On Brexit Eve there are – predictably – some silly stories doing the rounds. The Daily Express asks the nation if it should be illegal to fly the EU flag from UK public buildings. Très petty. Meanwhile “Bung a Bob for a Big Ben Bong” is apparently a new low for British politics. Really? It’s about as relevant as Femi Oluwole.
The reality is that most Brexiteers have no intention of getting wet in Parliament Square on a Friday night nor do they give a monkey’s about Big Ben bonging. They won’t notice what design is on their fifty pence piece when they stick it into the car park ticket machine nor will they dress in Union Jack suits or form pro-Brexit choirs. On Saturday morning will sheep farmers across Britain skip towards their flocks? No, it will be just another day for them, just as it will be just another day for all of us.
Most Brexiteers won’t even be awake come midnight on Friday. They will be tucked up in bed and rightly so. On February 1st, the day after Brexit, almost nothing will actually change. The United Kingdom will enter a transition period, during which the rules governing trade, travel, and business stay exactly the same for at least another year. British politicians will stop going to some meetings in Brussels, but most people will feel no impact at all. Real independence won’t happen until New Year’s Day 2021.
It’s time for the country to “move forward united” – so Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared in his 2020 New Year’s message. He wants to talk about jobs, the NHS, infrastructure – anything but Brexit. And Boris is right to do so – such conversations will unify the country, repay the Red Wall for their votes and further reduce the Continuity Remain/Rejoiner crowd to a speck of diehard blowhards. Britain can learn from the example of the anti-reunification crowd from Germany, who were a thing back in 1989 and stoked divisions between Ossis (easterners) and Wessis (westerners) – they exist in 2020 but nobody knows their names and nobody pays any attention to their protests.
What matters to most Brexiteers now is not the flag-waving nor the war of words – the Remoaners are thoroughly beaten and embarrassed to boot. The fight is not over – another reason to not celebrate. What matters now is progress – jobs, the economy, investment, a draining of public teat-sucking swamps like the BBC and NHS management, and Britain grasping its new identity in a challenging but exciting environment. Making a success of Brexit. Hopefully too there will come a day soon when politicians and journalists will go back to being what they were supposed to be – not stars but servants.