THERE’S A LOT to snigger over, for the cynic, in Friday 31 January being Brexit Day, the day that (Soon-to-be-not-so-) Great Britain literally takes itself out of the European Union and figuratively shoots itself in the monetary, trade, fiscal and socioeconomic head.
First, this theoretically awe-inspiring declaration of English “Independence” — for Brexit is an English, not a British, phenomenon — this golden moment of Ye Olde English confidence, this defiant throwing-off of the yoke of European bondage, this proud show of English ability to declare itself on its own terms — will happen, not at English midnight, but at 11pm GMT — because the actual moment of the arrival of Brexit Day, midnight, will happen on European time, one hour later than GMT!
So, in Britain, Brexit will take place at 11pm, English time.
A full hour before it should.
That says all you ever needed to know about Brexit: the spectacular picture painted by the Leave campaign of sunlit uplands and the smug eating-of-your-Cornish pasty-and-having-it-too shimmers only because it is a mirage; Brexit is being done, not to the tune of the bells of Big Ben, but by the wristwatch of an unelected Brussels bureaucrat.
But there’s more dark comedy in just the date.
Even if Brexit did happen on English, not European, time, Big Ben could not chime to mark the supposedly historical moment: the clock was taken out months ago to facilitate its tower repair and, despite the best efforts of the man who supposedly “got Brexit done”, it has proved impossible to put it back.
So, instead of Big Ben, a concrete — dare one say, “real time” — symbol of Britishness, Brexiters will have to satisfy their patriotic yearnings with an image, projected on to the facade of No 10 Downing Street, of a clock counting down to 11pm.
And there’s still more black comedy to be mined, like a thick seam of coal, from just the date.
People who looked at Brexit with their brains, and not their emotions, chuckled at Prime Minister Boris “Stonking Majority & Even More Stonking Lies” Johnson’s first posited Brexit Day: 31 October last year.
Perhaps the most fitting day of the year for an economic nightmare to begin.
But today’s actual Brexit date — midnight in Brussels, not Britain, mind you — is even funnier, if you like gallows humour.
Today, Brexit Day, is also British tax day: if you are self-employed and have not filed your income tax return by midnight tonight — though that is a GMT midnight, not a Brussels one, at least — you become liable to fines and interest in the morning.
LBC Radio host, James O’Brien (who, over the last four years, has been, to Brexit, what Bill Maher has been to Trump: the lone voice of reason opposed), points out that, today, Britain becomes the first nation in history to impose economic sanctions on itself.
And could there be a more hilarious day in the whole year than your own national tax day to do that?
It could make you crack up, laughing, if you didn’t know that it is the British economy and the National Health Service, that high-water mark of world civilization, that’s falling apart.
Regrettably, there is precious little comedy, dark or light, in what happens after midnight (Brussels time) tonight.
Having watched this supertanker run itself at full speed ahead into a cliff for four years, having read voraciously, listened open-mindedly and begged the help of people smarter than me who voted Leave, I’ve unearthed exactly one pro-Brexit argument: the green one that we should minimise our carbon footprint by finding our employment, food and everything else we need as close to home as possible.
And that was made impossible by globalisation a generation ago.
Every other Brexit “argument”— trade imbalances, imaginary superior trade deals with the Commonwealth (for which, read “the Empire”), the bogus, evil, hatred-promoting “sovereignty”, the “cost” of EU membership — does not stand up to the scrutiny of even a sidelong glance.
But there may indeed be a great slice of what we might call genuinely black comedy still to come from Brexit.
The immigration that really was at the root of the Leave campaign, the hatred of “foreigners” that any “leader” can count on anywhere, anytime, if they’re evil, stupid and shortsighted enough, will result, perhaps, in a significant reduction in immigrants into Britain.
All those Brexiters who voted to Leave so they could avoid hearing people speaking French on Oxford Street will have the comfort of all the immigrant labour still very much needed in modern Britain coming from the Commonwealth.
So the immigrants won’t even be white any more.
But that may give rise to the return of one of the fondest pastimes of one kind of Englishman who voted to leave the EU.
BC Pires is predicting a rise in the sales of skin bleaching products in the Dis-United Kingdom