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An A-Z of Brexit (part 1)

If you try to write an A-Z on any chosen topic, you are essentially on a hiding to nothing. It is too difficult to shoehorn items into some letters of the alphabet, but since Brexit is going to screw everything up, it should be one of the easiest to complete. So here goes:

Anxiety
The syndrome known as “Brexit anxiety” is now so common that a team of psychotherapists from the Existential Academy is offering free sessions to help people avoid “being sucked into a vortex of gloom and doom”. Unfortunately only continental Europeans living in the UK qualify, so the rest of us will just have to pretend we like living in a vortex.

Brexiteer
It was clever of pro-Brexit people to call themselves “Brexiteers”, borrowing the swashbuckling, adventuresome associations of “buccaneeer”. By contrast, “Remainers” were boring old stick-in-the-muds, and were subsequently relabelled “Remoaners” by those who had spent literally decades moaning about the EU.

Control
Brexit, intones the prime minister without fail, will enable us to “take back control over our money, laws, and borders”. That will be a relief after so many years in which the pound was controlled by Germany, all our laws were written by drunken Belgians, and we employed absolutely no one in the section of the Home Office called Border Force. See also: sovereignty.

Dividend
The famous “Brexit dividend” is a made-up pile of money that Theresa May announced would be spent on the NHS, in order to appease the people within the cabinet who had so energetically lied about a £350m-a-week bonanza for health. Such an increase, May explained in her response to Boris Johnson’s resignation letter, would be possible once “vast sums of taxpayers’ money” were no longer sent to the EU. Those “vast sums” amount to just over 1% of the total government budget. But don’t get too excited, as the vast 1% saving is very likely to be wiped out by a larger fall in tax revenues post-Brexit. Most probably, then, the Brexit dividend will be one of those strange beasts termed a negative dividend, sometimes also called a loss.

Experts
Michael Gove is sad that his opinion on experts is often quoted out of context so as to make him appear an anti-rational imbecile. What he said was that “people in this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong”. He was responding to the observation that the IFS, CBI, NHS and TUC had all said that Brexit would be bad, but none of these names are acronyms, because they are not pronounced as words; they are instead initialisms. As you were, then: imbecile it is.

Frictionless
Initially we desired to continue having “frictionless” trade with the EU, until this aspiration was clarified (ie, reversed) to become “as frictionless as possible”, which means not frictionless, until May said once again that it would be “frictionless”, using magical technology that doesn’t exist yet in order to remove the need for physical border checks. It is in fact notoriously hard to escape friction, and only really possible in space, which is probably where we will end up drawing the Irish border.

Global Britain
In his first newspaper column since his resignation, Johnson waxed poetastical once more on his vision of a post-Brexit “Global Britain”, rather than the old Britain that never traded with any countries other than those in the EU, and that almost nobody could find on a globe. Soon, he enthused, we can “go back out in the world in a way we had perhaps forgotten”, which certainly goes some way to explaining his performance as foreign secretary.

Hard Brexit
As the Pet Shop Boys presciently asked: which do you choose, the hard or soft option? The metaphor of a “hard Brexit” appealed to soft-fleshed types who dream of being manly and thrusting, while a “soft Brexit” still sounds altogether too submissive. Having newly discovered a concern for hygiene, Tory rebels now say they want a “clean Brexit”, not the filthy, presumably French kind.

Independence Day
June 23, the date of the 2016 referendum, is now celebrated as “Independence Day” by the hardest of Brexiters. This is odd since, in the film Independence Day, London, New York City, Paris and Berlin are all destroyed by aliens. To add insult to injury, during the second invasion in Independence Day: Resurgence, the rebuilt London is destroyed again. It’s almost as if it’s a metaphor for the prospective harm to the public purse after the City loses its passporting rights for financial services across the EU.

Jobs-first Brexit
A jobs-first Brexit, as officially promised by the Labour party, is rather like a cake-first diet, or guns‑first pacifism.

Killing, a
On the night of the referendum, hedge funds laid huge bets that sterling would crash, on the basis of private exit polling that indicated a leave result. They made hundreds of millions of dollars, so at least someone enjoyed a Brexit dividend (qv).

Liberty
Liberty is the prize after the best possible Brexit, when we will no longer be subject to European regulations, the vast majority of which we voted for or actively designed ourselves, and British companies will instead be perfectly free to manufacture flammable sofas. It’s just an unfortunate coincidence that the insurance company Liberty Special Markets last year announced that it was moving its headquarters out of Britain, to Luxembourg.

Mandate
There is no mandate (from the Latin for command or instruction) for any particular kind of Brexit; similarly, if the referendum result had been broadly in favour of dogs, there would be no mandate for making a whippet rather than a lurcher prime minister. Claims that there is a mandate to reduce immigration or leave the customs union are similarly baseless, since no such topics were mentioned on the ballot paper. Owing to the impossibility of knowing the will of the people (qv), some now want to have a “people’s vote”. No one can be bothered with having a second referendum, but what kind of anti-democratic poltroon would deny a vote to “the people” on the final deal, ie a second referendum?

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