Tom Kane's Blog

A word can change a mind. A sentence can change a life. A book can change the world

image broken brexit egg

There have been more votes in the British Parliament to do with Brexit than any of us can keep up with, and yet we are still uncertain as to what exactly, if anything, will happen on 29th March 2019. Brexit, it seems, is on a cliff edge and indeed it may happen sooner, or more likely it will happen later. It could be that it doesn’t happen at all and Britain becomes a wraith like entity always on the edge of being a part of the EU, but never being invited to the party. Nobody knows.

One thing though is certain, Brexit has come about in part due to many, many, older people voting to return Britain to a time when the UK was in charge of its own destiny. When Britain mattered as a force in its own right and didn’t need to pander to any ‘foreign Johnnies’ as my Granddad used to call people across the Channel.

I somehow think that many of my fellow Brits have rose coloured lenses in their spectacles. It may have been a glorious time of self determination when Britain stood alone at the start of World War 2, a time of Churchill and the famous ‘we will fight them on the beaches’  speech. But the modern world works in a very different way.

I’m not old enough to remember World War 2, I was born ten years after hostilities ended, and missed rationing by a few years too. But my parents both lived through it, indeed were to a greater and lesser extent involved in the struggle. My mother worked in a factory making radio sets for the armed forces and my father was a front-line tank commander who served in North Africa and Italy, eventually heading an army group working with the SOE to capture high ranking Nazis in Austria after full blown hostilities had ended in the European theatre of operations.

Both parents sustained injuries due to their war efforts which was a constant and permanent reminder of the struggle against the Nazis and their Axis allies.

What has this to do with Brexit? Bear with me.

For a long time Britain struggled at the outbreak of World War 2 to get itself onto a war footing. It’s armed forces were woefully unprepared, except maybe the Royal Navy, and the fight was a hard test for all, civilians included. It was a time of great uncertainty for nobody knew what the outcome would be. What made matters worse that for a long time after the fall of France in in June 1940, Britain stood virtually alone except for soldiers, sailors and airman of the British Empire and those who escaped occupied Europe, and a handful of American pilots in the Eagle Squadron. It was a time of great fear among the civilian population, indeed many thought Britain would succumb to the Nazi onslaught. But in the end, and after America joined the war in December 1941, the tide turned in the Allies favour and eventually victory was assured. But the cost was high. People died and were injured on an enormous scale and on top of that there was the monetary cost of the war. In fact Britain didn’t pay its war date off to America & Canada for loans made during the war until 2006. The payments of $83.25m (£42.5m) to the US and US$22.7m (£11.6m) to Canada were paid on the final day of business 2006.

Again you are probably asking what all this has to do with Brexit.

Two things you can take from the struggle of World War 2. The first is that Britain has a long history of ‘going it alone’ and getting on with the job in hand. Britain has always had a ‘can do’ attitude. The second is that Britain has always tried to do the right thing in paying its debts. Yes, there have been instances of disagreements with other countries on the hows and whys and whens of paying back what was owed. And for many years, probably even more so now, Britain has often been described as Perfidious Albion, particularly by the French. We Brits have a special love-hate relationship with France.

But at the end of the day, whatever happens with Brexit, and it looks more and more likely there will be a no deal Brexit, Britain will ‘get on’ with the job in hand and make a success of whatever history and circumstances throws at us. The British do not to sit back and throw their hands in the air and loudly gnash their teeth, they will quietly make the best of whatever deal (or no deal) comes before Brexit.

Despite the fact I live in Europe and voted for staying in the EU, I don’t worry if there is a no-deal. Such a scenario will offer the UK a fresh start and a clean slate. After all, before Britain joined the European Union, what was then called the Common market, it had trading partners all over the world. I remember it being quite a sad day when Britain’s trade as a stand alone nation was halted and replaced by trade deals negotiated by the EU. Our long time trading partners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, to name but a few, were no doubt slightly miffed as we turned to the Common market.

Having said all that, trading practices have changed since the UK joined the EU in the 1970s. When I was a boy, Anchor Butter from New Zealand was the best butter around. Over the years it seemed to be replaced on supermarket shelves by Lurpak, a Danish brand. But that’s actually untrue and is only the way I perceived much cherished brands being usurped by foreign goods. In fact In the UK, Anchor butter was still imported from New Zealand up until August 2012 when UK licensee Arla Foods transferred production to a factory in Wiltshire, using British cream. So Anchor butter in Britain is no longer New Zealand butter, it’s British butter. Maybe I too have rose coloured spectacles on.

So what does all this mean to Britain if and when the politicians get their act together and make a decision. I predict after the UK leaves the EU prices on many goods will go up and we may well see a resurgence of brands such as Anchor with lower prices than equivalent EU brands. But over the coming months and years life will settle down again and we can all look forward to a time of peace and calm… except that is when French farmers and fishermen go on the rampage and block British goods arriving at French ports. As I said, life will return to normal.

C’est la Vie.

Tom Kane © 2019

As a English expat author living in Cyprus, you may think my life revolves around cocktails by the pool. You would be wrong. In ten years on the island I’ve had my fair share of adventures and interesting experiences.

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Living in Cyprus: 2015 here

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