Brexit has already damaged us irrevocably

It has been eighteen months since the referendum. A fateful, rainy day that has changed the political, social and cultural fabric of this once great nation forever. I think it is important to reflect on what we have already lost and to see these things as harbingers of far worse things to come unless we put a firm stop to all this madness. More people need to say these things out loud, even if they are unpopular, even if it means you are labelled a traitor, simply because they are true.

The inexorable rise of racist and xenophobic attacks is deeply worrying and shameful. I’m sure there was always a significant undercurrent of xenophobia in the country, but Brexit and the resulting descent into politically sanctioned nationalism have given the green light to those people to express their views, not just on social media, but in person. The police statistics confirm this, and I would bet on the fact that official statistics greatly under-represent the real prevalence of this vile behaviour.

What does not help is that our government has also taken an overt anti-foreigner stance. It has repeatedly refused to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living here. It has provided no concrete information on what it will entail to obtain “settled status” and what the process would look like. If it’s anything like existing processes in the Home Office, then that is enough reason to be fearful.

The Home Office makes repeated mistakes and displays a crass lack of judgment, so crass it can easily be interpreted as a conscious policy of driving out non-British nationals. Just look at the recently publicised case of Jennifer Wexler, an American married to a British national. She is an archaeologist who works for the British Museum and has lived here for 11 years. She has been told to leave as her frequent trips abroad for her archaeological work mean she is apparently not entitled to stay, even though those trips were on behalf of a British institution. She and her British husband have been told to go to the US. I can’t begin to understand this decision – how can this be justifiable on any count? And what of the British husband’s right to have his wife with him in his own home country?

I could go on for pages and pages with similar baffling cases where people’s lives are being torn apart by British bureaucracy. Given that EU nationals could become third country citizens in 2019, should they and all their British loved ones be concerned? I, for one, have lain awake during more than one night worrying about my ability to stay with my EU national partner and my British family members who are resident in the EU.

The economic damage inflicted by Brexit is already tangible, even though we haven’t left yet. We are all poorer due to the fall in the value of the pound. Our grocery bills have increased. Some jobs have already been lost. Inflation is growing.

And our credibility is shot. This farce of a government has embarrassed us on the international stage and ripped apart our reputation for making sensible and pragmatic decisions and for being a reliable and steady partner. Our government’s arrogant, childish and nationalistic rhetoric has needlessly and recklessly created enemies where there were long-standing friends. We used to occupy one of the most influential seats in a room filled with our allies, and now we are at their mercy, for we will accept whatever deal they offer us. We have lost so much influence on the global stage, at a time when we need to stand together to deal with threats of nuclear aggression, climate change and much more. Now all we have on the global stage is Boris.

As I have written before, this government has also undermined the fabric of our democracy by rewarding dishonesty in public office and by endorsing the use of dangerous language to describe people holding a different viewpoint: mutineers, traitors, enemies of the people. It is no overstatement to say that this is a move straight out of the fascist playbook.

We have to try to put a stop to all this. We have to keep fighting, so that we do not lose even more. But even if we manage to remain, even if we stay in the Single Market or some other fudge, this damage is done, at least for a generation, if not more.

The inevitable consequence of all this is that people will decide to leave. They are already leaving and they will continue to do so. Brexit and this government have driven out people who contribute so positively to our social and cultural fabric, and we are losing them for good. Even those people who stay here may never be able to look at this country in the same way.

And this does not just apply to EU nationals or other foreigners who had made a home here in the UK. In July 2017, I briefly visited my family living on the continent. When I returned to London, my home of a decade, I noticed that I felt something other than the usual joyful sense of homecoming, for I always loved London and I was proud to be a Londoner. I felt sad, I felt angry, I felt just a bit uncomfortable. I realised it’s because I, a British citizen who is also a committed citizen of Europe, do not feel at home here anymore either. And that realisation breaks my heart.

Brexit is a National Embarrassment

It’s official. We are now living in a real-world episode of The Thick of It, just with extra levels of absurdity. I keep hoping to see Armando Iannucci pop up from behind a big screen somewhere, like Christof in The Truman Show, saying, “Surprise! This was all a big experiment in seeing how far we could push this whole omnishambolic farce!”

Let’s quickly recap the last few days as a case in point:

The FT published a letter from David Davis to the Prime Minister complaining about the EU making preparations for a no-deal scenario. Apparently, he is annoyed that the EU is warning business that the UK may become a third country on 29 March 2019, unless agreement is reached. He says they are treating a member state unfairly (!), and that this is damaging UK interests and he will seek legal advice. The EU responds in the only way possible: “We in the European Commission are surprised that the United Kingdom is surprised that we are preparing for a scenario announced by the UK government itself.” This is what we have come to.

Brexiters turned up in Brussels with a hamper of UK goods to show Brussels how strong we are commercially. What’s in the hamper? PG Tips and Marmite, produced by an Anglo-Dutch company, Unilever. Gin made by a company that has warned of the consequences of the falling pound resulting from the decision to leave the EU. A book on Churchill, who saw the UK’s future as part of Europe. English cheese and sparkling wine. Yes, send more cheese and wine to continental Europe. Those are two things they don’t have much of. I’ve never heard of French cheese or wine, for example. I don’t think the Spaniards or the Italians make either of those products either. Apparently Barnier enjoyed the hamper, especially the goods that currently enjoy EU protected origin status.

Davis and Hammond travelled to Germany and wrote a badly crafted letter in the German press (I am a liberal metropolitan elite British citizen who can speak actual foreign languages, including German), more or less begging the Germans to ensure that financial services and passporting rights are included in any Brexit deal. They have still, still, STILL not understood that this will not happen unless we stay in the Single Market. They Still. Do. Not. Get. It. Besides, why on earth would the Germans help us out on this point when they stand to benefit handsomely from London-based banks relocating to Frankfurt? But more to the point, they still do not understand that the Germans will not undermine the Single Market or the European project, least of all for these half-witted arrogant fools that are currently in charge.

And now for the icing on the cake, which we are both having and eating, obviously. Farage wants a second referendum! To kill off EU membership for a generation! Last time I checked, he had already done that by co-opting the Tory Party into his right-wing, anti-foreigner, populist brand of politics. Could it be that Nige is a closet Remainer? The EU has provided him with lucrative employment over the years, and perhaps he quite likes living in Europe. What other reason could there be for this turn of events? Which really just makes him a bigger shameless hypocrite than I already thought he was.

Brexit has turned us into a laughing stock. Really, a hamper of PG Tips? Like that is going to suddenly make the EU say, oh, yes, of course we will give you a deep and special bespoke deal? It’s definitely worth slaying the Single Market and undermining the entire institution that is the European Union for some mediocre teabags!

And just to end, I want to ask, where is the opposition? Where did it go? I’ve been looking everywhere for it, but every time I think I spot it, its leader says the same things as the Tories, namely some falsehoods about it being impossible to be in the Single Market and the EU at the same time, which seems to imply that the nations of Switzerland and Norway are just fictional entities in my head. All of this staggering ineptitude and the hopeless reshuffle that wasn’t really a reshuffle are providing more open doors for a good kicking from the opposition. But no, it’s doing nothing, just arrogantly sitting there assuming people will vote for them next time around without doing anything to earn those votes.

I have to quote one of my favourite Remainers, James O’Brien, here: “I think we’re moving into a period of British political history that is almost beyond rational analysis.” Because it’s true. None of this makes sense. I am bewildered. No matter what party was in government before, I used to believe that it generally tried to govern in the interest of the country, that there was a rationale to its actions, even if I didn’t agree with all of them. But what’s happening now, it just makes no sense, it cannot be that Davis is this thick, can it? It cannot be that we are heading down this road when it is so clear how devastating it will be for all of us, can it?

In another world all of this would be hilarious. I suppose if I were watching this from the sidelines with a burgundy passport secured, I would laugh at all this nonsense. But this is serious. These people hold our economic futures and our national security in our hands. And even if one supported Brexit, surely no one can think that these people are going to make a success of it at this rate. We absolutely have to redouble our efforts to Exit from Brexit in 2018, this is the year that will make or finally break Brexit. Buckle up, my friends, it’s going to be quite the ride.