A little more than 100 months since the vote for Brexit, the arrival of 2025 has been celebrated, if you’ll forgive the sledgehammer sarcasm, with the usual pervasive gloom.
On the English side of the border, it was the now familiar New Year’s Eve catalogue of vomitous sorrow-drowning and sporadic violence. Unsurprisingly, for a prime minister with a net approval rating of minus 48 per cent, Boris Johnson’s rousing appeal for calm was blithely ignored by gangs of both neo-Nazis and Eastern European migrants whose deportation orders continue their languid journey towards the Supreme Court.
Eight years after replacing David Cameron within a month of spearheading that razor thin win for Brexit, Johnson privately acknowledges that no victory in democratic history has been more brutally pyrrhic. The bleakness of life outside the EU was starting to be apparent even before the unloved Tories’ 2020 general election landslide confirmed a shrunken UK’s descent into one-party statehood.
After surfing the post-referendum wave of euphoria to Downing Street, Johnson soon found himself drowning in a vortex of economic failure. The byzantine complexity of withdrawal negotiations and harsh trade agreement terms dictated by Germany sent the pound into a corkscrew spin. The PM and his Chancellor, Michael Gove, parroted the claim that this would be a boon for exports, until being reminded that – other than second-rate weapons heavily subsidised by the government – Britain makes nothing a sane country would wish to purchase.
With sterling buying two thirds of a euro, and slumped even against the Turkish lira, the cheapest European package holiday is now a biannual luxury, at best, even those earning twice the median income.
Had Jeremy Corbyn been a less reluctant Remain campaigner, and had the general election come a year later, the Tory majority might have been limited to a few dozen seats. By 2021, the exodus from the City of financial services firms, to Paris, Frankfurt and Dublin, was underway. A property market in decline since before the referendum duly imploded, the collapse in central London prices radiating out to first the suburbs and Home Counties, and then nationally. Any advantage for purchasers was cancelled out by much costlier mortgages, with interest rates dramatically hiked in a futile effort to protect sterling, and the real terms decline in wages exploited by firms freed from EU employment legislation.
Johnson’s hair had started to lose its colour even before the Scots voted decisively for independence in May of 2018 – an inevitability once the referendum result showed a 73-27 Scottish majority for Remain.
What appeared to turn it Dulux white was the catastrophic decline in relations with the Palace. With swathes of the secessionist North-east, including Newcastle and Sunderland, petitioning Nicola Sturgeon to join the sovereign state of Scotland, largely because it will rejoin the EU in 2022, Charles III and Downing Street were already at Defcon3.
The King’s recent demand, as leaked to the BBC, that the Tories relax their “unending, divisive and wilfully cruel” assault on benefits has pushed them to the verge of a nuclear exchange. Their weekly meetings now pass in seething, truculent silence. “It’s just like the plot of To Play The King, Andrew Davies’ sequel to House of Cards where a fictional Charles III goes to war with a viciously insular, right wing Tory PM,” an unnamed courtier briefed the Daily Mail. “Only nastier.”
Meanwhile, sources close to Gove report that he has been “worryingly depressed” since the IMF rejected a loan request in October and his subsequent begging bowl jaunt to Washington. The Federal Reserve allotted him a 15 minute interview, in which its chair brusquely explained that after two terms of President Trump, who leaves office in predictably Berlusconian disgrace in a few weeks, America’s $45trn debt prohibits a loan; but that even were it swimming in cash, the Fed would not lend a dime to a diminished little island without a shred of geopolitical relevance. Gove’s frantic pleas for a presidential audience were hilariously rebuffed, the Donald tweeting: “Up to my neck in Muslim/ Hispanic race riots from Arizona to Maine – and this shrimpy little guy thinks I have time for him! #getrealgove #newtfacedloser.”
The King spent yesterday theatrically visiting homeless hostels in Sunderland, where Nissan’s departure for a plant in the Czech Republic has annihilated the local economy. Johnson was at Chequers, where upgraded sound-proofing spared him hearing the clashes between pro-EU protesters and police at the gates.
Although he refused to watch any televised New Year “celebrations” featuring the modern tradition whereby villagers burn giant effigies of himself and Nigel Farage, the PM was said to be sustaining himself with Churchillian lashings of cognac and gallows humour.
“Give me this, chaps, I have kept one manifesto promise,” he reportedly told his clique of “Bunker Boys” as the clock chimed midnight. “I’ve flipped the net migration figure on its head.”
With 1.3 million UK nationals having left for Scotland, and another four million hoping to follow them, for once he spoke the plain truth. Referring to this influx in her Hogmanay address, Prime Minister Sturgeon paid mischievous homage to the outgoing US President by floating the idea of building a “wee wall, twice the length and height of Hadrian’s, to keep the English out”.
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