Brexit & UK trade, Free comment

Comment : Scene from Brexit Wonderland

Your Friday satirical play. By Iana Dreyer.

Any resemblance with real persons or organisations is purely coincidental.


Main characters


Journo. Ex trade expert. Woman. Holder of multiple passports though not British one. Speaker of multiple languages. ‘Citizen of Nowhere.’


Panel chairman. Think tank boss. Britisher of Indian-Hindu background. Eurosecptic leanings. Arch free trader.


Panellists. Most are trade diplomats who had had their day in the 1980s and 1990s. NAFTA and Uruguay Round negotiators from the US, Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand.


Outlier panellist: PhD. Long list of books and publications. Britisher. Fluent in several European languages. Mixed background, including part of family of South Asian Muslim background.


Chorus of Sycophants (otherwise known as the ‘Daily Mail’ Chorus)


Chorus of Trade Experts. ‘Not Wanted’.


Bass: Pollster soloist.


Soprano: Queen Theresa of Hearts.




8 February 2017. Evening. Dark. Damp. Cold. Big London. Little England.


Setting: Elegant conference venue of a think tank in Mayfair.


Panel discussion. Packed room. People standing.



Panel chairman: Liberalise! Deregulate! Do new deals! Create a new “prosperity zone” with North Americans, Asia-Pacific! We can’t stay in EU customs union.  Do deals in services! Import tariffs don’t matter much anymore. Control migration to preserve national identity.


If well done, Brexit can be a huge opportunity. But UK government needs to have ambition.


Bass: 30-percent of those referring to themselves as Hindu voted to the leave the EU during the 23 June 2016 referendum on EU membership. 30-percent-30-percent-30-percent-ohmygodbabyyyyy.


Queen Theresa of Hearts. Opportunity-eeh-eeh. Oppor-opport-opportuniteeeeh. Ambitioooon. Ooon.


Chorus of Trade Experts: Geo-geo-graphy! Proximate Europe. Far-away Kiwis and Aussies. Geo-geo-geography. Proximate Europe. Far-away Kiwis and Aussies.


Outlier panellist: I did not vote for Brexit. I thought it would bring a less liberal Europe, and a less liberal Britain.


Bass: Fifity-fifty-fifty se-even of those with a university degree voted to remain in the EU, as did sixty-sixty four of those with a higher education degree. And seven – yeah seven-  in ten Muslims voted to remain.


Queen Theresa of Hearts: Citizen of No-no-no-no-wheeeerere. Ew, Muslim! Off with his head! Off, oooff!


Outlier panellist. Now that we’re here with this Brexit, indeed, Britain needs to show real trade “ambition”. And it needs to reform its economy.


Chorus of Trade Experts: Betcha. Betch-betch-betchaaaa.


Chorus of Sycophants: Oppo-oppo-opportunity!


All panellists: OK Britain, now with Brexit, you are free! Yes free! Go ahead and give an example. You need friends. Take us, Donald Trump’s Transpacific Partnership orphans! Liberalise trade more! Show it to the Trumpians. You can lead!


Chorus of Sycophants: Oppo-oppo-opporunity!


Australian ex-diplomat: I sighed with relief when UK voted Brexit! That horrible EU Commission with its centralising over-regulating power grabbing attitude. Ugh.


Chorus of Sycophants: Ugh. Ugh. Ughadidooo!


Queen Theresa of Hearts: This man deserves a visaaaaaaa! But only businesss. Business, business, business visaaaaaa.


American ex diplomat. Adopt US-style market driven technical standards EU centralised standard-setting system not innovative. That horrible EU Commission with its centralising over-regulating frenzy. Ugh.


Chorus of Sycophants: Ugh. Ugh. Ughadidooo!


Second US American ex trade deal negotiator. If you wanna trade and prosper you oughta be a magnet for foreigners.


[Laughter in audience]


Chorus of Sycophants: Trumptido-trump-ohlalaaaaaa!


Cocktail reception ensues.


Journo (glass of white wine in hand): Asks around what people thought of the panel.


Retired Financial Times journo (Fumes): Tariffs don’t matter? Ask the car industry!


Chorus of Sycophants: Remo-remo-remoaner!


Consultant. Former civil servant. (White male. In his 50s. Courteous). I still think leaving the EU is a big mistake. But the panellists had a few good ideas.


Queen Theresa of Hearts: Get on, get on, get on with it. Oooh yeah. Bring it ooon!


Consultant. Background unclear (White male. Late 50s):


Liked the panel. Extremely happy about Brexit! No more EU funds for universities! All those academics complaining about the negative effects of Brexit on UK universities. Pff.


Journo. But how about Eastern European success in EU. Thanks to free market rules, four freedoms and stuff?


Consultant. Background unclear: Poland became as prosperous as it is despite the EU!


Journo: So what about freedoms? To move. To settle where you want. Individual freedoms.


Consultant. Background unclear (Aggressive): Settle here? I live in the South of England. We’re full! Too much freedom!


Chorus of Sycophants: Too much, too much, freedom. Did you say freedom? Too much of it!


Journo (feels chill running down spine).


Bass: Two thirds of those who considered themselves more English than British voted to leave; two thirds of those who considered themselves more British than English voted to remain.


Journo to Panel chair: Can we meet for an interview?


Panel chair: Yes. (Refers to his assistant blonde young woman standing next to him to arrange a date).




Putting on coats, gloves and hats. Polite gestures: After you. No after you.


Exchanging business cards and small talk with a British gentleman presenting himself as from a Rimbaud and Verlaine Society. Aim of his society, as written on business cards: “to encourage engagement with the arts and to broaden horizons by means of cultural exchange.”


Chorus of Sycophants: Rimbo-who? Rimbo-hoo-hoo!


Journo (Wonders what he does in these unpoetic settings). Asks: What did you think of the panel?


Poetry man: “I am note quite sure. Trump and Brexit voters did not vote to liberalise trade even more?”.




Journo walks out of conference venue. Checks up news on smartphone. House of Commons in Westminster on other side of park just voted in a two-line bill approving Britain’s exit from the EU.


All free market amendments added by – yes, the UK Labour party – were ditched. The amendments were about, among others: “tariff free trade with the EU”, “financial services to stay in single market”.


Amendment requesting that UK allow EU citizens already in the country to stay. Also ditched.


Amendment forcing government to do an impact assessment of its proposed trade deals. Ditched. Of course.


Chorus of Sycophants: Fodder for remoaners, oaners, oaners!


Amendment asking UK government to report back regularly to the House of Commons on progress in its negotiations for a new relationship with the European Union. Ditched.


Queen Theresa of Hearts: Elected MPs? Off with their heads! Off! Offi-doff with their headi-heads!


Blue shine of Twitter application light in smart phone reveals ashen, tired, face of Journo.




Tout suffocant

Et blême, quand

Sonne l’heure,

Je me souviens

Des jours anciens

Et je pleure

Et je m’en vais

Au vent mauvais

Qui m’emporte

Deçà, delà,

Pareil à la feuille morte.


To Chorus of Sycophants : That was a poem by Verlaine, by the way!


Chorus of Sycophants: Ver-who? Ver-hoo? Frog froggy rat! Out with em!

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