It’s nearly four years since my last post, written soon after the referendum of June 2016, looking at why people voted for Leave. Some thought we were out but, as I said, it was only just the beginning and we had years of wrangling ahead of us. Well that was correct but unfortunately the possibility that we may never leave the EU did not happen. During those years of incessant wrangling UKIP became the Brexit Party, a privately owned subsidiary of Nigel Farage Inc. which people did not join but subscribed to. Despite Leavers claiming otherwise, xenophobia, bigotry and ignorance continued to inspire them but of course none of them were racist. And, having taken back control, the millions of Eastern Europeans, Turks and even Syrians who would arrive if we remained in the EU, failed to swarm over our little island.
Many years later this BBC Teaching aid would be found…
BBC style Bitesize Revision
GCSE Subject: History
Topic: BREXIT AND BREXITANNIA 2010 – 2021
1. Mutterings of Discontent
The forty years between 1975 and 2015 had witnessed unprecedented change across the British Isles. Up until 1973 Britain had never fully recovered from WW2; the nation was in poor shape and labelled as the ‘sick man of Europe’. Thanks to joining the European Common Market in 1973 and the European Union in 1985, there had been a dramatic rise in prosperity and living standards. In a changing world, Britain was able to reconcile the manifold dilemmas occasioned by the ‘end of Empire’ and to redefine a new place for itself in a world dominated by the superpowers of USA, Russia and increasingly China.
Things were going well until the worldwide banking crisis of 2008. Despite swift action to counteract the damage, thirteen prosperous years of a Labour government came to an end when an ungrateful electorate turned against them in the general election of 2010. Led by Mr David Cameron, a Tory government scraped into power, aided and abetted by ‘LibDem’ collaborators. Mr Cameron, son of a City stockbroker, was an ordinary bloke who liked to be called Dave. He went to Eton School and Oxford University where he was a member of the Bullyboys Club, a dining society with a reputation for heavy drinking, boisterous behaviour and damaging property. He married Samantha, an ordinary girl who was daughter of Sir Reginald Sheffield, 8th Baronet of Normanby and Annabel Lucy Veronica Jones. Pursuing an ideology of fiscal sadism, Dave and his Chancellor George Osborne brought in the Austerity Years, invoking nostalgia for the post war years. Son of Sir Peter Osborne, 17th Baronet of Ballentaylor and Ballylemon, George was born Gideon Oliver but liked to be called George. Despite cuts to welfare benefits and public services during their first five years, Dave and George were re-elected in the general election of May 2015. The People seemed to want more of the sadistic rigour of Tory Austerity, evoking folk memories of the times when Britain against all odds beat the Germans in WW2 and the 1966 World Cup. Yes, those Germans.
The following years were to be dominated by the Tory party’s never ending mutterings of discontent over the UK’s membership of the EU. Dark forces were at work, not only in the Tory party but across the nation where a United Kingdom Independence Party was making merry in parts of Britain that most people never knew existed. Its quest for UK Independence, which they called Brexit, was puzzling to most British people who rightly thought that the UK had been independent ever since its creation in 1801, not that many knew the date. It was led by a Mr Farage, who had a large mouth and was son of City stockbroker and alcoholic Guy Justus Oscar Farage. Mr Farage liked to be called Nigel and claimed to be a man of the People although he was a millionaire former City commodities broker. Often photographed in an Olde Worlde style English Pub in the attire of a Tory country squire with a winning smile and pint of Greene King in hand, he attracted much attention and more and more mainly English people good and true were persuaded by his proposition that the UK was in fact not independent and jolly well should be. Worse still this once mighty colonial power was now no more than a colony itself, a vassal state, ruled by an unelected dictatorship in Brussels called the EU which in turn was the plaything of the arch nemesis Germany, who of course Britain had defeated in WW2 and the 1966 World Cup.
Even worse, foreign fishermen were taking all our fish. The People became more and more fed up with losing their fish as well as the Tory government’s cuts in public services and welfare benefits. But they were more fed up about fish. Mr Farage said it was all the fault of the unelected EU dictatorship from whose shackles this once proud nation must break free. The People were against the ‘global elite’ but believed Mr Farage even though he was well in with the ‘global elite’ and quite a few filthy rich capitalists who liked the idea of Brexit. Mr Farage was never short of funds. He was even friends with Mr Trump who would become the worst US President in history. The idea of Brexit was becoming so popular that he decided to leave his UKIP Party and start the Brexit Party and got his filthy rich multi-millionaire friend Mr Richard Tice to be its chair. Mr Tice was very busy running his asset management portfolios and offshore funds but selflessly decided to join Mr Farage as a Member of the European Parliament, even though they wanted to leave the EU. A bit like someone who doesn’t want to join a fitness club but joins a fitness club and gets paid a decent salary and expenses for turning up and doing nothing.
In the May 2015 general election Dave won a clear majority so he didn’t need the LibDems anymore and could do what he liked. He thought he would put a stop to all the talk of Brexit and any further mutterings about Europe by having a referendum on membership of the European Union. He was confident that the good British people would see sense and vote to Remain. After all, most of his Cabinet, the Bank of England, the IMF, industry representatives and leading economists agreed it was the sensible thing to do. He wasted little time and the referendum was held in June 2016, asking people if they would like to Leave the EU, without any idea or explanation of what leaving would mean, like ‘jumping over a cliff edge’.
Unfortunately Dave, being a nice chap, said his Ministers were free to campaign however they wanted. Things started going badly for Dave when two of his Cabinet, Michael Gove and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who thought we should remain in the EU, decided to lead a campaign to leave the EU, called ‘Leave EU’. Gove and Johnson thought it would be a jolly jape, a wheeze, a bit of fun, with no expectation of winning and set forth, taking a leaf out of Mr Farage’s book by pretending to be men of the People when in fact they were part of the elite that the People were against. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, commonly known as Boris, was inspired by his student days in the Bullyboys Club at Oxford University, causing wanton destruction around the town and being rotten to poor people. None of them expected to win but they had the help of a clever boffin called Dominic Cummings who devised another three word slogan ‘Take Back Control’ which seemed to resonate with the People who, he found, seemed to resonate with three word slogans. It certainly resonated with the People who had no control over their lives and had sunk to the depths of despair thanks to five years of the Tories’ Austerity, but believed it was all the fault of the unelected EU dictatorship, thanks to Mr Farage.
Everyone was surprised, especially Boris and Mr Gove, when against all odds Leave EU won by a slim margin of 52 to 48 percent. Mr Gove’s wife Sarah woke him the morning after with a poor impersonation of Michael Caine saying “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” We don’t know what Mr Gove said. Mr Farage was as surprised as any. He had predicted Remain to win by 52 to 48 which he said “would be unfinished business by a long way” and would lead to an unstoppable demand for another referendum. But when he realised Leave had won by 52 percent he said it was a clear victory for Leave, the People could now “Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom” and there would be no need for another referendum. Mr Farage said it was a victory “for real people, for ordinary people, for decent people” which left over half the country thinking they must be unreal and indecent. In fact he said it was a revolution that had been achieved “without a single bullet being fired”, even though Labour MP Jo Cox MP had been stabbed, shot and killed eight days earlier by an extreme right wing brexit supporter who, when asked his name in court, replied only “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.
A lot of the People said they voted to leave the EU because it was an evil dictatorship, but some said they voted Leave to give Dave and George a good kicking. Dave had promised the People that the government would honour the result of the referendum even though legally they didn’t have to and didn’t really want to, so he resigned as Prime Minister. The next morning he stood outside No.10 and said “The Will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered”, his voice breaking. In the leadership contest that followed, one of the contestants Mrs Andrea Loathsome said she wanted to guide the country to the Sunlit Uplands but didn’t know where they were so nobody voted for her. Mrs May was the Home Secretary and came up with a brilliant three word slogan, ‘Brexit means Brexit’, which even the simplest could understand. The Tories liked her because even though she was a clergyman’s daughter and a devout Christian she had shown herself to be jolly tough by imposing an ‘Environment of Terror’ on immigrants who were swamping our little island and had to be sent back home, even though the UK was their home. Like Dave, Mrs May had wanted to remain in the EU but, like Saul on the road to Damascus, the scales fell from her eyes and she changed her mind and became committed to leaving the EU. Unlike Saul she did not change her name afterwards. And, with such a brilliant three word slogan, the Tories chose her as their leader.
3. Mrs May
So it was on 13th July 2016 that Mrs May, also called Theresa and daughter of the Rev Brasier and wife of a millionaire investment banker, became Prime Minister. She had been to Oxford University like Dave but was not a member of the Bullyboys Club, mainly because it was for men only. She stood outside No.10 and told the People “I follow in the footsteps of a great, modern Prime Minister” by which she meant Dave. Funnily enough she didn’t mention Brexit or setting Britain free of the unelected EU dictatorship but said she would “do everything we can to give you more control over your lives”, a clever reference to the three word slogan ‘Take Back Control’ that won the referendum for Leave. And she said “we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you” which was a strange thing for a Tory to say. Mrs May dutifully set about leaving the EU, to deliver the Will of the People, confident of success with her brilliant three word slogan.
But it would not be as easy as many thought, or had promised. Many promises had been made about Brexit which turned out to be impossible to fulfil and were unfulfilled. One of the difficulties was that nobody had left the EU before so nobody knew how to do it or what we should do instead. Mrs May thought it would make things easier if one person was responsible, so she created a special Cabinet post called the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU (SoSEEU) and gave the job to David Davis, who didn’t like being called Dave. He was a staunch Leaver and had said “there will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside”, so everything would be fine. And everyone said it would be easy, like Michael Gove who said “the day after we vote to leave we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want”, Boris Johnson with “there will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market”, John Redwood with “getting out of the EU can be quick and easy and Liam Fox saying “the free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history”. Nigel Farage said “To me, Brexit is easy” which was easy for him to say because he didn’t have to get it done.
Mrs May kept saying ‘Brexit means Brexit’ but didn’t say what Brexit meant. Those who voted for Brexit knew exactly what it meant because they knew what they voted for, which was Brexit. Those who did know what Brexit meant had voted to Remain, but because they were traitors they were ignored or told to jump in the sea. Lots of people who were called experts warned that Brexit would mean lots of unwelcome consequences like increased costs, red tape and unemployment but they turned out to be traitors and were shouted down by the People who called it ‘Project Fear and said they were scaremongering. People who complained about Brexit were called ‘Remoaners’ or unpatriotic traitors who should move to the EU, even though they were already in the EU, at least for the time being. Mrs May got really tough and told Remoaners that they were Citizens of Nowhere, even though they had passports proving they were citizens, or subjects, of the UK. But the People had spoken and Dave had said the Will of the People had to be honoured even if it meant enduring a lot of hardship and suffering just like in WW2 when the People stood alone against the world. A lot of food including Little Gem lettuces and pasta was imported from EU countries. Because a lot of Leavers liked Little Gem lettuces they thought this should continue, so there should be an agreement with the EU about how that could happen. There was talk of agreements like the EU had with Norway, Switzerland, Canada or Australia but that wasn’t very helpful because those places were not the UK. Some thought the whole problem could be avoided by simply ‘walking away’ or ‘standing on our own two feet’ which didn’t go down well with people who only had one or no feet.
Even though the People voted to Leave and Dave promised the People that their Will would be delivered, some people were worried it still might not happen. Mr Farage’s filthy rich friend Mr Tice started a group known by the three word slogan ‘Leave Means Leave’. He was worried that Mrs May, who was a Remainer, might not really want to leave and needed to be reminded of the Will of the People. Mr Farage was also worried that the civil service, which had served Britain so well through centuries of Empire and two world wars, was traitorous and unpatriotic and working against the Will of the People to thwart Brexit and should be abolished. Mr Farage and his friends talked a lot about needing a ‘clean Brexit’ even though nobody knew what it meant, other than it was not a dirty Brexit which nobody knew the meaning of either.
They needn’t have worried because in September 2016 Mrs May went to visit Mr Donald Tusk of the EU to talk about a Withdrawal Agreement, as it was called. He was called Donald like Mr Trump in America so it was thought everything would be fine. But Mrs May and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis found things were more difficult than expected and they didn’t hold all the cards. In October they were taken to court by Ms Miller, an unpatriotic traitorous lawyer and member of the metropolitan elite, who thought it was illegal for the government to do whatever they liked without letting parliament have a say. Millions of unpatriotic traitorous Remoaners supported Ms Miller and the High Court and the Supreme Court agreed with her. A lot of Leavers were upset about that, even though they wanted to leave the EU so their sovereign parliament could take back control and have more of a say in things.
Mrs May ignored unpatriotic Ms Miller and the traitorous Supreme Court and kept saying ‘Leave Means Leave’, which worked because on the 16th March 2017 the Queen allowed her to ‘trigger’ Article 50 which meant we would definitely leave the EU in two years’ time in 2019 although a lot of Leavers still thought we had already left in June 2016. It was also the 78th anniversary of Hitler annexing Czechoslovakia. The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis said he could now deliver the Will of the People and start negotiations with the EU to “step out into the world as a truly Global Britain” which sounded momentous and a bit frightening. On 29th March 2017 Mrs May wrote to Mr Tusk at the EU to ‘trigger’ Article 50, like firing a starting gun, and begin the two year period of formally leaving the EU, commonly known as ‘Brexit’.
4. Brexit Means Brexit
Still nobody could agree what Brexit meant even though Mrs May kept saying ‘Brexit Means Brexit’. The leader of the Tory party in Wales confused matters by starting a conference speech with “Brexit means Breakfast”. Mrs May’s personal advisers advised her personally that if she said it often enough, people would understand. As it happened, they didn’t and everything got much too difficult so Mrs May decided to call another General Election on 8th June 2017.to show everyone who’s boss. She thought that she would win decisively and have a ‘clear mandate’ to take Brexit forward without impediment. Mrs May thought of another brilliant three word slogan ‘Strong And Stable’ and won the election but ended up with less MPs in the House of Commons so was less strong and stable than before. To overcome this deficit, and Tories were good dealing with deficits, she had the brilliant idea of bribing the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland with billions of pounds to spend as they wished so their MPs would support her in parliament.
With the Democratic Unionist Party behind her, in July 2017 Mrs May prepared ‘Withdrawal Bill’ for everyone to agree and say how we would leave the EU, even though many thought we had left. She started talks with the EU which went on and on and on through August and September and October and November with things called ‘rounds’. In November the Defence Minister Lord Howe told the EU that, although the UK was leaving the EU, it was not leaving Europe; that was reassuring because it would not be geologically or geographically possible, not in the foreseeable future at least. And Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson wrote a letter saying that Brexit will strengthen ties between Ireland and the UK which was a surprise because while we were in the EU ties were stronger than they had ever been. But Mr Johnson was sometimes forgetful and never one for detail. He was Foreign Secretary and really was a bit foreign because he was born in America and had a Turkish great grandfather and Russian ancestors. More ‘rounds’ started again in February 2018 and carried on until June 2018 when Mrs May got everyone to agree to her Withdrawal Bill. But in December she had three defeats in the Commons and the unpatriotic and traitorous judiciary found her government to be in contempt of parliament which was not a good thing but she didn’t care. On and on she went, like the Charge of the Light Brigade, into the valley of death, beset on all sides by Meaningful votes, Indicative votes, Points of Order votes, Plan B Brexit votes and even the threat of a second referendum. Not only was it all very difficult, it was all very complicated, even though the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis had said it would take no time all, but Mr Cummings once said that David Davis was “thick as mince, lazy as a toad, and vain as Narcissus”. There was also talk about ‘Deal Or No Deal’ which, unusually, was a four word slogan and often confused with a popular TV programme.
The UK was supposed to leave the European Union on 29th March 2019, so Mr Farage and his filthy rich friend Mr Tice’s Leave Means Leave movement organised a March of the People in March setting off from the Brexit stronghold of Sunderland in the north east of England to arrive in Parliament Square, London on 29th March when Brexit was due to occur but it didn’t happen, because everything was getting extremely difficult with the ‘rounds’. Mr Farage’s plucky band of two dozen brave hearts and a dog had wasted their time. After a vote in parliament on 14th March, Mrs May was told to go to Brussels and ask for an extension to the deadline for leaving until the end of June. After more talks, Mrs May unveiled a new Agreement on 21st May. Two days later, even though the UK was leaving the EU, there were European Parliament elections to send UK MEPs to the European Parliament, because we were still in the EU. Mr Farage’s wholly owned subsidiary the Brexit Party won most votes, even though the Brexit Party wanted to leave the EU and abolish it. The new deadline at the end of June came and went and things for Mrs May were more weak and shaky than strong and stable and so in July she had enough and resigned. The clergyman’s daughter had done her best but it was not sufficient and she left in tears just like Mrs Thatcher. Dave didn’t cry when he left, he just turned round, hummed a little tune and bought a shepherd’s hut in which he could write his memoirs.
The Tories wasted no time in choosing a new leader, the former Foreign Secretary Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson known as Boris, who became Prime Minister on 24th July 2019. As one of the junta that won the referendum for Leave, he was the obvious choice as the leader to honour the Will of the People and deliver Brexit. He stood outside No.10 and said he was going to fulfil the repeated promises of parliament to the People and leave the EU on October 31st, “no ifs or buts”. To show who was boss, he was going to negotiate a new Withdrawal Agreement even though Mrs May had already got one agreed. In no uncertain terms he said he would not rule out the possibility of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit even though that might rule in the strong possibility of more ‘ifs and buts.’ Summoning his best impersonation of Winston Churchill, he said he would “develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world and promote the welfare of animals that has always been so close to the hearts of the British people”. He employed his friend from the referendum campaign Mr Cummings as his personal special personal adviser to instil discipline in his government by means of subterfuge and bullying. Mr Cummings thought up an even better three word slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’ which nobody could argue with, and Boris quickly came up with another Withdrawal Agreement which was remarkably like the one that Mrs May had done and that he had voted for, but much better in ways that were hard to comprehend.
5. Get Brexit Done
Mr Johnson was experienced in personal affairs as well as public affairs. After his wife of 25 years could stand it no longer, she left him and Mr Johnson took on a new girlfriend called Carrie, and moved in to her flat because he was homeless. The police were called to a disturbance after neighbours heard smashing and shouting from the flat where Mr Johnson and Carrie were living. Then Carrie and the rescue dog Dilyn moved in to No.10 to be Mr Johnson’s official Fiancée and an even more personal adviser than Mr Cummings, who had worked with her in the referendum campaign and called her ‘Princess Nut Nut’ because of her nutty liberal views.
Even with his new three word slogan and Mr Cummings manipulating the minds of the People with his algorithms on social media, things were getting difficult again. In October 2019, Boris’ new Withdrawal Agreement was defeated several times in parliament which meant we could not leave the EU so he asked the EU for more time and they agreed another Brexit extension to 31st January 2020. Mr Johnson was so fed up he thought he would have another general election which he would win decisively and have a ‘clear mandate’ to do as he wished, just like Mrs May did. The electorate obviously enjoyed having general elections and on 12th December 2019 he did indeed win decisively with a majority of 80 seats, allowing him free rein to do as he wished. The Labour Party in Opposition was still nominally led by Mr Jeremy Corbyn who, despite being a man of the People, was not as popular with the People as Mr Johnson, who was not really a man of the People at all.
Mr Johnson, lovingly known by an adoring populace as Boris, was Prime Minister again. He stood outside No.10 and told the People he really would ‘Get Brexit Done’ by 31st January 2020 and, in no uncertain terms, was “going to unite and level up – unite and level up” which he obviously repeated for emphasis so that there could be no doubts. This time he recruited Cabinet members not for their skills or experience, but for their willingness to sign a sacred pledge to ‘Get Brexit Done’, which would be monitored by Mr Cummings. Faced with this heroic, unwavering determination to ‘Get Brexit Done’, the Withdrawal Agreement previously defeated was approved by parliament on 23rd January 2020 showing just how powerful three word slogans can be.
Boris sent his emissaries to Brussels again and at last managed to agree the Agreement with the EU and the UK left the EU on the 31st January 2020, declared as another Independence Day after the previous Independence Days declared by Mr Farage in June 2016 and 29th March 2019. At 11pm on 31st January 2020 which was midnight in Brussels but the same day and month, the UK left the EU again and entered an eleven month ‘Transition Period’ to allow an ‘orderly withdrawal’. But for the ordinary People life carried on very much as before which confused them because they had been told everything would be different with their new found freedom from the shackles of the unelected EU dictatorship. One reason for the Transition Period, apart from ensuring an orderly withdrawal, was to allow time for Boris to negotiate a Trade Agreement, known as a ‘Deal’, because that is what he said he would do, even though he had said ‘No Deal’ would be better than a ‘Deal’, which is why he told the EU that if they didn’t agree a ‘Deal’ he would just walk away with a ‘No Deal’ and go to what were called ‘WTO Terms’ which were worse than a ‘Deal’. And everybody said the EU needed a ‘Deal’ more than we did, so it would be very easy.
So Boris sent his emissaries to Brussels again to negotiate a Deal. He was happy with Carrie and Dilyn the rescue dog in No.10, and thought everything was going his way and life looked bright. But no sooner had the Transition Period started in March 2020 than the nation was afflicted by a global pandemic caused by a nasty Chinese virus called Covid-19. Mr Farage’s and Boris’ friend Mr Trump, not only US President but an expert virologist, had scientifically established that China was the source of the new virus. Boris had spoken much about going global, but not with a global pandemic, and now had to Get Covid Done as well as Get Brexit Done. Luckily Boris still had Mr Cummings to help him by thinking up more three word slogans like ‘Space, Trace, Face’ or ‘Safe, Control, Place’ which would resonate with the People.
Boris and Carrie must have been very happy together because in April 2020 Carrie had a baby called Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson, presumably Johnson because Boris was the father. The unelected EU dictatorship was as usual being very difficult but after many ups and downs and threatening headlines in the Daily Express a ‘Deal’ was agreed with seconds to spare on Christmas Eve 2020, so Brexit could start on New Year’s Day 2021. Mr Johnson said that the Deal allowed the UK to Take Back Control, thereby making another three word slogan reality. Mr Farage’s filthy rich multi-millionaire friend and chair of his Brexit Party Mr Richard Tice still wanted a clean Brexit but said the Deal was satisfactory even though he had earlier said it wasn’t.
One of the really difficult things was agreeing who could catch fish in the North Sea, so Boris, always one for a jolly jape, humorously wore a fish patterned tie when he signed the Agreement. He then announced to a grateful nation that British fishermen would now be able to catch more fish and that the people of the UK would have to eat prodigious amounts of fish. This news came too late for the People who had already bought turkeys for Christmas. The Queen broadcast her Christmas Day Message as usual and acknowledged the “difficult and unpredictable times” of the past year and said “there is hope in the new dawn,” echoing the words of Lord Farage four years earlier who said “Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking”, sounding like a song by Vera Lynn. At 11pm on New Year’s Eve 31st December 2020 the Transition Period ended, the United Kingdom left the EU single market and customs union, EU law ceased to apply and the UK was well and truly standing on its own two feet and ready to go global.
To be continued: 6. Brexitannia