Sunday, December 13, 2020

BINO or chaos: the perplexity of an anglophile

As the supposed transition stage nears its end four and a half years after the referendum, I read from British sources (mainly, the BBC, The Guardian, and The Economist), that Boris Johnson has reached the end of his particular political one-way road. Now either he accepts that full access to the single market means giving up some sovereignty (but now, without a seat in the relevant table; this would be BINO, or Brexit in Name Only), or he plunges his country into a chaotic economic scenario of tariffs, disruption and social and financial decline. It is easy to put the blame on Johnson and his cabinet, but one should not forget that all this started with the irresponsible referendum called by David Cameron in 2016.

It is still diffcult for me, an anglophile, to understand how such an admired society can fall into this abyss. Yesterday I bought the novel "Middle England," written by Jonathan Coe, to try to understand it better. Perhaps I should look not far away from me, as the friend who recommended the book to me, told me that he saw clear analogies between English national-populism and Catalan national-populism, especially about the differences between dominant ideas and values in big cities and the countryside. Perhaps I have been only paying attention to what happens in big cities.

I don't have much more time today. I could quote articles published any day in the British media. Let me just select a couple of paragraphs from today's opinion pages in The Guardian. Columnist Andrew Rawnsley writes:

"The government’s own “reasonable worst-case scenario” planning warns of massive queues to ports and huge delays at them; shortages of food, drugs and petrol; price hikes on many essential goods; panic buying at supermarkets; violent clashes between British and EU fishing fleets; disruption to critical services; the compromising of law enforcement and counter-terrorism; and possible civil disorder. You would not want to be a Welsh farmer facing unsurvivable tariffs on lamb exports. You would not want to be someone with a medical condition that requires imported drugs. The government will probably manage to fly in Covid vaccines even if it takes the entire RAF to do it, but its own no-deal contingency planning raises the spectre of delivery problems with life-critical medicines. You would not want to be a manufacturer faced with sudden new tariffs on your exports and broken supply chains. You would not want to be one of the 300,000 people forecast to lose their jobs if a calamity Brexit is inflicted on an economy already ravaged by the coronavirus."

And conservative former politician Michael Heseltine writes:

"I don’t know exactly where all this posturing will end up by January; but I do know that – deal or no deal – we will in theory and in practice be outside the European Union. That is the policy on which the government was elected; they have a mandate and I would not vote against their legislation. I believe that it will be seen as a Tory measure and I will have nothing to do with it. This government will be – and should be – held responsible for quite simply the worst peacetime decision of modern times. I know of members of the cabinet who believe this as firmly as I do. I cannot understand their silence."

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