I I hate the expression ‘the architects of Brexit’, partly because I still yearn for an alternative world where Brexit as a word and concept disappears, and partly because saying that there are ‘architects’ ascribes a certain degree of structural solidity to it. not own. However, there is one man, Daniel Hannan, who has thrown himself into this disintegration project since his student days, so let’s call him one of his architects. He casually wrote in the Telegraph that it would have been easier for all of us if we had stayed in the single market. Tell yourself what would have been helpful, bro: Saying that with all my might between 2016 and 2019 when maybe it would have changed or meant anything. Zealots are like that – no use holding them accountable or asking any questions about their bare brass neck. They’ll chase you off a cliff and then politely ask why you didn’t remember to pack your parachute.
Still, it’s hard to get that sour, familiar taste of injustice out of your mouth. Hannan is allowed to say this because it is original, even novel, of his; When a fierce proponent of this idiotic scheme says maybe it’s gone too far, that’s news folks. If any of the rest of us said it, it would be repetitive, predictable, irrelevant — even a faux pas, like telling strangers how many push-ups you can do or when you dreamed of a fox.
If a leaver is stuck in a Malaga airport queue for three hours while their EU counterparts slide through and steal the best rental cars, they are allowed to curse the forces of bureaucracy, but if a holdover did, we would rebel again. As the airline industry titans – Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, Jet2’s Steve Heapy – blame the chaotic scenes at airports and stranded passengers on the combined forces of Brexit, the odd Tory jewelery will endure routine denial, but their heart isn’t really inside. Their voices sound a little tired, and you know the day will come when they’ll shrug their shoulders and say, “Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea after all. Maybe we should go back to the drawing board and start with a light customs union. It’s not that hard, is it?’ And when we’re so choked with outrage we can’t even breathe, let alone formulate words, have to show our disapproval with hand signals, our Brexit overlords will turn innocently and say, “Isn’t that what? You said you wanted? Politicians who can admit when they’ve made a mistake?”
It was always foreign holidays when the sharp tip of reality hit the hot air balloon to take back control. The nightmare for EU citizens trying to figure out how to stay in the UK, and whether to even bother, is a private matter, playing out in individual households. Staffing shortages, supply chain issues, even port congestion can be filed under “Others’ Problems” at least for a while. Airports, however – families in Gatwick, who canceled their long-awaited trip to Corfu with 15 minutes’ notice, are speaking out on cellphones through their disappointment; students stuck in Mykonos; Queues at borders, a thousand people posting on Instagram with the last 4% of their cell phone battery – these are moments that are only too happy to be dramatized. No amount of rhetoric can erase them, and sooner or later reverse ferreting will be everywhere.
Looking back, I wish we had fought the whole EU referendum campaign with all that effort. A little less “Project Fear”, a little more “Project Ball-ache”. Do you really want that, for yourself, for your offspring? More administration, more queues, more gigantic neck pain? Is that worth anything? We’d have every lofty monologue about ‘global Britain’ with a half-raised eyebrow and a quiet ‘do you know what sovereignty really means? It means waiting for things and filling out forms. It means doing what you least like in life a lot more often.”
Well, at least we’ll know better next time.