Thursday, 26 May 2016

Brexit and Retirement

As the dismal referendum campaign rolls tediously on - still a month to go! - it has been impossible to keep it entirely out of my head (or even out of this blog). The other day I was thinking about what Brexit might be like - how it would feel to be out of the EU - and at the same time I was musing idly on the joys of retirement. Suddenly I saw a connection between the two.
 Last autumn I wrote a piece on retirement - and specifically how, in imagining it in prospect, I had 'made the elementary mistake of simply subtracting work from my everyday life', assuming that I'd be left standing there with a great hole where my work had been, wondering what to do next. In fact, I quickly realised, retirement is not 'life minus work, but rather a new kind of life'.
 I suspect those in favour of remaining in the EU might be making the same mistake, imagining the shape of the future as being 'UK minus EU', with a shell-shocked nation standing gaping at the hole where 'Europe' used to be - whereas the post-Brexit future would be, of course, a new form of life, a new stage in our relations with the world. (And it needn't be a new isolationism, as our international ties are, and will remain, highly complex, and by no means all of our relationships even with European countries are related to EU membership. Not to mention that there's a big wide world outside Europe...)
 The future is of course by definition unknowable - which is why a campaign fought largely on predictions has been so fatuous - but I do think this negative and static 'UK minus EU' model is flawed. As for what's going to happen when this referendum at last arrives, my own tentative prediction is that there will be a narrow vote in favour of Brexit, but that - the EU being what it is  - we'll end up staying in the EU after it comes back with a raft of concessions to swing a second referendum in favour of staying in. A dismal prospect after all this...


  1. Surprisingly, the term 'REU' has remained on the shelf. Our cultish SNP coined the British original 'RUK' attempting to isolate the dog, 'us' from the tail, 'them' and so create two easily identifiable entities. As false a dawn as ever was.

  2. I agree entirely, Nige. Also meaningless are comparisons with Norway, Switzerland etc. Every country is unique and our relationship with Europe would be unique, post-Brexit.

    One thing that baffles me in all this is the way that Cameron has played it. He could have stated that he favoured remain, and then remained aloof and Prime Ministerial and let Gideon do the dirty campaigning stuff.

    After June, Cameron is still going to have to be the PM, and he'll either have to reunite the Tories or manage a Brexit on behalf of the country. Hard for him to do either of those things given the way he's conducted the 'debate'.

  3. A question: it occurred to me that there should be a couple of neologisms in circulation by now: "Bruxellism", grinding one's teeth at thought of government by EU ukase; and "Brexillism", grinding one's teeth at the thought of suffering the economic consequences predicted for the Brexit. Are they in use?

  4. Matthew Parris (an innie like me) in the Spectator, perhaps curiously, described how he thinks Brexit should sell itself to be successful or, at least, to lose honourably rather than its current cavilling approach - "Steam trains, flying, space travel, empire… every great leap in human history has been by definition into the unknown. And every one has been launched amid a susurration of whispers about the incontestable security of sticking with the devils we knew. Almost every hero we’ve ever had, almost every big, good thing we’ve ever achieved, has first had to brush away a swarm of reasonable doubts, and embrace the unknowable. So my case for Leave would of necessity have more of Moses than of Doubting Thomas about it. Unless the Leave campaign can capture something of St Crispin’s Day, it can have no hope." Chimes somewhat with your piece.

  5. Thanks all. I dunno - to me it all seems to boil down to the simple question of whether you prefer to face the future living in a sovereign state with democratically accountable governance or as a shrinking part of a nondemocratic unaccountable supranational entity with the avowed (suicidal) aim of creating a federal superstate. The rest is noise, isn't it?
    Quite agree that Cameron's handling has been disastrous and will have terrible effects on the Tory party whatever happens now. If he squeaks a narrow victory, the party will surely split, joining Labour as an unelectable shambles, and leaving the coast clear for who knows what? Not that a wholesale revolt against the current inept, massively misguided elite would necessarily be a bad thing... Chin up, eh?