The content of this article may be utterly irrelevant by the time it appears in print. Writing this column in 2019 has proved has been a bit of a matter of guesswork. Nobody knows what will happen to the Brexit process in the period between my copy deadline and this magazine’s publication.
We may get an election, although on what date is still not certain, we may get a second referendum, we may get both or neither. Nobody knows. One thing is absolutely certain, namely that Britain will still be part of the European Union after 31 October. Boris Johnson has, of course, stated that he would rather die in a ditch than postpone Brexit. Perhaps a question about getting him to follow through on that should also be on the ballot paper for the second referendum too.
I was gigging in London in mid-October, and was one of the million people taking part in the March for the People’s Vote. Over the years, I have marched in protest against the Iraq War, against the Poll Tax, against the BNP, in support of the miners, in favour of Scottish independence, the list goes on. However, I think I can say that the People’s Vote rally was without doubt the most middle-class demo I’ve ever taken part in. I reckon Waitrose’s profits must have taken quite a dent that weekend. However, it is the more economically- disadvantaged who stand to be hit worst by the effects of Brexit.
To add to all the uncertainty, the British government has no contingency plans to guarantee continued supplies of toilet paper will be available in the event of ‘no deal’. When future historians come to write about the times we live in now, ‘The Great Bog Roll Crisis’ may well be seen as a watershed moment and one that pulled the whole country together. We may not have had any Andrex, but we were still able to buy the Daily Mail, which was a more than adequate substitute, as were the government leaflets advising us to ‘Get ready to leave the EU on 31 October’.
Boris is constantly banging on about ‘taking back control’, but it is uncertain how we will be able to control wiping our arses this time next year. Doubtless some government adverts will appear in the Daily Mail advising us all how to wipe our elbows after 31 January, or after the next extension date, or the after that.
As we approach the end of 2019, the one certainty on the horizon is climate change, and leaving the EU will not help Britain reduce its carbon footprint, quite the opposite in fact. At present, not only are many of our environmental regulations the subject of EU legislation, but we also have much to learn from our European neighbours.
I was gigging in The Netherlands earlier this autumn, and was impressed by how the Dutch are much less dependent on the car than we are, doing the daily commute by bike or tram. Of course, cycling is much easier in a flat part of the world like Holland but another reason the Dutch leave their cars at home is that their railways are unbelievably efficient. Their network runs like clockwork. I travelled by train from Schiphol Airport to The Hague, from The Hague to Rotterdam and from there to Leiden. On each journey, the carriages were spotlessly clean and there was a one-hundred per cent punctuality rate. Despite the fact that Dutch trains are run by the same company that is currently in change of Scotrail.
‘Why can’t these guys run a service like this in Scotland?’ I kept asking myself. Until the Sunday I flew home, when all the trains back to Schiphol were cancelled and we were provided instead with a replacement bus service. For which we had to queue outside the station in the pouring rain. So, it would seem that, rather than the other way around, the Dutch are getting ideas from Scotland about running a railway service.
Here in the UK, there are still far too many cars on the road. I still drive a car, but I take great pride in the fact that I am now seventy-five per cent carbon-neutral. It has not happened overnight, but it has proved surprisingly easy to do. ‘Seventy-five per cent carbon-neutral? How have you managed to do that?’ I hear you ask. Simple. I’ve run up nine points on my driving license, which means I am now three-quarters of the way towards being one-hundred per cent carbon-neutral. OK, I do concede that when I finally become fully carbon-neutral, it is likely to only last for six month or so. But when the future of the planet is at stake, every little bit helps.