We British have a well deserved reputation for our stoic, phlegmatic approach to life. Whether you are a banker in Surrey or a baker in Grimsby, whether you are a retired Brigadier in Lancashire or a squaddie in the shires, the British simply do not indulge in hysterical romanticism or drama. Such behaviour is for other, more hot-headed, nations prone to histrionics. Not us.
This year, however, as 21 June approaches it looks as though the nation has been hit by some kind of midsummer madness. Look at us! Where once we cherished a stable economy now we are seriously considering throwing it all away in the name of some fairy-tale peddled by a whimsical minstrel lulling us into the false belief that Britain is some kind of super-power poised to be taken seriously if only she could first slay a dragon. Where once we dismissed freedom fighters as deluded fantasists now we are taking the sweet nothings they whisper lovingly into our ears seriously.
The analogy to a certain midsummer madness is not far off the mark. In Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Titania, Queen of the Fairies is hoodwinked into falling madly, truly, deeply in love with a donkey going by the name of Bottom. Everyone around Titania is astounded. Can she not see she is dancing with a donkey? Why can she not see what we all can see – her lover has pointed ears and long brown teeth? The donkey is covered in hair and can only answer her advances in awkward grunts. Have we, in the United Kingdom, in our midsummer madness, like Titania been blinded to reality, actually believing the tall tales of an ass who wants to become Prime Minister as opposed to the findings of well regarded, impartial economic experts, NHS bosses, and research centres?
What on earth has happened to the usual phlegmatic, unflappable Brit governed by logic, rationalism and calmly carrying on regardless of the crisis? Has Puck poured fairy dust over the eyes of the undecided voter as he wickedly did with Titania? If opinion polls are anything to go by – and that is a big if – then on the morning of 24th June 2016 the British nation could be waking up to that dreadful “morning-after” feeling with a knot in the pit of their stomach, a thick tongue and a thumping headache threatening to spoil not just their day but their decade. The night before, 23 June 2016, will seem like a hazy fog. In the harsh reality of the morning comes the gut wrenching realisation that the British just signed away their house, their savings and their pensions to a likeable, persuasive rogue, with no recourse to redress since the rogue is now in charge of the asylum.
At the dizzy, crazy, moon-lit, midsummer party the night before hosted by those two charming gentlemen from Vote Leave everything seemed so feasible, so plausible, so possible. How much fun it was to ridicule those boring pen-pushers in Brussels. The streamers were flowing, the mood was light and optimistic . At midnight, when the moon was bright and the English champagne flowed freely, when the brass band played Rule Britannia with such aplomb and when Buck Fizz added a huge amount of fizz to the party, how giddy everyone felt at the idea of Britain’s invincibility, greatness and unique position in the world. Everyone hugged each other wearing funny party hats and shouted – “We’ll be fine. After all – they need us more than we need them! Ha, ha, ha! We’re the fifth largest economy in the world! Hurrah for the British Grenadiers’.
Nigel Farage entered the room with a pint in one hand a fag in the other grinning like a Cheshire Cat “Ladies and Gentleman – so what if the pound falls!” he roared. Everyone thought this was hilarious! A great joke! Farage at his humorous best – never had he made them feel so happy and complete as when he announced “They need us more then we need them!” The Cheshire Cat continued between pointed, yellow teeth, “We will finally be free!” The crowd went wild. Next entered Boris Johnson, the ass with long ears and brown teeth, announcing “Tomorrow, your savings will be devalued along with the pound but you have nothing to fear I will be well on my way to becoming your new Prime Minister!” The crowd roared their approval chanting “We are the fifth largest economy in the world! They need us more then we need them!” and “Three cheers for the Brexiteers!”
Whilst the British electorate may have been bewitched by the fairy juice fed to them by a right-wing press, continental European leaders will assume that Britain’s decision to leave was a rational one and that we were of sound mind when making our decision to place all our faith in a donkey and a Cheshire Cat. Not even the far-left Tsipras or that firebrand Varoufakis fell for that one. Our neighbours will treat both the donkey and the cat with the contempt that, quite frankly, they deserve for promising the British people a preposterous pipe-dream, when in reality all Little England will get in return is turmoil, hardship and instability.
In Shakespeare’s comedy Titania wakes to find it was all just a bad dream. Phew! No harm done. All’s well that ends well.
Not so for Britain on the morning of 24 June 2016 if she votes to leave the EU. If she leaves the decision is final. We will have to live with the consequences of our midsummer folly for decades to come. We will loose all influence and respect globally for the next three generations at least. No one will take us seriously for a long, long time. The good-will continental Europeans feel towards Great Britain, built up largely by the sacrifices the British armed forces, together with our allies, made during both world wars, will be buried for years to come.
No more Rule Britannia or even Cool Britannia. Only Fool Britannia.
No fairy or ass is going to save us from this hugely important decision. Humpty Dumpty will be broken and our leaders will have to spend the next ten years trying to figure out how to glue our reputation, prosperity and influence back together again. Of course there are plenty of people both in the UK and abroad who have their heads firmly screwed on and who are witnessing the farce unfolding before their eyes with increasing horror and concern. All they can hope for is that Britain is released from the spell of this madness before the people vote on 23 June 2016. The good news is that the 23 June is two days after midsummer! There is still hope Britain will be released from Puck’s blinding potion before it is too late. Let us all believe this is still a farce that will not end in tragedy.
In the meantime all we can caution is that if you do not want to be hood-winked into leaving the EU by a donkey peddling a tall tale of evil empires and witches or a Cheshire Cat who cons you out of your prosperity, remind yourself you’re British not from some tin-pot banana republic. Show your stiff-upper-lip and Vote Remain on 23 June 2016.