January 2, 2022 2.48 pm

Barry Turner: One year on from Brexit and still more to be done

A new year message to Boris Johnson

A Happy New Year to all, peace, goodwill, live long and prosper and all that sort of thing. That wonderful optimism has kept us all sane in a world where it is traditional these days to talk of times of uncertainty.

Since the mid 1980s when Ulrich Beck, the renowned German sociologist coined the phrase ‘The Risk Society’ we have been living in a condition of calculating the incalculable, forever assessing the potential problems we face.

We are now well into the third decade of the 21st century and the 1980s are a long way behind us. That decade ended with cautious optimism, the end of the Cold War, the emergence of China from the cold of extreme communism to world market and reform.  This third decade of the 21st century looks a lot less uncertain and very much less optimistic.

The first two years of this decade have shaken us from our hubris. The emergence of a viral pandemic that even after two years still haunts us brought a stark realisation to us. We have not conquered disease and the reality is we are nowhere near conquering it. The spectacular technological and scientific ‘breakthroughs’ of this century can ameliorate their effects but have no defence to the emergence of new biological threats to us.

The pandemic has also highlighted a disturbing feature of our psyche. Decades, if not centuries of the acquisition of civil liberties have been shaken not only by our government’s taking control of our most fundamental freedoms, but of the public’s servile acceptance of it.

The powers assumed by government may very well be initially in the public interest but we must now be very wary about politicians and the army of unelected ‘experts’ given unlimited platform by the media from now being the arbiters of what is being done for ‘our benefit’.

Our ‘troubled’ Prime Minister has given his New Year Address celebrating the benefits we have obtained from Brexit, you remember that thing that was done one year ago at 11pm 31st December 2021. It is interesting that Boris made the usual Freudian slip in his buoyant and optimistic view of the sunny uplands as usual.

Last year he told us that Brexit was done. Now he says there is still more to be done. You can say that again Boris! It is in fact now that Brexit will begin to bite. 2021 started with a moratorium on the biggest problems and that ends today.

Boris tells us that he wants less red-tape on the day that it is multiplied by the bucket load. The term red-tape refers of course to petty bureaucracy and was first used in this pejorative form by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the novel Alice, or the Mysteries, 1838 complaining about British bureaucracy and some time before anyone dreamt up the EU.

There are big problems right on the horizon and they will not be alleviated by optimistic soundbites.

Uncontrolled immigration has vanished from our TV screens and newspapers but only because the weather has temporarily ‘suspended’ it. Come the spring it will start again and without doubt new records will be set yet again.

What’s the best our Home Office can offer, sending British police officers to pound the beat of Calais and Dunkirk beaches. Apart from the fact that this would violate French sovereignty they would have no police powers to prevent any boats from leaving. It might also be an idea for our government to prioritise the patrolling of our streets rather than French beaches.

Brexit, we were told involved controlling our own borders. No one mentioned it would be done by having British PCSOs strolling along the seafront in France and asking desperate migrants if they “wouldn’t mind awfully not sailing onto the Channel”.

It is refreshing to see Boris Johnson telling the truth, especially as it is so rare an event — but he is right for once, there is still a lot to be done.

Apparently it’s all underway, he assures us. We have put the crown back on British beer glasses, we will soon be able to buy Champagne in pint bottles again, something we have all sorely missed since that was banned in 1973.  Not sure how we will convince the French to bottle it in these pint bottles though.

Now here is a new year message to Boris. You, well your party at least, have got a massive Parliamentary majority. There is nothing in the way of an opposition in the UK, you are shooting at an open goal.

Try this for a New Year’s resolution, do something with it. Stop telling us everything is rosy in the garden, it’s not. Stop telling us what you are going to do, try doing it instead. Stop bragging about the success of the vaccination programme as if that outweighs your failures, that was not an achievement it was just your job.

So far, not only has Brexit not been ‘done’ — it would appear that very little else has. If Boris does not get his finger out this year the only thing that will soon be done is his premiership.

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Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.