Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
On 24th June 2016, Britain woke up with a terrible hangover. The pain lingers. It’s likely to linger for some time. The referendum on leaving the European Union attained 51.9% support. Hardly a ringing endorsement, yet enough. The reality of the situation is now beginning to bite. Enthusiasm appears to be waning, with an open discussion about whether Brexit will even take place.
There are dimensions to the whole issue that get little mention. As the British public become more aware of these, the appetite for leaving will dissipate. Simple issues such as movement in Europe. Those holidays in Spain without medical cover or privileges at border control. The prospect of long delays in passport lines, customs searches plus hefty fees for medical cover. All will prompt some reflection.
If you think Europe is going to make it easy, think again. Britain had membership for 44 years - it only took the EU four minutes to agree on guidelines for departure. What are we supposed to read into that?
In the short term, it's hard to see any good economic news. Brexit creates uncertainty and businesses don’t like uncertainty. Sterling is already down - great for me as my Hong Kong dollars now buy about 20% more in the UK. Brits travelling abroad will see increased costs as a result. The ‘money men’ are sitting it out, waiting to see how things develop. But don’t expect any major economic initiatives. The timing is all wrong, with so many unknowns.
Meanwhile, personal debt is surging. Consumption fueled by borrowing creates an illusion of economic vibrancy. This is not healthy. At some point, the debt needs to be paid. A time-bomb is ticking with subprime car loans and other fancy deals. Sound familiar? It should, the subprime mortgage shenanigans almost collapsed the whole economy in 2008/2009.
On the political front, many threats await. Hanging over matters, like the sword of Damocles, is the Scottish question. Independence for Scotland went taken off the agenda with the 2014 referendum. The Scots voted 55.3% to remain in the Union. Yet, Scotland also voted to stay in Europe. Meanwhile, the Scottish Nationalist Party remains the majority. It’s waiting its chance. A bad Brexit deal could push more Scots into the independence camp. An assertive Nichola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, would then seize the opportunity. The result, de-facto end of the United Kingdom. England is left sitting with two minor appendages in Northern Ireland and Wales.
Thus, Theresa May could go down in history as the Prime Minister who brought the curtain down on the Union. No Prime Minister wants that accolade in their bio. May is between a rock and a hard place. Her reputation for strong leadership is looking fragile. If anything, her disastrous performance in this year’s snap election, suggests a leader out of touch with public sentiment.
To date, May has failed to present a coherent strategy for Brexit. Meanwhile, Labour gives her an easy ride. Even an enthused Corbyn has failed to hold May to account because he's got no idea either. He’s content to deliver opportunist snipes from the side lines. Inflicting what damage he can on a floundering May. Beyond that, he’s in the dark.
Her own party are little better. May is damaged, limping. Only the fear of a resurgent Labour Party is keeping a leadership challenge at bay. Infamous for its brutal casting aside of leaders, the Tory Party is biding its time. To challenge Mrs May now opens the door to a general election. An election the Tories may lose. Make no mistake, when the moment arrives, the grey men will sweep aside Mrs May. No hesitation, no remorse.
It goes without saying, that time and energy are being expended on squabbling the details of Brexit. Ignored are other pressing issues. The economy is wobbly, terrorism is ever present; the NHS is in permanent crisis mode. This once proud institution is being allowed to lurch from crunch to calamity. with short-term sticking plaster solutions.
In 2019, some will profit with the political extinction of British Members of the European Parliament. One-term MEPs receive a payoff of £41,000-. Those with 20-year service can walk away with £164,000-. Then there is a pension on top of that. Here’s the rub. Nigel Farage, who led the campaign to leave, walks away with £750,000- in redundancy and pension. Could that explain his enthusiasm to leave? Democracy is a nice earner for some.
So with everything to play for, Team UK's bruised leader takes her team onto an uneven field. On the other side is a team with the home ground advantage, a clear game plan and notable players. The prospects of a win look remote.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.