Friday, September 6, 2019

Brexit Fatigue

I shot this shopfront when I was in Margate early last month. To hear some people tell it, the whole country is going to look like this after Brexit -- shuttered and dusty, shops devoid of food and drugs, factories stymied by lack of supplies and markets to sell their products. Fun times!

Seriously, some of you have asked about Brexit -- how it will work (or not work), what its effects will be. I haven't immediately addressed these questions because I'm no expert, and to be honest, nobody seems to know! There is no consensus. Leavers seem to believe that when the UK gets out of Europe we'll be newly invigorated and any ill-effects will be mere inconveniences; remainers say people will literally die. You couldn't have two more extreme responses.

Here's the situation as it stands now: Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on Oct. 31. We do not yet have an agreed-upon deal that governs issues like trade and, crucially, the Irish border. (Ireland is an EU state; Northern Ireland, after the end of October, will not be.) Boris Johnson, our fluffy new prime minister, wants us to leave on Oct. 31, whether we have a deal or not, and sort out the consequences afterwards. Parliament says we cannot leave before we have a deal. Thus, the government is deadlocked, with the next option being to call new elections and bring in a whole new government. (This summary relies on my somewhat foggy comprehension of British politics, but I'm pretty sure that's all correct.)

What's scary at the moment is how thoroughly the British political system is mired. I've never seen a government so bogged down. I am no fan of Brexit -- it was a huge mistake to start this ball rolling with that 2016 referendum, and as I've said from the beginning, that vote was a disaster. But I do think we have to move ahead. To mix my metaphors, we're stuck in a washing machine, going around and around, getting more faded and battered and tired on a wash cycle that never ends. We have to get out of the darn machine.

It's no wonder Russia has been implicated in manipulating voters both here and in the United States. It's Vladimir Putin's dream, to see western Democracies churning and preoccupied in this fashion. He couldn't ask for more.

To that end, I think Boris Johnson may be right in saying we should leave on Oct. 31, deal or no deal. We have to put a stop to this. Sadly, I think it's probably too late to go back and readdress the Brexit question. We're not going to see a second referendum, and frankly, many voters are so insanely stubborn about it that I'm not convinced the results would be much different anyway. So let's just make this horrible, misguided exercise happen, and live with the consequences. It's going to cost jobs and cause misery, and I truly fear for continued peace in Northern Ireland and the future of the UK itself -- Scotland may demand independence -- but those cats are out of the bag.

On a selfish personal level, I don't think it's going to affect me or Dave a great deal, at least not initially. The school will continue to operate. Dave takes some medications for his Crohn's, but even in a worst-case scenario where they become unobtainable -- which is hard to imagine -- I don't think he would suffer in the short term. We can live without certain kinds of fresh produce and whatnot, again in the short term. (This all assumes the British government can renegotiate trade agreements in fairly short order -- but given the recent paralysis that may be a pipe dream. I don't know squat about international trade, really. That is above my pay grade.)

So, the short answer to all your Brexit questions is...who the hell knows?!

I can't believe I forgot to include this book cover in yesterday's post. This is a 1960 edition of "Hiawatha" with a fabulous cover (and equally fabulous inside artwork) by British illustrator Joan Kiddell-Monroe. I love this book. I've never read "Hiawatha" (it's incredibly long); all I know are these few lines:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.

And blah blah blah, it goes on from there. Weirdly, I used to live near a town in Florida called Nokomis. Maybe if Brexit is even more of a disaster than I imagine, Dave and I will move back there -- if Hiawatha will have us.


Yorkshire Pudding said...

I award you a B+ for your essay on Brexit.

There is no easy way back to relative peacefulness and common sense in our national politics. As you suggest, the cats are now out of the bags and the repercussions of this man-made nightmare will resonate through the rest of my life. I wouldn't call Johnson "fluffy", I'd call him bloody dangerous.

Steve Reed said...

He's physically fluffy, at least on top.

Mary said...

I would say you did a pretty good job of briefly analyzing the chaos that is Brexit.

Had to laugh that when I saw the cover of "Hiawatha" I immediately started to recite the opening lines of that piece even before I saw that you had written them. Clearly a piece I had to learn by rote many decades ago. Same thing happens when I hear about The Charge of the Light Brigade - "Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of death road the six hundred..." Do they still require this kind of memorization in school these days?

Sabine said...

From across the channel on what British people like to call Europe or "the continent", it basically looks like the unbelievable mess you describe.
The notion that "Brussels" was going to stop the UK being a sovereign state, taking away "freedom" and such is a laugh. We are all watching this lovely country going down the drain and it will. My university department has curtailed all research projects with UK partners (medicine) until further notice.
I heard someone in the BBC saying recently that German carmakers are going to come up with a last minute solution because they wouldn't survive without UK buyers. We almost spat out tea across the table in disbelief and laughter.

But you are right, people like you have - yet - little to fear, provided your passports are the proper kind, your employment is secure and your bank balance is healthy. Did you have to register your resident status via app as well?

From Ireland it looks like a terrible, terrible storm coming. And this is what breaks my heart. When I read that Pence told the Irish PM this week "to respect the UK's sovereingty" I wanted to reach out and give him a short history lesson but I fear that man's idea of Ireland is stuck in the time when the UK so gravely and cruelly failed to respect Ireland's sovereignty.

Sorry for the rant.

I love the old book covers. Keep them coming!

Alphie Soup said...

Exactly Steve! Who the hell knows?
Fear mongering abounds. The so-called fluffy PM has run up, quite quickly, against the difficulties attached to holding power in a government with a slim majority.
The 2016 referendum, a political debacle if ever there was one, a move which Cameron touted as a mandate from the people. Hah!
And Russia's alleged involvement; if you're ever inclined to post an opinion piece, I'd be all eyes.
No second referendums, the government and the people have to live with and make the best of the result, for better or worse.
You and Dave have the option of leaving and going to live in Hiawathaville if the situation descends into total chaos; which it won't. And I sit here in the Antipodes, watching each daily episode with great interest.
The best of British to those living in the fabled land of hope and glory.

Steve Reed said...

Here's a flow chart I came across this morning that helps illustrate the possible paths this whole debacle could take:

Alphie Soup said...

Are Ladbrokes offering odds on flow chart options?

Ms. Moon said...

I still don't understand why anyone thought it was a good idea to begin with.
Sabine paints a very dark picture. It's all such a mess.
I'd ask how BJ got elected because obviously he's a complete tool but I'm still asking the same about DT.
Is Russia behind it all?
One more question: Why were we all required to learn lines from Hiawatha? Because we were.

Red said...

Since nobody really knows about Brexit , they could get some nasty surprises. I lived 20 miles from Nokomis in Saskatchewan. And of course my blog is Hiawatha House.

The Bug said...

Somehow I missed having to learn Hiawatha - not sure how I got so lucky. The Canterbury Tales on the other hand... "Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour..."

Brexit just feels like The Way The World Is Going these days (which is to say, to hell in a Russian handbasket). Heavy sigh.

robin andrea said...

Thank you for writing this, Steve. I was hoping you'd share your perspective. The whole thing sounds crazy, and Boris Johnson seems like a raving lunatic. Is he Trump's long-lost twin brother? We are in the hands of madmen.

Sharon said...

Your take on Brexit got me thinking about an opinion piece I read earlier this week in the NY Times. It was by Thomas Edsall about a political psychology paper titled "A Need for Chaos and the sharing of Hostile Political Rumors in Advanced Democracies". It was an interesting perspective and one I've heard a few other times from guest speakers at ASU at those events I've been attending. All I can say is that Putin must go to bed smiling every single night. He's got the strong democracies right where he's wanted them, divided and about to tear themselves apart. Can we pull ourselves out of this?

By the shores of Gitche Gumee....that brought back memories.

jenny_o said...

We are certainly living in "interesting times".

Catalyst said...

I've been following the Brexit and Boris disasters a bit but it's very confusing. And we have our own problems in this country.

37paddington said...

Thanks for the cheat sheet, Steve. I agree that Russia is in the catbird seat and Western democracies churn in the spin cycle, great metaphor. Over here, we're churning too, but we're so exhausted from all the outrages we dont know where to focus our attention. We're getting burned out. Not a good look. Once it was said the sun never set on the British empire. I suppose all empires must end, and quite decisively it seems.

Edna B said...

It all sounds so confusing. I'm not very good at politics. However, I'm sure there's still a place for you and Dave here if you need it. Hopefully, all things will be worked out to good for all mankind. You have a wonderful evening, hugs, Edna B.

Stillwaterrunsdeep said...

I won’t comment on Brexit, but I want to say the Song of Hiawatha is very dear to me, since I live on Lake Nokomis, in northern Wisconsin! I used to have a lot of the poem memorized, but that was ages ago! That’s a pretty great cover on your book there, I love old book cover designs. Thank you for sharing!

Steve Reed said...

YP: I responded to you up above, but I'll add: JUST a B-plus?!

Mary: I know many kids were made to memorize those poems, but I never was. Didn't Lucy Ricardo recite those "Gitchee Gumee" lines on "I Love Lucy" at some point?

Sabine: The Irish situation is the darkest component of this whole mess. I really hope we don't see a re-ignition of hostilities there.

Alphie: I have no great insight into Russia's involvement -- not enough to warrant my own opinion piece -- beyond what's been described in the press. I think it's beyond a doubt that Russia meddled in the Brexit referendum in much the same way it meddled in the US elections.

Ms Moon: Brexit motivates a variety of voters -- older people who remember World War II and its aftermath and remain suspicious of German dominance in Europe; working people who feel modern Britain has left them behind; people from rural areas and small cities who think too much wealth and power is concentrated in London. I don't know why Hiawatha was such a "thing" back then.

Red: I thought of you when I posted that book cover! Maybe you should adapt it for your blog header? LOL

Bug: Bravo for reciting the Canterbury Tales, complete with curious Middle English spelling! I memorized neither "Hiawatha" nor "Canterbury," but I did recite Robert Frost and a German poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Robin: Johnson is definitely taking pages from Trump's playbook, much to our detriment.

Sharon: I'll have to look at that piece! Putin must be thrilled.

Jenny-O: Indeed.

Catalyst: Your disasters and our disasters are related, rooted in a similar sense of voter discontent and lack of opportunities with a strong undercurrent of xenophobia and racism.

37P: That easy voter distraction is part of the right-wing methodology for staying in power. Keep their eyes on the newest scandal or outrage so they don't notice what's really going on!

Edna: Hopefully. There are days when I'm skeptical!

StillWater: Lake Nokomis! That's great! Was it named after Longfellow's poem, or did Longfellow take the name from the lake? Which came first, I wonder?

ellen abbott said...

your description sounds like what's going on here.

never read Hiawatha either. my daughter was assigned The Last of The Mohicans in middle school I think. omg! she just could not understand it and would ask me for help. I'd read a paragraph a whole page long and then summarise it in one or two sentences. that's how wordy it is.

Fresca said...

Hey, now that I've moved neighborhoods, I live near a Lake Nokomis too, like StillWater! I live even nearer --three blocks-- to Lake Hiawatha, which feeds into Nokomis.
Minnehaha Creek runs between the lakes, on its way to the Mississippi River.

Definitely these are all drawn from Longfellow--there's a statue of him somewhere around here.
I must go exploring and link up all these sites!

Beth Reed said...

So sorry I haven't been around but some kind of bug caught me and my daughter and we both have been miserable. Today is really my first day up and about since last Thursday or Friday. The weekend was really rough.

I love your book covers. It makes me wonder how I missed some of them growing up. I remember Hiawatha but I don't think that I ever read it. It is really strange how our lives interconnect. Just one post can throw us back into time. I love it.

I want to blog today so I am going to try and not over do it but someone has to take out the trash and wash some dishes and start some laundry. I just wish that someone was not me.

Have a great day!