Brexit or Snakes & Ladders? – BALKAN NEWS MAGAZINE


One of the big problems with Brexit, is the British themselves. We all know that by a very small margin, they don’t want to be in the EU, but it has also been made clear – during the 40 years or more that has passed by – they have forgotten the main reason they were encouraged to become a member, in the first place.

Each EU country has its own reasons for being in the European Union, often because of the cash they can drain from Brussels resources, but occasionally it is because some can still remember the thunder of Nazi jackboots on the streets of Europe, and the chaos which ensued.

Whilst EU members are at it, many may also remember the thunder of Soviet tanks on the streets of Eastern Europe, and the legacy which Communism left for them to ponder over for years. History may not be Theresa May’s strongest subject – a subject which tends to repeat itself – because as an ardent European myself, I find it hard to understand the level of ignorance and prejudice which inhabits the minds of Brexiteers and their often sheep like followers.

Why are the Brits so short sighted, and why do the somewhat bewildered London based politicians, who are negotiating  Brexit, only talk about money? Why do they underestimate their Brussels opposition – the truth will out about that, and their alleged goodwill shortly – and why are they surprised when the EU occasionally laughs at them?

In fact, with all their Brio and self importance, why do the ‘walking sticks’ – as the British are known in certain parts of Eastern Europe – view Europe with such contempt. After all, they were not invited to the party in the first place, and now they want to leave, to get what is irritatingly referred to as “The best possible deal,” they claim the EU is intransigent._90076860_thinkstockphotos-526561176

Since the initial and somewhat misleading referendum was held, it has been clearly shown that much of what was spouted at the time, was either the result of ignorance, inaccurate or incompetent government data, or as the result of downright lies. We now have a truer picture of the facts – especially those relating to immigration, the reverse premium required for leaving the union, and human rights issues – but it all remains a mystery, when it comes to an actual agreement.

Since WW2, the insular British people have learned almost nothing about continental Europe. My old mum and her sisters had never once been abroad in their lives, unless you count one Christmas in Guernsey, and I can still remember derogatory comments about eating ‘foreign muck,’ when I returned from a holiday in France, in the late 60s. This was especially true concerning the consumption of garlic, then regarded by these ancient crones, as being part of “The Devils Brew.”

When you consider that it was 1973, when Britain joined the European Union with the approval of Margaret Thatcher – the iron lady – one can hardly understand the huge division, between government and the people in those days, and how much trust was put by ordinary people in the establishment. And, it is these ordinary people who we are talking about now, the question being, how much does the average British subject actually know about Europe, and in 2016, did they really know what they were voting for?

Putting aside half baked colonialism, and a glance at the past, most of the world does not really need British products – such as they are – taste, and common needs, having been taken over by cheap Chinese or Indian equivalents, and products from the far east. Due to our internal manufacturing costs, without subsidies, few British products are likely to be competitive on the world market, other than specific brands, and famous makes, usually destined for the mega rich.

Also, I think we might all be able to do without Anchor butter from New Zealand, Fosters lager from Australia, or chlorine washed chicken from the USA.  So my mind boggles at how we can do without the biggest economic community in the world, and the easy route it has given to Britain for doing business for over forty years.

But then again, it might be the European Union itself, which finally rescues Great Britain from the doldrums. Faced with impossible odds, with huge contradictions and some pretty watertight legal agreements, it must seem like a game of snakes and ladders to the British Brexit delegation in Brussels. Because every time they throw the dice, they never know if they are going up the ladder, or sliding down some ominous EU snake,  a snake which, in the end, might be our Saviour!


Brussels is used to asking questions. There must be millions of cubic meters of warehousing full of questionnaires and reports in Brussels, probably unread, and most certainly ignored. What it likes to do – when it has all the box’s ticked – is to issue as many unanswerable additional questions as it can muster. Brussels is famous for it, and very good at it as well.

Britain is in this position. It is fighting off the back foot, and therefore cannot deliver any meaningful blows. It can bluster and cajole, it can try to manipulate the British press, but it cannot control the referee, and more particularly, the other 27 members of the EU. They are fed up with the UK, are not very pro British, and are looking for concessions from Brussels all the time.

This is particularly true of the Republic of Ireland, and in particular, concerns about the border with Northern Ireland. This will be the sticking point, the end game, and a sure fire loser for the UK, should any snakes appear in their rather haphazard game. So near to home, that even my kids can remember the troubles, and the deaths on the streets of London, the Good Friday Agreement remains sacrosanct. In the end it will be the big decider, because nobody wants to go back to the troubles, nor the likes of Martin McGuiness, whose ghost still walks the streets of Belfast.

Of the many obstacles for Brexit, the final one is boredom. By now, the press is milking just about all it can from the story, and politicians are also beginning to sound rather noncommittal and even evasive, because they too are running out of clichés.  Theresa May is going abroad rather a lot – look at me, I’m backing Britain – but worst of all, the value of the GBP is tumbling. ‘Oh, that will make our exports cheaper,’ is often said, without the slightest consideration for pensioners living abroad, who by now, are practically all JAM’s. The 20% we have lost in the last year against the Euro; no mention is made of that, and with the circus still in town, all that’s left for me to do, is to have a game of snakes & ladders? Your move!

Patrick Brigham