Stop the world, please, Bri­tain wants to get off

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - Alex Bell

Sci­en­tists are about to send a ma­chine into space to col­lect the junk that cir­cles the world – pity there is not a de­vice to do the same closer to Earth.

If only out­ra­geous po­lit­i­cal claims, the shrap­nel of abuse and the ma­nip­u­la­tion of the 2016 ref­er­en­dum could be hoovered up like old bits of rocket and burned to a cin­der.

The main ob­jec­tion to space ex­plo­ration is the cost – would that had a bear­ing on the van­ity of our Earth-bound pol­i­tics.

Brexit was meant to be Bri­tain reach­ing for the moon, dis­cov­er­ing a purer, more noble ver­sion of it­self in search of true lib­erty and es­cap­ing bu­reau­cratic grav­ity.

They sold us stars and now we are of­fered the equiv­a­lent of scrap metal.

The cost of Brexit may be £50 bil­lion, though bear in mind noth­ing has been com­mit­ted to pa­per yet and there is still much to de­cide.

Re­mem­ber Boris John­son’s claim of £350 mil­lion a week com­ing back from the EU and be­ing spent on the NHS, re­mem­ber the same man’s claim that Brus­sels could “go whis­tle” for any pay­ment, and his other re­mark that Bri­tain “could have its cake and eat it”?

Re­peat­ing the quotes has the feel­ing of pick­ing up dis­carded tis­sues, de­grad­ing and dirty.

In­stead it ap­pears that Mr John­son is now con­tent that Bri­tain will be pay­ing the EU for years to come. “Now is the mo­ment to get the whole ship off the rocks and move it for­wards,” he said yes­ter­day, ap­par­ently un­bur­dened by guilt or shame.

Yet Bri­tain’s pig-in-poke Brexit is merely mov­ing on to another set of rocks. Theresa May has said all along that Bri­tain’s bor­der with Ire­land is a prob­lem easy to fix.

It used to be among the hard­est di­vides in Europe – as a re­porter in Ire­land, I vividly re­call the con­crete check­points and young sol­diers in Land Rovers with au­to­matic weapons point­ing at the passers-by.

The Good Fri­day agree­ment of 1999 re­moved the barbed wire in the hope of build­ing peace on the is­land – and it worked pretty well, as de­volved govern­ment was re­vived in Belfast and ter­ror has greatly di­min­ished.

Yet the per­sis­tently nar­row-minded DUP of North­ern Ire­land voted for Brexit, and now com­plain there might be a hard bor­der.

As dis­cussed be­fore on this page, bor­ders are a means of check­ing the move­ment of peo­ple and goods. If you don’t have a free move­ment agree­ment or cus­toms union, then you have to have a bor­der.

This blind­ingly ob­vi­ous point has been re­sisted by the UK Govern­ment, and its DUP sup­port­ers, who sim­ply as­sert there can be an in­vis­i­ble so­lu­tion.

How­ever, un­able to in­vent the cus­toms equiv­a­lent of comic book x-ray specs, the Bri­tish Govern­ment has failed to per­suade the Ir­ish or the rest of the EU that this has any chance of work­ing.

Para­dox­i­cally, the vast bill, the Ir­ish bor­der ques­tion, and so much more, will con­firm the essence of the Brex­i­teers’ case – that old-fash­ioned sovereignty has been usurped by bu­reau­cracy and man­age­rial global struc­tures.

Yet in prov­ing this, Brexit also shows how much bet­ter it is to live in the world we have built, not the one we imag­ine.

We can imag­ine a re­turn to Bri­tish sovereignty, bristling with bor­ders and a strong cur­rency, but that is not where hu­man progress has taken us.

In­stead, Euro­peans have evolved struc­tures be­yond sim­ple na­tion­al­ism into co­op­er­a­tion.

The Ir­ish fought hard for their na­tion a hun­dred years ago, but now the vast ma­jor­ity are quite con­tent with blurry lines and le­gal ties which keep them in the EU.

As does much of the rest of Europe – there may be a cry for a new kind of democ­racy, for the left be­hinds to be heard, but that does not mean dis­man­tling the ben­e­fits of free travel, free trade and shared re­sources.

Far from Bri­tain’s Brexit restor­ing the dig­nity of the na­tion, it is an act of van­dal­ism against a civilised world.

Brexit means recre­at­ing some of the con­di­tions which led to civil war on Bri­tish soil be­tween the late 1960s and the 1990s. Who on Earth thinks that is a good idea?

In or­der for Bri­tain to have any re­la­tions with its neigh­bours, it must pay at least £50 bil­lion as a sign of good faith. The al­leged bonus of Brexit has be­come a debt – there will be no stock­ing fillers from quit­ting Brus­sels for a gen­er­a­tion, if there ever is.

And we haven’t even be­gun the job of work­ing out what Bri­tain does when it is pay­ing into a club it has no in­flu­ence over, its global stand­ing di­min­ished, its na­tional story of be­ing a civil­is­ing in­flu­ence on the world sud­denly ended by a chap­ter of in­choate sen­ti­ment.

The govern­ment can­not even bring it­self to tell us the truth, redact­ing the de­tails of as­sess­ments on our fu­ture from doc­u­ments sub­mit­ted to par­lia­ment this week.

It is as if we are the dy­ing satel­lite, our sig­nals to Earth get­ting weaker, des­tined to or­bit without pur­pose on the edges of deep space.

It is as if we are the dy­ing satel­lite, our sig­nals to Earth get­ting weaker, des­tined to or­bit without pur­pose on the edges of deep space

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages.

With Brexit, Bri­tain has put it­self on the out­side, soon to be look­ing in.

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