Sunday, 10 September 2017


Thanks to my mate, The Guardian's Martin Rowson for the cartoon

I’ve only driven a few miles towards my mum’s from Heathrow Airport when a white van cuts up on the inside of my rental car, driving in a lane that doesn’t exist.

As he squeezes past me at speed I swerve to the right and toot my horn, scared he might scratch Hertz’s shiny new motor, allowing them to charge me a wad.

In a split second, as if awaiting the chance to show what an angry man he is, his bare arm comes shooting out of the driver’s window, performing a trio of high speed, evidently well-practiced hand gestures.

We start off with the classic English V-sign, followed by a shaking fist, while the Grand Finale is that sarcastic classic, the up and down ringed-wrist motion.

He voted Leave.

I don’t even need to see him to know that, but the traffic lights 100 yards away turn red so we end up level. The same age as me, with less hair and stomach, he’s avoiding eye contact now, but I know him.

Not his name, nor anything personal about him, but I know that both he and I were born at the birth of Brexit.

There’s much that I love and admire about England and the English, yet I choose to live in the West of Ireland, partly because 

I’m besotted with it, but also because here I’m free from an awful feeling that used to pervade my life.

I was born a mere 12 years after the sun finally set on the British Empire. As a young boy, my atlas at school showed a third of the world as Ours, making it hard not perceive us English as something special; something better.

I grew up with people suffering a national resentment: they'd missed out on being Great; things used to be better; they’d been born too late.

Out of this sense of loss evolved a loathsome latent violence, an aggression lurking just below the surface, whereby one ill-advised word starts an argument, two drinks a fight.

It was this feeling of being robbed of glory that spawned Brexit. 

The Leave voters who believe they are better off alone come from the same seam of English thought that made me leave England 25 years ago.

When the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier last week referred to English attitudes as “a sort of nostalgia…” he had no idea how accurate his assessment had been.

He was referring to the UK’s Disney desire to be out of the EU while in the single market, but accidentally chose the perfect word to describe the malaise that feeds the English delusion.

Feeling swindled of greatness, Brexiteers will now turn their wrath towards the EU negotiators, as if somehow this pig’s dinner is the EU’s fault.

As I said, I love the English and truly believe that if instead of Boris and his bunch of bumbling liars, they were presented with simple truths, the majority would have voted Remain.

They were told that Europe represents 40% of UK trade, while the real figure is 60%, thanks to free trade deals that the UK enjoys, negotiated by the EU.

Of what’s left, half is trade with the USA, not presently a reliable partner, leaving a minuscule 20% that the UK trades with the rest of the world. To make up their losses, these Brexiteers will have to cut unprecedented - and frankly impossible - trade deals.

How would the English have voted if they knew that without an EU workforce the NHS, agriculture and construction industries would crumble? That without migrants from Europe, others must come from further afield to support economic growth? That you can’t negotiate separate trade deals if you’re in the customs union? That there can be no freedom from the European Court of Justice while you trade with the EU?

On occasion, as a proud Englishman, I have squirmed with embarrassment as this debacle unfolds. The arrogance of Tory attitudes is matched only by their ignorance of the EU and the way it works.

When negotiating with 27 other nations it might be an idea to first find out what works for them, and then match their aims to your ambitions.

Blinded by delusions of grandeur, both Conservative and Labour politicians conveniently forget that they started this messy affair; that naturally the EU see Brexit as a major threat, and must prove to other nations that leaving absolutely means losing all benefits.

Instead they offer mere pontifications on whether it’s best to be inside, beside or out of the single market; how everything in Ireland will turn out right, merely because all sides appear to want roughly the same thing, while not one single workable suggestion has appeared.

In many countries, plebiscites involving fundamental national change require a two-thirds majority, yet UK politicians on all sides insist that the British have spoken, and we must listen to their voice.

Yes, please do just that.
Don’t ignore the 48.

Nigel Farage told the Daily Mirror in May 2016: 
“In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way.”

The British did not speak with one voice. 52% of a misinformed and propagandised electorate whispered:

“We are confused and fearful, but we want to believe we can be great again.”

4% is a margin of error, not a mandate.

For me Brexit means a lengthy citizenship application, as after half a lifetime in Ireland, I fear turning around to find I’ve no security.

I wish the English had learned one thing from the EU. Here in Ireland we know only too well that when we vote the wrong way in a referendum, the EU insists we vote again, until we get it right.


Unknown said...

Not sure if your blog is tongue in cheek...if not, then you have all the answers and you should be the UK Brexit Minister! Your last paragraph sums up what the EU is! An Autocratic monster that tells the people How To Vote! The Irish people voted no in two referendums and they then scared the bejasus out of them to vote the way they wanted so that they can create a Federal State and Federal Military Force that they have already in you think for one moment those guarantees they gave mean a sh-t to them? Somewhere in the small print they have a get out clause! I wish you wouldn't be so patronising of Your Own people!

Charlie Adley said...

My blog is an online copy of my newspaper column, so of course it's opinionated: that's what they pay me for and besides, I feel strongly about this. I'm not 'patronising my own people', but reacting to a political debacle. Equally, having lived in ireland for 25 years, I'm no fan of the EU, a failed project which still offers better answers than the alternatives.

Brexit will be a disaster for the UK and I can't sit back, watch the people being sent down river and say nothing.