to be prorogued, advice later ruled to be unlawful, to the final session of Parliamentary shenanigans that involved MPs threatening to barricade themselves inside the chamber. The legislative circus was as wildly entertaining as anything you’d buy a cinema ticket for. 

The denouement began with the stern entrance of Black Rod as the Queen’s representative, a formidable guardswoman kitted out in sword and impressive regalia – a woman you would be ill-advised to mess with.

Marching up to Pall Mall waving our Union Jacks and readying for the countdown, over 40 years in the coming for some, it had a veritable VE Day feel. Britain had finally escaped the clutches of a ghastly EU bureaucratic monster despite the machinations of a group of Parliamentary loons!

However wonderful the festivities were, whatever the thrill of victory, a nasty hangover was to come.

Where is Britain two years later? How has Johnson’s ‘leaving do’ speech on December 4, 2020 in the aftermath of the transition period, turned out? He promised the UK would take back control of its money, borders, laws and waters. But the so-called ‘free trade’ deal (the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement or TCA) concluded on Christmas Eve of 2020 delivered a starkly different reality

First, our fishermen have been betrayed and annihilated by quota swaps being scrapped and remain justifiably outraged that EU boats may fish a mere six miles off the coast. Johnson’s leaving the fishing negotiation to the very end has left the UK fishing industry in a terrible position, given the EU huge advantages over the next five years while keeping us within the Common Fisheries Policy system and preventing our coastal communities from using our nation’s resource to lift themselves out of their depressed state. I am no expert on the intricacies of hake or haddock catches but would venture to assess this part of the deal as an abject failure, not to mention that lately the fillets at my local chippy don’t seem to taste as good as they used to!

Second, the territorial integrity of UK borders has never been more compromised. We were promised the deal would enable the United Kingdom to take back control of its borders, and yet there are still more illegal crossings from France every month, with no end in sight, detailed elsewhere on these pages today.

Third, as to promises of financial sovereignty, the United Kingdom has effectively been sliced into parcels with a de facto economic annexation of Northern Ireland into the EU Single Market and crippling trade tariffs along with non-tariff barriers in place. The economic woes won’t end there, as the Union pays eventually, with Scottish nationalists agitating all the harder on grounds that their concerns were ignored in Brexit negotiations. 

With Civil Service sabotage of Brexit, it is no wonder that the Remainer campaign for Britain’s return to the EU power vacuum is taking on a new momentum. They’ve even launched a political party for the purpose, led by arch-anti-Brexiteer Gina Miller. 

A fourth and final nail in the coffin along a trail of broken promises relates to the present threats to security faced by the United Kingdom. Many commentators have cited Britain’s loss of access to the Schengen Information System (SIS II), a resource of law enforcement. Apparently the Interpol I-24/7 database set to replace such access will not provide such information in real time. Worse, it is said to depend on EU co-operation.

With this and every other negotiation Britain were played for fools and bullied. Not once were the EU made to feel we were prepared to walk away with No Deal.

Whether we need real time information about some criminal who wants to stick up a McDonald’s in Europe is doubtful. What I and the average British citizen really care about is bad actors from the continent landing on British soil, whether people-trafficking or brandishing a machete. The House of Lords data protection-focused report referenced above typically rambles on about what does not matter and ignores the criminal activities that do. Anyone who commits a serious crime such as murder, robbery or rape surely has forfeited any rights to privacy.

In this post-transition world, is anyone asking whether we ought to rip up that pathetic treaty and start again? It boils down to what one is willing to accept or reject, and how best to steer the ship on course for a future relationship with our neighbours without subjecting the United Kingdom to waves of dispossessed economic migrants, criminals and fish pirates.

Perhaps when that is all sorted out in a proper UK-EU divorce, we can start anew, forging a fresh understanding to nurture the best qualities of both Britain and its European allies.

Until that day, I suppose the fare from my chippy will have to be doused with a larger wallop of vinegar. 

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Bridget Jones 2024
Bridget Jones 2024
Bridget Jones

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