The biggest benefactor of the Brexit decision may not be Britain or the EU, but rather one Boris Johnson.
Ex-London mayor Boris Johnson’s exertions to convince his country to leave the European Union, aka Brexit, has smacked of the lustful calculation of a political campaign to become prime minister. On the climbing frame of politics, in which a vying melee of wannabes competes for footing to the top, Boris concluded that the quickest way to shinny up the greasy pole was by appealing to misled notions of sovereignty and the shape of vegetables, with barely a sideways glance at the long-term consequences for his country’s economy nor for the political stability of a disintegrating world that a weaker European Union will endanger.
He has covered the length and breadth of the country on a big red bus emblazoned with the lie, “We send the EU £350 million a week – let’s fund our NHS instead”. It has been proven time and again that the real figure, after Brussels paybacks and a rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, is £170 million, which constitutes 1.2 percent of public spending. The rest is decided upon by the parliament in Westminster; from income and corporation tax to schools, the National Health Service, transport and pensions. In return, Britain has received barrier-free access to the UK’s biggest market, plus improved standards to issues that require the concerted effort of a critical mass, more than the illusion of sovereignty, such as the quality of its air, sea, climate and food chain.
He could always enter America on his dual citizenship and lick his wounds with another losing populist, and maybe even run a casino or two. Gambling at the expense of others would be a good fit.
So now we must fear not a waning Britain but the launch of a resurgent England, hoisted by the petard of a resentful Wales, an economically weak Northern Ireland and an independent Scotland, dreaming that it can sustain a post-Brexit relationship with the US that is special. American efforts to remain faithful to a “Dad’s Army England” (after the 1970s comedy about the aged home guard preparing for a Nazi invasion), will be as difficult as keeping up a teenage crush, when the superficial handsomeness of youth turns into a cluster of pimples and lip fluff. The same goes for China, with any good ol’ days of a shared history with Britain at zero. Control over a nation’s economic and political wellbeing does not rely on nostalgia. And, without the powerhouse of an empire nor the support of a continent, Britain will be smart, wily and lonely.
Good luck then with thinking that the world will come to its aid when thousands of migrants learn to navigate the English Channel, and the migrant hell-hole outside Calais, known as the Jungle, moves to Dover. There’s always the upside that England’s economy declines to the extent that migrants stop coming. And good luck also with containing Daesh, or the Islamic State, to 200 kilometres of Libyan coastline, as well as a proxy war with Russia in Syria and Ukraine, and expecting Europe’s undivided attention when cybercriminals shut down its national grid.
Boris’s tripping platitudes about fighting for a new set of trade relationships outside the EU are misleading, knowing that the essence of trade today is not a version of Amazon in which “we come up with something, you buy it and we send it to you”. Rather it is ensuring one has a seat at the table when the rules are written that will determine British companies’ access to the EU or any other market.
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Boris Johnson’s pledge to fight for a better Britain risks drowning people’s hopes with a thickness of thinking that he would decry in others. His idea of batting for his country is to leave the EU in order to get a better deal with Europe. With the country’s newly established pulling rank of a boutique hotel, how would that work exactly?
To manipulate a nation’s anger and frustrations at faulty governance in pursuit of one’s short political career, at the expense of the country’s long-term health and the planet’s security, is what much of the anger and frustration is about in the first place. That he would be prepared to push others off a boat into Europe’s choppy waters should not be surprising when the same grown man flattens a ten-year-old child in a friendly game of rugby. Even if a third of his annual salary, the £266,000 that London’s pro-Brexit Daily Telegraph pays him for a bi-weekly column to then quote him authoritatively in its articles, stagnates in a recession, he could always enter America on his dual citizenship and lick his wounds with another losing populist, and maybe even run a casino or two. Gambling at the expense of others would be a good fit.
So Britons better be careful what they vote for; Boris will be a lot less gentle about his own survival when they have to ask for his help inside a listing boat going nowhere.