England experienced its second euro exit in a week last night, and Roy Hodgson falling on his sword left the field clear for Bo-Jo to play the nation’s saviour once again. Why not? Don’t rule anything out at the moment. The anger within some Tory circles at Boris’ blatant leadership machinations and convenient ride on the Brexit bandwagon is gathering pace now, so perhaps opting for management of the diabolical England football team might be the less fraught choice for the blond bombshell. Most paying attention could see through Boris’ obvious reasons for throwing his considerable weight behind the Leave team, and it’s not such a great surprise that many of the wild claims made during the campaign were downplayed and denied in the 24 hours after the shock result of the Referendum was announced. But, as has already been made clear, the EU was just one aspect of the public’s response to being given a rare opportunity for democratic assassination.
The big movers and shakers of the European Union appear more eager for Britain’s withdrawal from Brussels than Britain itself. Mindful of delay and dithering creating a vacuum that could be filled by dissenting voices emanating from their respective backyards, the major member states want us to honour our decision by getting a move on. But for a group of individuals whose Promised Land was supposed to be so simple and straightforward to achieve – a simple cross in the right box on the ballot paper, after all – the leading Brexiteers seem rather reluctant to start the ball rolling. Of course, the Tories need to sort out who will lead them back into Austerity Land now that Dave is packing his bags; and then there’s a probable General Election to prepare for too. The fact that the country’s credit rating has been downgraded and the pound is languishing at a thirty-year low suggests urgent action would be handy; but the compulsion to set the wheels in motion by those who desperately wanted the authority to do so appears to have deserted them.
The recklessness on the part of certain cheerleaders for the gamble of quitting the EU, and the way in which they disregarded the inevitable ramifications with such cavalier nonchalance, was absent from the subdued manner with which they greeted the outcome. Nigel Farage was virtually the only key player to treat the result with the kind of euphoria seen amongst the public who wanted it. The difficulties that lay ahead and indeed are already confronting the country as a consequence would appear to have sunk in, and the old adage of being careful what you wish for has hit home.
What so many of those who yearned to break free from European bureaucracy voted for was understandably exploited by the politicians who wielded the tin-opener without contemplating the sheer number of worms poised to burst out of the can; but the sudden trust placed in these politicians was perhaps a result of the fact that the shedding of collective responsibility and the uncharacteristic candour that accompanied this implied they were actually speaking the truth for once. Since when has that ever been the case, though?
Ironically, it is the losers in this affair that are sticking to the stories they peddled before any votes were cast. Gideon emerged from hibernation yesterday; he may have relented a little on his final apocalyptic prediction of a couple of weeks ago, but many of the financial implications he warned the electorate of are now piling-up in his in-tray. He must be hoping Dave’s successor is quickly installed so he can wash his hands of the whole business and pass on the mess to the next luckless Chancellor.
The absence of tactical ability and utter cluelessness as to what constitutes a winning formula that the now ex-England manager Roy Hodgson demonstrated with such unique ineptitude during the national side’s embarrassing European excursion of the last fortnight seems to mirror the lack of foresight employed by the Brexit brigade. England entered Euro 16, as they do with each tournament, riding the crest of a patriotic wave rooted in past glories and a historical reputation, just as romantic legends of Britain standing alone against the Continent were played upon by the leading lights of the Leave crowd. It’s an effective weapon to utilise (and a canny button for cynical fingers to push) when the present pales by comparison. What Englishman and woman with a love for their country wouldn’t want to regard it as the best in the world and fall back on former achievements as justification for that love? We can point to Henry V or Nelson or Wellington or Churchill or even Alf Ramsey and prove we can do it.
It is possible that few Brexiteers genuinely believed a victory was likely and therefore the prospect was fixed in their heads as a unrealisable dream, one they could wistfully imagine without having to deal with the actual aftermath of; but taking such a risk with the future of an entire nation in reality required a solid series of plans in place and not a blank page that nobody seems willing to aim a pen at. Did they really think Merkel or Hollande or Juncker would casually receive the rejection and allow Britain to extricate itself from the EU at its leisure, or allow us to stay in the single market without accompanying freedom of movement? I don’t believe they thought about it at all.
I’ve no doubt this current crisis is the latest in a long line of end-of-the-world scenarios that have periodically pummelled the country ever since Denis Healey had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF forty years ago, one more humbling body blow to the national character, like losing 2-1 to a team of part-time amateurs from a nation with the population of Leicester. But we get knocked down and we get back up again. That, at least, is one talent we have in abundance; and it will come to our rescue now as it always has done before. The solution is not to keep holding EU Referendums until Remain get the result they want, nor is it to tackle the unelected European mandarins with an unelected Prime Minister. There’s a rocky road ahead, yes; but the lark is always ascending.
© The Editor