Musings on Brexit

One of the many things that I like about spending time at the Club is the variety of topics and opinions that one encounters over drinks at the bar. Obviously, there are plenty of the old guard around, reminiscing about the Empire days or what they see as the lack of moral fibre in society today. Whilst one has to have some sympathy for their views, one cannot always agree or even understand what they are talking about.

The chaps and I have often found ourselves at loggerheads with some of the old duffers over one issue or another, and I have also found myself, on more than one occasion, completely at a loss to understand what they are talking about at all. They sometimes seem to have their own language and talk about people and places that I have never heard of. At the same time, one has to respect them and their achievements. Many are war veterans and seem to spend their days and evenings reliving adventures in far-off corners of the old empire.

But there are times when the life experiences of the old guard are actually very interesting. Whilst one or two of the old chaps have obviously lost the plot completely, a number of them still have enough of their marbles to provide valuable insights into some of the political discussions we often fall into. And we have certainly been having a few of those recently, what with the interminable discussions about Brexit, this week’s budget and events in Zimbabwe, there have been some very lively discussions going on. Not that I have too much to say on some of these subjects, but it is always interesting to see just how passionate some of the chaps can get over seemingly trivial things.

The one topic that continues to surprise me is Brexit. I mean, we had the vote, a decision was made, so why don’t they just get on with it? All this faffing about and opening up debates about so-called divorce bills and such look like nothing more than political procrastination. And I am not alone in becoming a little frustrated by having the issue constantly thrust in my face everytime I switch on the news or read a newspaper. Mind you, I had thought that the fellows at the Club would be pretty united on the subject, but it seems not. Whilst I knew that there were one or two who were closet remainers at the time of the vote, their ranks have apparently swelled somewhat over recent months, and last night it all came to a head when the debate was re-opened once again after a fairly lengthy drinking session.

I think it was all sparked off by the announcement in last week’s Budget about the amount of money being set aside to pay for the Brexit process. Admittedly I don’t normally take much notice of the budget as it rarely has any real impact on either myself or my immediate family, but even I was shocked to see that the Chancellor has set aside £3bn to pay for Brexit preparations. That seems quite a lot of money to me, considering that we are also looking at paying something like £40bn just for the privilege of leaving. I also learned from one of the chaps that over 8,000 people have been employed by the government just to manage the process of leaving the European Union. Obviously, anything that creates that many new jobs has to be applauded, but I for one had not anticipated all of this extra money and work being part of the Brexit process.

A couple of the chaps were very concerned at the loss of jobs in the City as EU institutions have already begun the process of moving to other cities on the continent. I do not remember any conversations during the referendum where these things were mentioned. Although I have little time for the interference in our affairs by our continental cousins, I have always been sympathetic to the freedom of trade and employment that membership has brought. I think like many my main concern has always been the unnecessary bureaucracy, the needless harmonisation and the feeling that our sovereignty and culture were under attack. Now, after one of the most heated debates I have seen the Club for quite some time, I am beginning to see why so many influential people warned against Brexit.

I remember well the divisions within the Club in the months leading up to the referendum. And from where I stood, it looked to me like it was the younger members who were supporting the Remain campaign, and the older chaps who wanted out. The way I saw it, the younger chaps were simply not experienced enough to see the problems the country faced if it were to remain part of the European Union. I know a lot was said about foreign workers coming over here and taking all our jobs which is something I had thought would have been of more concern to the younger people, but apparently not. Several of them were more than happy to employ Easter European workers in their businesses, often stating that they were cheaper and more productive.

One thing I do know for sure is that if my father were still alive he would be furious about what is going on. He was a very firm supporter of the European Union. He often spoke quite eloquently on the subject, and although we didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the issue, I did respect and admire his position.

So it seems that the closer we get to leaving the Union, the less support it has, at least amongst my friends down at the Club. However, amongst the old guard, support for Brexit is as strong and determined as ever, although I am not sure that some of them will live long enough to see the result.

 

A frank exchange of views

One of the things I really enjoy about the Club, aside from the excellent food and extensive wine cellar, is that one never knows who is going to be there and which way conversations will go. There is such a variety of views that discussions are never boring, and can at times become quite heated. However, there is one thing that unites almost all of the members, and that is our concern over the terrible state our country is in at the moment. What we cannot agree on is the cause of the problem and how to fix it.

Quite a few of the chaps, and I include myself in this, are getting just a little impatient with the government over the whole Brexit thing. I will be the first to admit that I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to politics and finance, but even I can see that things aren’t going so well. The media is constantly referring to it as a divorce, which I suppose in a way it is, with both sides fighting over the family silver. My worry is that whilst the Union chappies seem fairly united in their approach, we are still fighting amongst ourselves over what we want to get out of the process. We can all see that despite what the Prime Minister says there is very little unanimity even in her own government.

What some of the chaps are saying is that they are more worried about the uncertainty and bickering than they are about Brexit itself. Like any divorce, each side wants to get the best it can for itself. Even the most amicable of separations will inevitably result in some conflict of interests; not that I have much experience of this kind of thing. What most people seem to want is certainty. I know one or two of my friends have business interests in the City and they are the ones most concerned about all the dithering and in-fighting. Apparently, the uncertainty about what is going to happen after Brexit is having an impact on investments and trade. I suppose I am in the same boat having investments of my own in City properties. Which reminds me that I really must talk to Aunt Murdock about this when I see her next.

There is still some disagreement amongst the chaps about how best to go about the Brexit negotiations. On one hand, there are those who want Mrs May to take a very firm stand and refuse any kind of compromise. On the other, and these are mainly the same people who supported the remain argument, there are those who want us to take what they refer to as a more pragmatic and open approach. I am not entirely sure which will be best for the country, but I suspect that it is somewhere in the middle. Even I know that there is never going to be a deal that satisfies the demands of both sides completely so we will have to accept some form of compromise. I am sure the debate will rumble on at the bar and, if the past week is anything to go by, it will only get more heated.

It is not just at the Club that the subject of Brexit rears it’s ugly head from time to time. Dorothy and Angela have been very vociferous in their support of remaining in the EU and are still very angry at the result. Angela has even spoken about getting herself a German passport. It seems that her mother’s family are from Germany so she can claim dual nationality if she wishes. I know that a number of people have done this recently, but to me, it seems a little futile unless one is actually planning to move there. I am not sure Dorothy would be too happy about that, but I am not going to interfere with their relationship or plans. What Dorothy has said on more than one occasion is that she is embarrassed by the whole thing. She has a lot of foreign friends and says that they can’t understand why we would want to leave the European club. I have tried to explain about sovereignty and the British standing in the world, but for some reason, she just can’t seem to understand it. I know that some people have implied it is some form of nostalgia for the days of the old Empire, but, at least as far as I am concerned, it isn’t that. It is just about being in control of our own destiny and our own laws. We should not be dictated to by other people. The rules and regulations we have to accept from Brussels are scandalous. For me, it is all about being able to decide things for ourselves. No one likes to be dictated to by outsiders who don’t understand our history or our customs. The French, Spanish and Germans have all tried to defeat us in war and failed; we can’t let them succeed by the back door.

Another subject that seems to have been creating something of a buzz at the bar this week is that of the Prime Minister’s position. I didn’t follow the events of the Party conferences – far too boring and narcissistic for my liking, all that self-congratulation and pompous self-righteousness does nothing for me – but those who do were very critical of Mrs May’s performance and the way she has been treated by the Party. I have to admit to having a great deal of respect for Mrs May, but even I am beginning to think that maybe she isn’t up to the job of leading us through our current troubles. Not that there seems to be a great deal of choice for replacement at the moment. With the Party so divided over Europe I don’t honestly think that there is anyone else capable of uniting all sides, and as far as I am concerned, unity is far more important than anything else right now.

There is only one subject at the moment that seems to have almost unanimous agreement with the chaps at the bar, and that is our mutual distrust of the American President, Donald Trump. Whilst he may be successful as a businessman – and there seems to be a little disagreement even over that – as a politician and diplomat he is very much out of his depth. The man seems to have absolutely no idea of how the world actually works. Several of the regulars at the Club have financial interests in the aircraft industry and are very angry over Trump’s recent announcements over the imposition of tariffs on Bombardier aircraft. One gets the feeling that he makes these announcements without thinking them through first. I certainly get the feeling that he doesn’t discuss things with his staff before taking to social media to make is pronouncements. I suppose that he is used to having complete control of his businesses and can’t seem to grasp the idea that his decisions have to me about more than just making money. America is not a business, it is a country, and it cannot be run in quite the same way. Having said that, Americans can be a little odd that way, putting financial gain ahead of everything else. I have said it before, they are a nation with no history and no idea of social etiquette. It is unfortunate that they have so much power and influence or we could just ignore them and let them get on with playing their silly games.

Mind you, we do have to be careful when discussing the Americans, and their President in particular, if my old chum Dorchester is around. Apparently, his American girlfriend is a Trump supporter (a Trump-et!) and he is very defensive of her views. According to Annabelle, the President can do no wrong. She fully supports his positions on immigration, North Korea and protecting American businesses. And whilst I can sort of see her point and some of his decisions, I cannot support her misguided view that Donald Trump is the saviour of the western world. The man’s a fruitcake I would hesitate to leave in control of a Sunday School, let alone a country.

Changing the subject completely, I had a call yesterday from Hope about some event or other she is holding at her gallery in a couple of weeks time. Apparently, it is one of those evenings when new artists get to display their work and she has asked me to go along. Of course, I have accepted the invitation, but I am not sure it is really my kind of thing. I have seen some of the work she has on display and it is all far too modern for me. My taste is more conservative I suppose, but she has been kind enough to ask me, so I will definitely have to go. I had thought of inviting Dorothy to join me, but she will be in Edinburgh by then.