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Happy national downgrade day

Happy national downgrade day. I did my best to try to stop you, but you’ve done it. You’ve made your country poorer, weaker, and less influential, and you’ve thrown away rights that most of the world would love to have.

If you just wanted to tear everything down, you won’t get the chaos you hoped for. If you wanted to destroy London, you’ll discover that London is much more resilient than your one-employer (soon to be zero-employer) provincial town. If you just wanted all the Poles to leave, you’ll be disappointed to find them still there. If you’re one of those confused people who wanted all the brown people to “go home”, you’ll be even more disappointed. You will probably get fewer immigrants, though, because a country with a trashed currency and a xenophobic reputation is much less appealing. In a country with an ageing population, that makes paying for pensions and healthcare harder. That’s not what the bus promised.

If you wanted to be free from the shackles of the “EUSSR superstate”, you won’t get what you wanted, either. The regulatory and economic power of the EU, right next door, will continue to affect the UK. It’s just that the UK won’t get any say in its decisions.

If you wanted more democracy, you’ll get less: MEPs were elected in a way that better represented the diversity of opinion. Westminster is, thanks to its rotten voting system, functionally an elected dictatorship: the Conservatives won a majority of seats on a mere plurality of the votes cast, and no one else gets a say in how they run the country for the next five years.

When I was younger, I worked in France and Belgium. I didn’t need a visa, I just turned up. By contrast, when I worked in Japan, the number of visas available under what’s now called the Youth Mobility Scheme was limited, and it was a much more stressful and onerous process. And it had a time limit, after which I had to leave.

The opportunity I had is being taken away from British young people, and I feel sorrow for them. Living under a visa régime really isn’t the same thing as being there by right. Going and doing a casual summer job in a place with sun or snow will be much harder for them. Spending a bit of time to learn a foreign language well will be difficult when you can only be there for ninety days in an six-month period and you can’t work.

British musicians will suffer. If an orchestra in the EU/EEA needs, say, a bassoon player at short notice, it will be much easier to offer the job to a Belgian, who doesn’t need a visa, than to a British player. No matter how talented they might be, visas take time. Bands will have to go through expensive and burdensome customs formalities to take their equipment on tour.

If you have the kind of pre-existing medical condition that travel insurance won’t cover, you’ll lose the backup cover provided by the EHIC. I know of someone who died of cancer a couple of years ago. During her last year, she and her family went to Spain for a couple of months to spend some time together in a warmer place. That’s the kind of thing you’ve thrown away.

Little things will get worse. Mobile roaming in the EU won’t necessarily be free any more. You’ll have to renew your passport sooner. You’ll have to queue in a longer line at the airport. You’ll need to queue up at the Post Office and pay £5.50 for an extra piece of cardboard to drive abroad. Professional qualifications might not be recognised. It will take four months for the formalities to take your dog on holiday. In ways like this, you’ll just see a thousand tiny negative changes, but never any concrete improvements.

Because there’s a transition period until the end of the year, most of the changes won’t take effect until then. As for what those changes will be, we just don’t know. That depends on what, if anything, is agreed and ratified by then.

But whatever. You won. Get over it. Just don’t expect any great reconciliation. This is only the beginning.

A poll out yesterday suggests that there’s now a majority in favour of independence in Scotland. Perhaps that’s inevitable sooner or later. Irish reunification is only a matter of time, too. When the rump UK deletes the “Great” from its name, and the blue out of its flag, only then can the English nationalist project of Brexit truly be said to be done.

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