‘Oh! What a Lovely War.’ The 1960s British satire of Britain in World War One when jingoism and cowardly foolishness led to the needless deaths of millions keeps popping into my head this week.
The film takes a journey from patriotic gung-ho songs at the beginning, to dystopian scenes of horror and waste. It is an outstanding drama of reflection and a film that sits uncomfortably with the recent official centenary spectacles of justification of that “war to end all wars” and the official anniversary that glossed over the waste of human life, preferring instead sepulchres of amnesia with poppies cascading from the Tower of London.
The same jingoistic dissonance is the platform on which Britain’s loverly Brexit is playing out.
The same promotion of perverted patriotism and official lies, with undertones of racism, provided the platform for the working classes of Britain to vote against their own interests and take themselves out of the European Union. The hardest imaginable Brexit was then supported by these same classes in Boris Johnson’s general election spectacular when he was given a mandate on their island to do whatever he liked.
This week we are beginning to see how the trenches are faring. Fuel and food shortages blamed on everything except Brexit. Cruel and sickening removal of universal credit payments, the raising of national insurance contributions, the lowering of student loan repayment tariffs. All measures that target the poor and least capable of shouldering the burden, officially unrelated to Brexit, but all utterly informed and framed by Brexit and its fall-out. There is no whistle to send the troops over the top, but there are dog whistle policy announcements that gain little scrutiny and few protests.
We on this island can only look on at our neighbour’s disastrous path in sadness. A country that once boasted international philosophers writing about the rights of the working people, original signatories of international rights covenants, and founders of welfare states, is now an international clown, falling from one lie to the next disaster. Thank goodness we have the semi-independence of the Protocol, which preserves us from the worst excesses of Brexit, and keeps our supermarket shelves stocked.
You would think that anyone who campaigned against Brexit on this island and secured an anti-Brexit majority in the North would be basking in vindication and promoting the Protocol. You would think. However, in an act of Stockholm Syndrome, Doug Beattie’s UUP want to ignore the evident securities and benefits provided by the Protocol and join in an act of communal self-flagellation with the DUP and Jim Allister to oppose the Protocol.
The proposed pact is of course pure sectarianism and a denial of the minority position of unionism. It is a perpetuation of unionism’s continued mistake, playing the Orange card. Unionism’s politics flies in the face of reason and is pretty galling to the growing non-unionist majority.
Equally galling is our reality that because of continued British presence, and despite our voting to remain in Europe, we face Brexit-linked Westminster benefits cuts, unfair taxation rises and our students face lifetimes of debt.
The continued connection to dissembling Britain is not in the interests of our people. It fosters the continued division of our communities and this destructive jingoism that feeds the anti-Protocol lobby. It is time to focus on exiting this toxic constitutional arrangement.