From Britain, With Love

This is probably the fifth piece I’ve written on Brexit, but it’s been a two-year process that no one really understands. Maybe that means I shouldn’t write about it, but having been in London the last week, I figure I might color in the atmosphere.  


The seemingly impenetrable nature of understanding Brexit is common in conversations. Professionals working directly on and around Brexit and its economic and financial implications tell me “anyone who says they know what will happen is lying to you.” Exasperation, too, is widespread. “At this point, I just want it to be over, whatever the result,” a sentiment shared by folks on both sides of the question.

But serious divides remain. The day Channel 4 News airs a movie featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as the exceedingly arrogant mastermind of the Vote Leave campaign, detailing the ways Vote Leave lied to the people of the UK, a man at dinner tells me that it was the Remainers that ran a hateful, negative campaign based on fear while Vote Leave ran a campaign focused solely on economic benefit, and that some economists predict quite a positive economic impact from Brexit. This claim surprised some others, perhaps eliciting a scoff.


No one I speak to has an answer for what will happen on March 29th. Some don’t realize that March 29th is the day on which the UK will have approved a deal, revoked Brexit, or crashed out of the European Union with no plan or assurances. Someone else tells me, “There are ten possible scenarios, none of which is likely, one of which must happen.” Does Theresa May correctly judge that pushing Parliament up against the end of March with no alternative (or an even less desirable alternative) will elicit the approval she needs? Will the opposition, or someone within May’s own party, call of vote of no confidence? Will she be able to survive again? Will she call elections? Ask the EU to extend Article 50, to take another year to figure it out? Will she revoke Article 50 entirely, on advice from the European Court of Justice that she can? Will she, or whoever replaces her, call for a second People’s Vote?


Will the government paralyze itself until it’s too late? This week, trucks rehearsed what it would be like at the entrance to the tunnel under the English Channel, if they suddenly instituted customs checks that only took 70 seconds. They figure the lines will only be about 6 days long. A lot of those trucks are carrying Irish exports to Europe. It’s cheaper and faster to take a truck from Dublin to Brussels on two short ferries and a drive across Britain than to take a boat around the island, which is good when your fresh produce needs to get to consumers quickly.

Meanwhile, my lovely British friends remind me: at least we would never shut down our government and stop paying our employees for a month straight. Stiff upper lip. #fpf