We’re heading into the ‘Mad Max Brexit dystopia’ that David Davis once promised us we’d avoid

International trade secretary Liam Fox says a no-deal Brexit is ‘survivable’. So is rickets and and getting bitten by a Komodo dragon, but I wouldn't describe those as ‘exciting opportunities’

Sean O'Grady
Tuesday 26 February 2019 09:24
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Can it really be only a year ago? A mere twelve months since David Davis was secretary of state for leaving the European Union (the first of three, so far)? When Brexit could, conceivably, have had a slightly better denouement than the one we have before us? When Davis, or “Brexit Bulldog” as the satirists called him for his chirpy patriotism, was able to reassure the British public that Brexit would not mean “Britain plunged into a Mad Max style world borrowed from dystopian fiction”?

Funnily enough, this dystopian world seems about to engulf us, Leavers and Remainers alike.

I am struck by news reports that a cabinet sub-committee has been discussing a “hardship fund”, for people especially badly affected by a no-deal Brexit. Like in Jaws, I can imagine, come the summer, HM Treasury telling colleagues in Whitehall “you’re going to need a bigger boat”. With due solemnity, the leaked document wistfully posits the mention that tax and benefits policy can be sued to counter the inflationary effects of a collapse in sterling and food shortages. Echoes of the magic money tree there.

Hard to believe, but unmistakeably dystopian, the EU Exit and Trade (Preparedness) Committee has been charged with exploring preparation for parts of the country “geographically vulnerable” to food shortages and sourcing alternative food for schools, hospitals and prions. Our jails forced to go without porridge. Imagine.

Unemployment, so the Treasury have already told us, will about double, with a “major recession”. Well, we’ve seen that before, though not since the 1980s.

But when was the last time the Queen had to evacuate from Buckingham Palace – a fate she might face again in the event of an outbreak of civil disturbance? 1940 is the answer to that. And what are we to make of health minister Matt Hancock? When asked if the government was considering the possibility of martial law, he replied breezily: “Not specifically, no.”

Remember, too, all the talk about “exciting opportunities” presented by Brexit? Well, maybe they once might have been, but now listen to the words of international trade secretary Liam Fox himself, a few weeks ago, striking a slightly different tone: “I don’t regard no deal as national suicide. This is not Dunkirk, this is leaving the European Union. We need to find ways if there is no deal for mitigating that but the best way to do it is to accept the deal the prime minister has negotiated.

“I think no deal would damage our economy, I’ve been frank about that, but I think it’s survivable.”

“Survivable”. Well, rickets is survivable. So is malaria, yellow fever or getting bitten by a Komodo dragon. But not necessarily exciting.

At least, then, after almost three years of national trauma, Leavers and Remainers can agree on one thing: the scenario that David Davis specifically told us was not going to happen. Mad Max-style rioting on the streets, martial law, the Queen packed off to Windsor for her own safety, shortage of food, medicines and David Davis, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage careering down a dusty potholed Fury Highway (previously M1) in hot rods armed with sawn-off shotguns with the last remaining precious UK stocks of brie, prosecco and Pampers strapped to their machines – things for which a desperate, post-no deal, population would willingly kill.

As they said on Mad Max: “If you can’t fix what’s broken, you’ll go insane.”

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