Toodle Pip

Brits are masters of the euphemism—sorry, was that EU-phemism?

At the drop of midnight on Friday in Europe, eleven post-mortem UK time, the Brits went on their merry way. When I say ‘merry’, one’s tongue is firmly planted in cheek, since practically everyone I know in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland is thoroughly ticked awf at the prospect of leaving the European Union.

Total number of applications for Irish passports from residents of Northern Ireland and for the whole of Britain.

But the majority voted, the pols played their silly games, and here we are. The true spoilers, of Farage and Bannon calibre, are hell-bent on destroying the EU. Trump’s a big fan of tearing it apart, and then there’s a smattering of neo-fascists in places like Poland and Hungary who are talking up dismemberment—literally the process of removing members.

In the recently published book ‘A Very Stable Genius’, the authors reveal that after the Bastille Day parade, Trump confided in Macron that ‘ he never realized France had won a few wars.’ Useful idiots and historical autism aside, the coterie of EU bashers have one thing in common—wistful tears for long-vanished empires, and a hatred that there may be a new kid on the block—Ursula von der Leyen expressed it perfectly: ‘in unity lies strength.’

As for European diversity, Mississippi and Rhode Island too have little in common, except McDonald’s and arguably a common language.

I’m flying to Asia right now, munitioned with a couple of surgical masks, since the airports look like scenes from Armageddon. This is the Asia that once housed the British Empire, and Doha’s Hamad airport was pretty er… mad, replete with Indians, Afghans, Chinese, and every other stripe, looking like a surgeons’ convention—as for the locals, it’s pretty funny to see Mid-Eastern men wearing veils for a change.

As a viral aside, I wonder if countries where the veil is worn show a difference between sexes (or genders, if one must) when it comes to contagion—I would imagine it would be easy to test, even for the common cold—in places such as Saudi Arabia, where segregation is routine.

My stomping ground over the next couple of weeks is exactly where the English (for it is they, not the thrifty Scots nor the Irish diaspora) hope to make the deal of the century—perhaps Bojo & Co. plan to memorize DJ’s ‘Art of the Deal’, but unfortunately the English, much like the orange man, aren’t particularly good at making deals unless accompanied by gunships, of the helicopter variety or otherwise.

The Financial Times weekend edition—you get through a lot of newspapers on long-hauls—carries a particularly interesting review of the love-hate relationships between UK prime ministers and Europe.

Churchill’s position, later endorsed by Eden, was well-known—Europe must unite, but without the Brits, who would dedicate themselves to building the bridge between the continent and the US and sally forth to their erstwhile empire to seek their true destiny.

With typical English arrogance, they neglected to accept that they had all but lost the empire, that Britain would never have won the Second World War (or the first) without America, that the US considered the UK a minor relative whereas a grateful post-war Europe welcomed Britain with open arms, and that the ex-colonies had no desire whatsoever—much less a strong incentive—to do trade deals benefiting the UK.

Furthermore, when waxing starry-eyed of empire, the English thought themselves unique, ignoring the reality of so many other European countries, including Spain, whose projection in South and Central America was and is huge, France, who remains closely linked to an important swathe of central Africa, and Portugal, who until 1975 actually had an empire.

India, Pakistan, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and  all the others saw an opportunity to sell goods into the UK, far more than buying from them. But mainly, their nationals saw a huge chance to offset Britain’s shortage of menial jobs through immigration—the sons and grandsons of Bengalis, Kashmiris, Sri Lankans, Keralans, and so many others are now far better placed in British society, from business to politics, than the vast majority of Brexiteers.

The move away from Europe is very much in the interest of those high-flyers—children of Pakistani bus drivers and cleaners—whose natural alliances are not to be found in the commercial houses of the Rhineland, the agricultural powerhouses of the Po valley, or the region of Champagne, but in the floodplains of the Irrawaddy and the Ganges.

When China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, and the other big boys get the call from the Foreign Office, it’s unlikely they’ll shiver with the fevers of orgasm at the prospect of a bilateral deal with a nation of sixty million moderately affluent people, a country better known for perfidy and calculation than equitable terms, when in the grand scheme of things they’re selling to four hundred million Europeans—from the corner convenience to the Kremlin capitalists, everyone knows the difference between retail and wholesale.

So let’s turn to the British citizens, and in particular to those who celebrated Brexit—many of whom have no clear idea why they want to leave, in what ways the EU actually makes their life worse, and what their expectations are for this bright new day—these are the folks that make up the backbone of the disenfranchised British working class, weaned on the glory tales of the Tommies, who watched their local economy shrink and their jobs migrate, both at home and overseas.

At home, the pitiless march of corporate greed left whole communities empty—my forthcoming book, The Hourglass, tells that tale—and what little remained was scooped by busloads of Poles and Romanians. Britwealth sits in the boardrooms and trading floors of the square mile, while the country sits on its haunches and, true to form, blames the bloody Frogs and Krauts.

Once again, the trusty FT comes to the rescue, this time with an article about Lincolnshire—just east of Nottingham and Sherwood Forest, where Robin of the Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor.

In the town of Boston, celebrated for voting Brexit three-to-one, the former mayor now runs a model airplane store—I’m not sure if we’re talking Airfix here, but I’m pretty sure eBay will put him out of business shortly after I hit ‘Post’.

The mayor describes the local economy as ‘a broken system of ruthless supermarkets—driving down the price of food—captured suppliers, cheap labor, and rising rents.’

The tale of the town is the tale of Brexit. Big Ag ran the market gardeners to the ground, and menial work was taken over by East Europeans. Bloody Frogs! Back to Russia with the bloody lot of ‘em.

And awf they went, in good order. Now that Britain is a third country in respect of the EU, let’s hope its good friends are ready, willing, and able.

One thing’s for sure, there’s no one left to blame. Well, except the bloody Scots!

Happy trails Bojo. You break it, you own it.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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