Has it got into your house yet? The Big B. It came though our door on an economic platform…. and has since met the ideological. You know this Brexit bullshit. Whether the UK should leave Europe right now seems to divide by personality: the realist (Jack) vs the dreamer (me). We’re living the re-hashed version of the English civil war; are you a roundhead? Or a cavalier? Lulu’s history class learned it. The 17th century English Civil War split families down the very middle, brother vs brother, husband vs wife. The wonderful BBC Horrible Histories calls this age the ‘Slimy Stuarts’.. I wonder what they’ll call this one? The Blethering Brexits? Big-nosed? Barfing? Ok… this is too good. I have to stop now.
Leaving Europe isn’t going to make us richer. Of course not. Not at the beginning anyway. That’s the main reason Jack doesn’t openly welcome it. Trust the bread-winner to think about the bread. He’s a cutie like that. I admit, when the results broke after the Brexit referendum, I woke up, heard the news and had to lie down again. WTF. It was like we as a nation had just broken our own leg on purpose. On purpose! What were we; complete idiots?
Then there was the explanation of the winning vote based on anti-immigration. As surprising as a stripper in a stag-do. A revelation of figures followed. Those bus posters advertising how much money we were going to save the NHS by leaving Europe proved to be inflated poppycock. From our hurricane-hole in Grenada, we scoured the news at the time. I read how other, democratically-elected countries wouldn’t even allow such a narrow swing in a national referendum. They’d need at least a 5% difference. Maybe we could just squash it, I thought. Or call another referendum. Then Ken Clarke, that rare breed of likeable Tory, told the British press this was why referendums were inherently dangerous. Some things, he said, just shouldn’t be put in the public’s hands. Or this could happen. Sigh.
The whole thing rumbled along. After Theresa May, a self-confessed remainer became Prime Minister, she maintained she’d keep pressing Brexit forward since this was what the British public had voted for. Kinda strange, no? At the time, it made the conspiratorial hairs on my arms stir upwards. Why would a remainer want to keep Brexit going… unless there was something else going on. A longterm plan for the UK being hatched behind doors? A tax haven perhaps? After all, her husband Phillip May is a senior executive in the City. The City of London must be part of her political decision-making process. Our number one national economic earner? It has to be.
The beginning of the Brexit negotiations feels like old news. Those balmy early days. Years I mean. Where are we now? Oh yeah, with the worst deal ever. So, why would Theresa May come up with the worst deal ever? My theories are:
a. She couldn’t get a better deal (you can ask Europe but doesn’t mean they have to give it)
b. She wanted a bad deal to prove that Europe is a mistake (let’s pretend it never happened guys, anyone for a French holiday?)
c. A bad deal means a no-deal looks good in comparison (Viva the No-Deal! See you suckers). Who knows?
Back to Casa Ormerod. Daddy Ormerod here is worried about economic fall-out. To the point that he paid for Quest’s storage fee in Trinidad when the sterling had an afternoon of feeling confident. Six hours later, a potential leadership contest brought it close to the dollar. Again. I get it. It’s not looking good right now. But here’s the thing… during this whole mis-affair, my own family history caught up with me. History likes to repeat itself that way.
Here we go. In World War II, my paternal grandfather Henry Stevenson served in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. He saw action in North Africa before his regiment, down to just a hundred surviving men, amalgamated into the 169th Infantry Brigade of the 2/5 Battalion Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey). Bit of a mouthful, but a brave one. His company joined the Allies’ 8th Army and fought in Northern Italy up until the very end of the war. Operation Grapeshot. Hopefully some good wine at the end.
Henry was shot twice with shrapnel. I just looked him up on National Archives and his injuries exist in the servicemen casualty records. I know he also broke his finger trying to open the ambulance window but that’s more of a family story. Exciting! Not the being wounded part. But I did find Henry’s service number and wondered if he knew it by heart. Why do a collection of numbers make the strangest personal impression? 6347417. My grandpa.
So, I’m going to do the thing that’ll make you probably groan now and link Brexit to something that happened a long time ago. Historically-speaking, it seems the UK has never been comfortable being aligned to Europe. From King Henry VIII pissing the Vatican off with his new ‘Church of England’, Queen Elizabeth I having those wars with the pesky Spanish to the French (cough… Napoleon). A thousand years of history attests to it. Going further east, the Germans have tried to take over the world at least twice in the last hundred years and the Russians are always in the background, cleaning up financially and looking shifty. We British are just not comfortable in this game.
Thanks to people like my Grandpa who lived to, not so much tell his tale, but to become an awesomely pensive Superintendent of the East Sussex police force, we did kind of save Europe. Thousands more people couldn’t tell any tale. By the summer of 1940, every European country that wasn’t ‘neutral’ had fallen to Nazi Germany. Except us. Sure, the Americans helped us win it all back… but still, we British were pretty amazing. Think of those Heil Hitlers we got to avoid having to do at school assemblies and at the hairdresser’s. Don’t tell me Hitler wouldn’t have got anal about that.. good colour-job Miss? Heil Hitler!
So here’s the question.. do you think Europe remembers any of this now? Do they turn around as we’re leaving the meetings and say, ‘We know you Brits want your sovereignty back and zut alors, you guys deserve it.’ Well, you know the answer. Not one single concession. Headed by the same Donald Tusk who Poland were desperate to have back in their country to answer how he, as Prime Minister, allowed the bodies of Poland’s Cabinet ministers to be mixed up like animals in coffins when they were finally released by the Russian authorities after the 2010 Smolensk air disaster? And why the Polish have never been able to repatriate the plane’s crucial black box from said Russians.? Not to mention the toppled pyramid scheme that made it one of the largest frauds in Polish history when Tusk was in charge. Oops. Turns out Tusk is too busy to come home now.. since he’s in charge of the EU. Smiley private line to Moscow.
My feeling is, in its shades of corruption, Europe is about as dark as it gets. You think the UK didn’t see this hundreds of years ago? Up to the point when my grandfather was lacerated by shrapnel tearing through his helmet as he worked on the banks of the Italian river Senio, clearing its banks for the final 1945 offensive against Nazi Europe? I’m not saying we British are perfect, particularly when it comes to our colonial past, but at least we can account for it ourselves. Call me the dreamer. But it’s nice to have a dream. I like immigrants (full disclosure: beautiful Polski mama) and I love the NHS.