OPINION: David Skelcey, Thailand
(The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the owners, staff or management of The Thaiger)
Whether you are British or not, it will be hard to escape yesterday’s news that British Prime Minister Johnson has been dealt a massive blow by the UK’s highest court over his decision to suspend parliament. The unanimous decision by no less than 11 judges has left ‘Remainers’ jubilant and ‘Leavers’ foaming at the mouth. In the judge’s opinion, misleading the Head of State, is unlawful and MPs will return to normal business in the house today.
Satire pages are already having fun with the news… ‘Queen invites Johnson to friendly meeting in Paris road tunnel’, while pro-Brexit pages are fuming with memes about democracy being betrayed and conspiracy theories that the judges have been bribed by the EU.
Three years after the referendum the country is more divided than ever. Friendships have been lost, family relationships have broken down, businesses have shipped out, our currency is crashing and the world looks on, slowly shaking its head in a mixture of disbelief, bewilderment and occasional amusement.
The Brexit referendum was called by Conservative PM David Cameron in 2016 and was brought about after decades of in-fighting in the party over the UK’s continued membership of the EU. A new threat had also emerged, with Nigel Farage, the millionaire stockbroker and his UK Independence Party (UKIP). Cameron was counting on the vote to be won for Remain, and campaigned for such, as did all the main parties officially.
But there was a spanner in the works. He was Mayor of London at the time and refused to take a side until the last minute, and his clever act of dithering about while he worked out which side his bread was buttered would later see him become Prime Minister Johnson.
True to his form of consistently lying to everybody about everything (check this BBC interview here), his previous career was as a journalist, where he spent twenty odd years writing fallacious stories about EU laws, along with many other sections of the press. Once he officially joined the Leave campaign he teamed up with arch-leaver and campaign director Dominic Cummings, a maverick who has never been elected but is now Johnson’s most senior special advisor.
It’s widely suspected he was responsible for the attempt to suspend parliament in order for Johnson to get the UK out of the EU by October 31st. “Do or die” as Johnson puts it – which basically means “with a deal or without a deal”. The ‘deal’ relates to trade, customs, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in other countries of the EU (notably Spain).
Without a deal, no-one really knows what is going to happen, although according to Leavers, we got through two world wars and many years of prosperity before we joined the EU, so everything is going to be jolly spiffing and tip-top, like it was in the ‘good old days’. Britain is going to be Great again. (Sound familiar?)
For non-Brits who are struggling to keep up with this saga, don’t worry – most people at home are too. The twists and turns of this sorry tale are dizzying even for the most avid political observer and most of us have never seen such political turmoil in our lives. So how did it come about, and why should I even care about it if my family and I have expatriated ourselves to The Land of Smiles?
Well, I may be 10,000km away from the UK but only one metre away from my computer screen. My friends and family are still there, many of them running businesses. Our income comes from the UK and as the £/THB divide widens almost daily, our living costs are increasing constantly.
Although British tourist footfall in Thailand has been on the decline for years, it’s certainly not going to be revived anytime soon, and our own future here will be increasingly in doubt if the situation worsens further.
We’re into our third year living in Phuket now, and as relative newbies there has been a lot to learn. We’ve taken most of it in our stride – getting used to the roads, the customs and culture, and slowly learning the language at our Thai classes. But the thing that has thrown me the most is the political leanings of my fellow countrymen. And I say ‘men’ because they are all men, all white and all of a certain age (55+ ish), and are all apparently pro-Brexit. In my circles they are affectionately known as ‘gammons’ due to their pinkish, rotund features. I only know one British female here, who is a teacher at our kids’ school and is very much anti-Brexit.
This bears out with the voter demographic in the referendum. (Or neverendum as some like to call it.) Some very detailed analysis can be found here, but basically older people and those living in regional and rural areas mostly voted Leave, whilst younger voters and those living in metropolitan areas mostly voted Remain. It has been established that xenophobia had a big part to play in the Leave vote winning.
So I find it rather surprising that so many expats – essentially immigrants – choose to support the ‘pull up the drawbridge’ mentality of Brexit, having moved to a foreign country, setup businesses, married a local and had kids etc. Many of my European friends in the UK are leaving, and many of my UK friends in the EU are panicking, while expats here are throwing their arms up in the air about Thailand getting strict on their asses.
So why vote and support the same treatment for foreigners in your home country, especially when you’re not even there (and some haven’t been back for years)?
In my opinion, Britain has been sold a lie. Johnson has been rightly floored. This week I’ve been studying ASEAN trade agreements. Anyone who thinks switching to ‘No deal/WTO’ terms will be easy has never tried analysing tariff charts.
I hope the country can recover before we become the laughing stock of the world, if we are not already.
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