(original edit of my article for Taxi magazine)
By the time you read this, Our Glorious Leader, Theresa May, will have triggered Article 50. When Mrs May presses the button, we have two years to leave the European Union. I didn’t feel strongly either way when I voted out, and only time will tell if I made the right decision. All I know is, all the uncertainty, and all the talking down of the country, has caused anxiety. We just need to get on with it and go forward with a bit of confidence.
I didn’t think leaving the EU would be so complicated. It didn’t bode well on day one, when David Cameron shirked his responsibility and had it away on his toes. He didn’t expect the referendum result, nobody did; but plans should have been in place for that eventuality. While everyone’s dithered, there have been court cases, more voting in parliament and the Lords, and threats from the EU that they’re going to give us a tough divorce (well, they have to do that to deter other countries from leaving). And now the Scottish Nationalists are trying to distract proceedings and split the United Kingdom at a time when we should all be pulling together. Finally though, The Queen gave her assent, and it looks like it’s going to happen. Sadly, modern royals have little to do with the day to day running of the country. Centuries ago, the king or queen dictated everything, but all they get to do now is put a rubber stamp down where they’re told to by some public school upstart. I’d like to see the Queen given more powers, not less. Maybe let her chop a few heads off like in the good old days. They could start with Nicola Sturgeon. Anyway, I digress.
I’m not sure why negotiations are expected to last two years. I don’t understand all the talk about hard-boiled Brexit, Full English Brexit, and semi-skimmed Brexit. The referendum question was binary: in or out. When I voted out, I assumed we just pulled out and went our own way. This scenario was known as Hard Brexit after the referendum, and became something the detractors told us they never meant. I thought we’d just cancel the direct debit and unsubscribe from the newsletter. In the coming months we could decide which EU laws to keep and which ones to dump. Once we’d found our feet, we could maybe send out the Queen’s Navy to warn off Spanish trawlers, and any other Johnny European who wants to try it on.
In the days leading up to the triggering of Article 50, the Chancellor of the Exchequer reversed his budget plan to increase National Insurance contributions for the self-employed. The original move gave the wrong signal. At a time when Britain was preparing to go it alone, it would’ve been more positive to provide support to entrepreneurs and small business people. Big business generally wanted us to stay in the EU. Of course they did; they need cheap labour to exploit through the EU. While they pay their staff peanuts on zero-hours contracts, or on sham self-employed arrangements, they can make deals with the taxman. Their workers can then make deals with the Benefits Agency to top up their meagre earning with tax credits. International big business is essential of course, but we also need to support grass roots growth. We rely too much on foreign investment, and not enough in the skills and flair of our own people.
People say importing and exporting will cost us more. I don’t see why: if the EU imposes trade tariffs on us, we’ll do the same. We’re importing too much anyway. We should be buying domestically as much as possible. With the big stuff, I find it shameful the police are driving around in foreign cars. I’m not sure where the steel comes from to supply the huge Crossrail project, but I suspect much of it is foreign too. This is where we need to start. I’m not sure how British our cabs really are, but there’s not a lot we can do about that anyway.
On the everyday shopping list, if we insist on summer fruits in the winter, it’s right we pay through the nose to have produce in from sunnier climes. Why not just go without strawberries until the British ones are available? Switch to something else for a while. Most of my beer is British, and I only buy foreign wine because the excellent wines that are produced in England aren’t available in my local shops. In fairness, they’re a bit pricy too. Maybe if more people demanded it, more would be produced, and prices would come down. New Zealand isn’t in the EU, so I can live with that.
It’ll be several years before we know who was right or wrong on the EU debate. There’s no point moaning about it, or casting blame. We need to start looking forward. There are sure to be new opportunities we haven’t yet thought of. Who knows how we’ll stand with the USA or China in the future. We should forge closer ties with the Commonwealth.
Let’s start now: stop talking the country down, and think positive. Let big business take care of itself, and support local our artisans – yes, like your local taxi drivers: each one an individual British business person. Eat and drink as British as possible – and preferably in British measures such as pints. Wetherspoons supported Brexit, and that’s where I’m going now. Over a foaming tankard of British ale I’m proudly able to say that I drink for England.