We still know nothing about Brexit “benefits”

Posted By: December 05, 2016

Tom Kelly.Irish News (Belfast). Monday, December 5, 2016

You can just about hear him say ‘Que?’ No sooner had the news broken that Andrew Sachs, better known as Manuel from Fawlty Towers, had died when the Daily Mail ran his photograph alongside the headline ‘Migrant numbers hit new records’.

Manuel was the stupid foreigner that the British loved to mock. But Sachs was the foreigner whose family fled the Nazis – whilst Manuel was the foreigner who came to Britain to learn English and gain employment. In an ironic and cruel turn of fate – this is the era of Basil Fawlty – John Cleese himself is an avid Brexit fan. The Britain that once welcomed Sachs and tens of thousands of refugees from the terror that reigned in Europe, is no longer. The Britain that offered Manuel work is closing its borders. Or is it?

Since the referendum, those of us on the Remain side have been labeled ‘Remoaners’ – even our first minister thinks so. Frankly, we may have a point.

There is no position on Brexit that is good for Northern Ireland – it matters little whether it is soft or hard. Newry and Derry may be experiencing a boom with cross-border shoppers but we have all been there before. Currency fluctuations and retail centers are not a sign of prosperity. Most of the cash flowing through tills finds its way to London, Madrid or Germany. The bounce is about as buoyant as a dead cat being thrown off a roof.

And you know what the people who were so ardent campaigners for Brexit know it too. Contrary to the Invest NI spin, there are no great worldwide opportunities for Northern Ireland post-Brexit. Indigenous businesses which depend heavily on the Republic of Ireland, particularly in the agri-food sector, are in near meltdown because of their uncertain future. Farmers have quickly learned that there is no bonanza from Whitehall to rescue their sunset sector. The money promised to them disappeared as quickly as the NHS promises on the double decker bus.

So, it’s hardly surprising that Brexit secretary, David Davis, is becoming more realistic in his aspirations for a post -EU Britain. First, he admits that the UK may pay to get access to the single market – his city chums have been whispering in his ear and now he says that low paid migrant workers are essential for the British economy. No wonder Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall are reaching for the Rennies.

To his credit, Farage and UKIP did not lie. They and their xenophobic travelers fought and won the referendum on immigration. The liberals were too polite to call them out on that. Crusty lefties like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell didn’t give a fig about the EU and when it came to campaigning to Remain they were as about lukewarm as day-old dishwater. McDonnell is now on the same page as the delusional prime minister repeating the meaningless mantra that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and that the future is loaded with opportunities for the British economy. Only Philip Hammond, the chancellor, seems to have a grip on reality.

The Brexit campaigners who were beside themselves with excitement over the victory of Donald Trump seem to conveniently forget that the core Trump policy is an introspective one of America First. In the Trump era, America is most definitely not open for business. Boris Johnson, that master of cleverly saying something and nothing at the same time, has been contradicting himself on Brexit everywhere he goes. He is to diplomacy what myxomatosis is to rabbits. Whenever the prime minister finally gets around to a cabinet reshuffle Johnson is favorite for the fictional Jim Hacker post of minister for administrative affairs.

Of course, Leave campaigners told us ‘forget the EU, we have the Commonwealth’. The commonwealth of ex-colonies which hold Britain is such high esteem that some of them are amongst the most corrupt nations in the world. The same Commonwealth which only last week the minister for international development and prominent Leave campaigner Priti Patel threatened to stop funding because it was ‘poor value’ for money.

The entire prospectus on which the Leave campaign was fought has disintegrated quicker than an Elizabeth Taylor matrimonial promise.

Tory golden boy Zac Goldsmith got his comeuppance in Richmond but will anybody be held to pay the price of leaving the EU? I can foresee the Manuel defense on Brexit already: “I know nothing”.