Letters To Europe: Like animals in a zoo, we’re losing touch with the real world
Part Two of the series describing the UK in 2022
It’s New Year’s Eve, but this is no ordinary end-of-year for the UK. It’s less like a party and more like a wake where some folks get stupid drunk and behave like idiots. Others already have a hangover from previous antics and aren’t much aware of how the next chapter will unfold. Some are dazed already, and there’s some who are all too sober. The year 2022 is waiting to greet us with its limp, murderous handshake.
Now that opening paragraph could apply to pretty much anywhere. But this isn’t anywhere, this is Britain: this is the wheelhouse in the eye of the storm. We’re fast-tracking to what the future holds for you lot if you’re not careful. On the agenda are several nation-busting issues any one of which could, depending on circumstances, result in either the collapse, the break-up or the eradication of the nation we’ve known most of our lives.
- Climate change. The idea that Britain is somehow above the fray, out of reach of the judgement of history, beyond the reach of natural justice, is going to be tested as climate change unfolds. The pig-headedness of going it alone just as the world needs to come together imposes on the nation a set of demands it doesn’t have the intellectual bandwidth or stamina to grapple with.
- Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. It‘s clear’ these parts of the UK are doing somewhat better than England. They are all able, to some extent, to function outside of the mayhem of English politics. Their regional legislature is not entirely held to ransom by a small elite of anti-tax, anti-state, MPs and private equity millionaires— some of whom are in the Cabinet (Rishi Sunak is worth £200m, Jacob Rees-Mogg £150m). The governance of the UK is being determined by these people and their needs. If the English are happy to put up with a government held hostage by extremists ad infinitum, the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish aren’t.
- A hard border in Ireland. The Tories have accepted it as part of the price tag for Brexit, but they want it to be blamed on the EU. They aren’t too fussed if people die but they sure as hell don’t want the blood to be seen to be on their hands. 2022 could see Irish sentiment in the US sink the UK government if it triggers Article 16 and a hard border goes in.
- The NHS. The NHS is being overwhelmed and the fall-out is going to be horrible for millions of people for years to come. The government’s disregard, underfunding and gaslighting of the world-respected National Health Service hits on the one single thing that people in the UK believe in.
6. Boris Johnson. It’s over, but the Tories and their sponsors want to keep him on because he’s the fall guy, the ultimate weapon of mass distraction. Johnson playing the clown muddies the water about Russia, lying to the Queen, unlawfully suspending Parliament, the sell-off of the NHS…. you name it, he distracts from its fundamental seriousness. It’s only a question of time before the law catches up with him. But the damage he is capable of doing while trying to stay in power knows no limits.
7. The monarchy. There’s no way the monarchy can navigate successfully through the next few years. The Prince Andrew crisis will eat away at the residual fondness for the Royal Family until it’s all churned up into loathing and rage. People don’t want to acknowledge it — that’s what hundreds of years of deference does — but the monarchy is unravelling.
8. Price rises. Lots of people in the Britain don’t like to think about it, but the UK is an island, and islands can get cut off. There’s no way the UK population is going to withstand the sort of price rise shocks in the pipeline —mass deaths could result in public disorder the like of which hasn’t been seen since Peterloo in 1819. Food price shortages and price increases will break communities. People will ask questions, and they won’t be happy with what they find out.
9. Brexit. The UK government is beside itself with anxiety about the next stage of the game, which will see ‘Great Britain’ become an oxymoron. In 2022, our enforced separation from mainland Europe is set to continue apace. From January 1, new import controls — taxes on goods being imported from the EU to the UK — become law. The reason? To satisfy the perverse post-Empire delusions of a bunch of sad and angry older white men.
We had stage one of this utterly nihilistic equation in 2021: our exporters pay taxes, and have lots of extra layers of bureaucracy, before their UK-made goods can go on sale in the EU. Lots of people, in particular people running a business which involves trade with the EU, are already finding this difficult — and expensive. More than two-fifths of UK SMEs claim that Brexit will or already has resulted in redundancies.
But the misery will be worse from January 1st, 2022. Here’s how the FT puts it:
“Starting in January, UK importers must complete customs declarations in real time; pre-notify the authorities of incoming animal and plant products; and be able to produce proof that the goods they are importing from the EU qualify for tariff-free access to the UK.”
There’s no hiding place for the UK government — but they’ll try anyway. The full range of distractions, lies, alt-facts, state propaganda, misinformation, blame, bluster, buffonery, hatred, scorn, ridicule and xenophobia will have to be cranked up. Maybe we’ll have a trade war, maybe the Royal Navy will be permanently deployed in the Channel. Maybe we’ll start a war with a far-flung country like China and ramp up the jingoism and fake patriotism. Whatever, it’s distraction politics turned up to full volume, and it’ll go on until the pips squeak and the truth is unavoidable.
And still, the Brexiteers remain determined to go it alone, to alienate everyone, to burn all bridges, to eviscerate all shared ideals. And in the UK, we’ve set off on this journey with a narcissistic sociopath at the helm, and a nation weakened by long periods of austerity trying to pluck up some sort of enthusiasm for a journey we know will end in disaster anyway. Have pity on us if you must, Europe, ridicule us sure— but please be ready to let us back quickly when a government of grown-ups takes charge.
Okay, make that ‘when’ an ‘if’…
Living in Britain in 2021 has been like having a drunk bloke being in charge of the car home after a party refusing to move over when someone who’s not drunk suggests he shouldn’t be driving. Living in Britain in 2022 is going to be like being on the bus-bomb in Speed.