Notes From the Margins…

No Deal: All the Demons are Here

  • August 19, 2019
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There was a time when Halloween or All Hallows Eve was not much celebrated in the UK.   Now children up and down the country merrily celebrate the liminal point where the boundaries between the living and the dead dissolve, where witches, ghosts and spirits briefly walk the earth,  when ‘Halloween wraps fear in innocence’ in order to let ‘terror be turned into a treat’ as the poet Nicolas Gordon put it.

This year’s Halloween promises to be on a very different order of spookiness, because this is the date when the entire country goes over to the dark side not just for one night, but for many years to come, when the UK willingly, even gleefully, embraces the kind of chaos, hardship and misery that no country in history has ever voluntarily inflicted on itself.

The lineaments of that disaster have been known for some time, even though those who favour this outcome have always ignored them or dismissed them as ‘Project Fear’.   This weekend, in the midst of a wet August, the UK Treasury’s  leaked civil contingency planning report Operation Yellowhammer brought the cold breath of autumn into households across the country and laid out some of the festivities that are in store for us.

Its predictions include the following:

  • On Day 1 of No Deal, 50%-85% of HGVs travelling via the short straits may not be ready for French customs.  The lack of trader readiness combined with limited space in French ports to hold “unready” HGVs could reduce the flow rate to 40%-60% of current levels within one day.
  • Disruption to Channel flow traffic will cause significant queues in Kent and delays to HGVs attempting to use the routes to travel to France., leading ‘ in a reasonable worst-case scenario’ to HGVs waiting for up to two and half days to cross the border.
  • UK citizens travelling to and from the EU may be subject to increased immigration checks, leading to ‘long delays’ at St Pancras, Cheriton, and Dover.
  • Reduced flow rates will cause ‘ significant disruption’ for up to six months,  which will impact on the supply of medicines and medical supplies, particularly medicines subject to ‘  limits on transit times and temperature-controlled conditions.’
  • Disruption will also reduce, delay or stop medicines for UK veterinary use , which will ‘reduce our ability to prevent and control disease outbreaks.’
  • Certain types of fresh food supply will decrease.   Though this will ‘not cause an overall shortage of food in the UK’ it will ‘reduce availability and choice and increase the price differential, which will affect vulnerable groups.’

The report also predicts that there will be disruptions to fuel distribution; that the ‘ no new checks with limited exceptions’ model at the Irish border ‘ will prove ‘unsustainable because of economic, legal and biosecurity risks.’ thereby leading to a hard Irish border; that ‘Disruption to key sectors and job losses are likely to result in protests and direct action with road blockades.’

In addition ‘Price and other differentials  are likely to lead to the growth of the illegitimate economy.  They will be particularly severe in border communities where criminal and dissident groups already operated with great freedom.’

There is also the likelihood that ‘Protest and counter-protests will take place across the UK, using up police resources. There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions’. and the possibility of ‘Clashes between UK and EU fishing vessels’ thereby leading to ‘Violent disputes or blockading of ports.’

Meanwhile ‘Low-income groups will be disproportionately affected by rises in the price of food and fuel; and small and large scale social providers are likely to fail as a result of ‘increasing staff and supply cost’ between 2 to 6 months.’  And ‘ UK nationals will lose their EU citizenship and can expect to lose associated rights and access to services over time, or be required to access them on a different basis.’

This is what we are about to inflict on ourselves.   This is what our government-of-ghouls is supposedly preparing for.  In accordance with the government’s ‘rapid rebuttal’ strategy, a bevy of useless and/or sociopathic cabinet members including Owen Paterson, Ian Duncan-Smith immediately hit the tv studios to present the report as an ‘establishment’ plot intended to ‘sow fear in people’s minds’ and ‘influence discussions with EU leaders.’

Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister in charge of no-deal planning, said that Yellowhammer was an ‘old document’ that showed ‘absolutely the worst case’.  In fact a senior Whitehall source told the Sunday Times that Yellowhammer ‘ is not Project Fear, this is the most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal. These are likely, basic, reasonable scenarios – not the worst case.’

Despite Downing Street’s attempts to play the report down and emphasise its mitigation strategies, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) declared that fuel shortages ‘ had not been conveyed to them by the government’.

So Gove and co. were not ‘rebutting’; they were merely lying.

As if this was not bad enough, the coagulated composite of corruption, stupidity and malice that goes under the name of Priti Patel has promised to use secondary legislation to end Freedom of Movement on the 31st.   This astonishingly cruel and malicious decision will not only inflict entirely unnecessary anxiety, hurt and misery on EU migrants who have done nothing wrong except come to live here; it will also increase the vulnerability of British citizens living in Europe under EU citizenship rights.

Meanwhile the National Sheep Association have warned of the mass slaughter of livestock in the event of 40-50 % WTO tariffs in a no deal scenario, and some economists have predicted that half the country’s farms may go under.

All this ought to be a national scandal and a national emergency.  A government that is willing to contemplate these possibilities is unfit to govern.  Yet the Internet is awash with adverts from the ‘Party of the People’ promising to ‘deliver Brexit’ on the 31st and raise the retirement age to 75.  The sinister astroturf lobbying group the TaxPayers Alliance pours forth a constant stream of suggestions on how to reduce taxes.

The troglodyte reactionary John Bolton is courting our politicians with the prospect of a rapid trade deal with an unstable rightwing nationalist American government whose poll ratings are plummeting, and which is racing towards a trade war.

In short this is a political manifestation of Bram Stoker’s ‘children of the night’ – a monsters ball that includes hardright libertarian extremists, Little Englander nationalist zealots, predatory millionaires and billionaires, Faragists and Bannonite ‘anti-Globalists.’  These are the forces that are conspiring to wreck the country in order to rebuild it in their image, with the support of voters who, when it comes down to it, couldn’t stand having a Polish deli on their streetcorner.

Let no one be foolish enough to believe that a government made up of such people is fighting ‘the establishment’ or taking any serious measures to mitigate the coming disaster.   On October 31st, Sajid Javid promises to release thousands of new 10p bits to mark the occasion.   These ‘10,000 commemorative collectors’ coins will laughably be stamped ‘Friendship with all nations.’

It is difficult to believe that many nations will want to be friends with us after the carnage we are about to unleash on the 31st, and a country that is prepared to allow such a thing to happen is not worthy of anyone’s friendship or respect.

We have been played, suckered, fatally undermined, by political forces that we were not wise enough, or courageous enough, or decent enough, to stop.  And if No Deal unfolds as predicted, October 31st will not be the end of anything, but the beginning of something even worse, unless, even at this late stage, our politicians can find the collective gumption to bring this nightmare to an end.

And if not, ‘ when black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam, may luck be yours on Halloween.’


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  1. Cyril Wheat

    19th Aug 2019 - 2:25 pm

    Gove clearly gave the game away on the Irish border when he said that “we” will not be putting up a hard border. The Irish will have to instigate border checks thereby shouldering the blame for breaking the Good Friday Agreement. That’s in Gove’s tiny mind anyway. Why would Ireland leave the border as it is and allow a non member state access to the EU without an agreement on tariffs and trade. We are to be allowed to roam free as though latter day privateers sailing the seas in search of treasure. This is a huge cluster fuck and we seem to be powerless to stop these suicidal tactics.

  2. Nik

    19th Aug 2019 - 7:52 pm

    If the situation gets out of hand and you need anything Matt just let me know. I will send you some care packages or arrange for you to be smuggled straight into the Alps. Ok, all jokes aside: This looks – pardon my french – fucking terrifying. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that it really came to this.

    What would such dire consequences lead to politically in your estimation? Would the left in the UK stand a chance to “profit” from such a tragedy or would it make the Brexiteers even bolder and nationalistic?

  3. Mark

    20th Aug 2019 - 9:41 pm

    Matt , no deal is not a final endpoint. Merely a position at a point in time.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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