That was the year that was (with apologies to Ms Millicent Martin) – Part 1, Brexit

In his Christmas radio broadcast in 1939, the Queen’s father quoted the poem by Minnie Louise Haskins; “I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year; ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’”. The answer came back; ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God’. Now, I have no problem with people putting their faith in the Almighty. Many of us today probably think that our salvation might rest more in our own hands. In many ways, what we have faced in 2020 and what are likely to face in 2021 in the form of a potentially existential threat, is not dissimilar to what my parents faced back in 1940, as my father was preparing to embark with the BEF for France and Belgium, fortunately to return a few months later via Dunkirk. As I wasn’t born until 1943, I’m pretty glad he did! For me and I suppose for many people, two issues dominated 2020 and, as neither has been resolved completely, are set to play a decisive rôle in 2021 as well. I’m sure that you can guess what these ‘issues’ are.

It’s been over four years since ‘the people’ voted to leave the EU, and a tortuous self flagellating four years they have turned out to be. But the ‘deal’ has been done. The word used to describe the negotiations sounds to me more like the clasping of spittle covered hands than the agreement/contract/ accord it actually is, contained in nearly thirteen hundred pages of text. What it doesn’t do is tackle the problem of financial services, which, from the UK’s point of view, represent a far greater proportion of our GDP than do fresh food, cars and certainly fish. What it needs to do is to try to healo some of the wounds, although, for some on both extremes of the argument, this won’t be easy.

The irony of our holding out for so long over fish is that, even if we had got control of 100% of our fish stocks, we lack the boats and crews to deal with them adequately. You can thank the former trawler owners for that, when, faced with our government’s refusal to match fund the modernisation of their fishing fleets, as was agreed with our new partners when we joined in EEC in the 1970s, decided it was more advantageous to sell off most of their fishing quotas to their European competitors.

Like Lord William Hague, I have always been a “pragmatic remainer”. Having studied and worked in two of the major EU countries and not basing my view of Europe either from history books or the annual holiday in the sun, I can see the advantages of being part of one of the largest trading blocks in the world. I have never bought into the idea of a ‘United States of Europe’ so federalism was never my destination. As for U.K. federalism, that’s a different matter.

You can wail if you want, not that many people in Lincolnshire, where I have lived for the past 43 years, will be doing that. Yes, only around a third of the electorate voted to leave the EU. However, the majority of those who voted voted narrowly for Brexit. So, that’s what we have got; perhaps not the complete break that the purists wanted; but, as they say, it takes two to tango. It’s time to move on. However, whichever way you look at it, in boxing parlance, we are at best a hard punching middleweight in a world of super heavyweights. Nothing is going to change that. So, be prepared for more wrangling in the years to come, especially over access to the EU for our financial services sector, which currently represents about 80% of the U.K. economy.

* John Marriott is a former Liberal Democrat councillor from Lincolnshire.

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  • Barry Lofty 29th Dec '20 - 3:30pm

    John Marriott’s summary of where we stand in this country at the present time is pretty accurate and we are where we are but it was sad to reflect that as an ordinary citizen of UK the small things that help to make life a tad more bearable have been lost, ie the ease of movement for holidays, jobs and education are just some of the examples. Life goes on but I cannot help thinking that our country has an out of date expectation of our importance in the modern world but heyho the immediate future may prove whether I am right or wrong.

  • Steve Trevethan 29th Dec '20 - 6:24pm

    Thank you for your article!
    Might a covert purpose of “Brexit” be to further integrate the U. K. more fully into the U. S. imperial war machine?
    Might our militaristic foreign policy be based on imperial nostalgia and a role important to the war component of the “Western ” economy?

  • John Marriott 29th Dec '20 - 7:25pm

    @Barry & Steve
    Thanks, guys, for your kind words. I never know when I send these articles in what the reaction from LDV stalwarts might be. As someone who likes dishing it out at times, I sometimes wonder whether I am indulged rather than admired!

    As a miserable old s.o.b. I really do have some sympathy with Barry’s desire for what often makes life worthwhile. However, like ‘Britannia rules the waves’, the ‘good life’ that good luck and, in many cases, hard work has enabled many of us to enjoy over recent years may in fact be illusionary.

    As someone, who has recently discovered a whole new branch of my family over the pond and who was brought up on ‘Riders of the Range’, Buddy Holly et al, I do have a soft spot for the ‘Land of the Free’. I acknowledge the debt we owe the USA both economically and militarily. So, Steve, if we need a super power batting for us, I would honestly rather it be Uncle Sam, with all his faults, than Mao’s descendants.

  • Steve Trevethan 30th Dec '20 - 12:47pm

    Yes, the U. S. entertainment industries are very skilful. They are also very powerful. Their products are not always what they seem to be.

    The U. S. government (Pentagon, C.I.A., N. S. A.) have worked behind the scenes on over 800 films and 1,000 T. V. titles.

    In societies which use hard/military power overseas, the shaping of popular culture to promote a pro-war mindset must be taken seriously.

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