Predictions of how long it will take to disengage range from the 18 months given by an EU nabob who clearly wants us off the premises as soon as possible, to “decades” offered by hand-wringing “remainers”, who seem to be under the impression that the referendum can be re-run in the hope that next time around the voters will produce the “right” answer. Their hopes for a re-run are understandable, given that the French and the Irish supinely submitted to the EU demands for re-runs in their cases, in both of which the result was the one approved by the EU.
I have a feeling that all the talk about “hard” and “soft” Brexit may be beside the point, as may the agonising about the duration of the Article 50 letter of resignation. If we hang about, we may find that there will be no EU to leave and, as a wise economist friend pointed out to me, we would do well to be gone before the masonry starts falling as the whole edifice collapses.
I don’t know what will precipitate the unravelling of the EU. Certainly, the euro has plenty of potential, that vanity project that everyone apart from the psychotically deluded knew was not even remotely viable in the long term. But my money is on the populism (now a dirty word) that is bubbling among the nations, emboldened by reckless voting of the so-called ignorant, uneducated, racist northerners so reviled by the glitterati in London.
The Dutch are restless, the Italians furious, the Greeks at their wits end – even the French are looking unsafe. There are said to be rumblings coming from Germans, who fear that they will be landed with the lunch bill, though that could be just their diet, which is pretty much confined to sausage.
My advice to Mrs May concerning the negotiations is – don’t negotiate. Just say there’s nothing we want, just out. If you think that we owe you anything, just do the sums and send us the bill, which we shall be happy to settle provided it is accompanied by the past (possibly the last) three years’ EU accounts duly certified by independent accountants, preferably American. That’s it. Simples.
In the meantime, we have problems at home. It is increasingly evident that once respected institutions have lost their way and have become self-serving, concerned only with protecting their own reputations, and indeed existence. The RSPCA, the BBC, the Metropolitan Police, the Football Association, Scarborough Borough Council, to mention only a few. Such organisations should be immediately put into special measures, stripped of their powers and placed into the care of suitable substitutes, more dependable people. My recommendation is that such people could readily be found among the ranks of retired academic publishers, inexperienced newspaper columnists, people of that calibre. A stand-up comic my come in handy; the Italians seem to be considering such a person for high office – Beppo, or Zippo by name – a circus clown perhaps.
I’m sure that we could work things out better than the way things are now. Perhaps the BBC was thinking along these lines when they appointed an undistinguished former politician who had never in his life made a programme to a very senior position in charge of programming. Perhaps they had been told he was a bit of clown, who knows?
Anyway, it will be a change from all the nonsense coming out of Europe. I have been reading about newts – the bane of builders’ lives. It turns out that the sacred, much threatened newts whose lives may not be interrupted, not even for building hospitals and schools, are in mainland Europe on the verge of extinction, but here they are plentiful. The EU obsession with uniformity and conformity means that rules that are sensible and needed on the mainland are savagely enforced in the UK, where they are not needed at all.
But, don’t get me started. A happy Christmas and a healthy New Year to all Mercury readers, with thanks for all your support. And a special thank you to Claire Waltham of Old Maltongate, granddaughter of the legendary jockey, Billy Bullock, about whom I have written in this column. Every year Claire bakes us a Christmas cake of outstanding quality, and I am happy to say that this year has not been an exception.