Brawling over Gibraltar and Easter eggs will get us nowhere

EDITOR'S BLOG: With Article 50 now triggered, we are experiencing less of a reaching out to trading pastures new than a circling of the waggons.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 05 Apr 2017

Well, that didn’t take long. Out of the prison that has denied us our liberty for the last 44 years and on parole, already we’re brawling in the street. Less than a week after trading the striped pyjamas for a cheap polyester suit we’re into yet another round of the fistfight with the Spanish over the moth-eaten, tax dodging, archaic embarrassment that is Gibraltar.

And Michael Howard - who should be ashamed of such irresponsible mischief-making - walked straight into the Spanish trap with some utterly daft sabre-rattling that just makes us collectively look petulant, hostile - like a Millwall fan at an away match. And already passengers on Easyjet flights are rowing and being removed from planes as they trade blows over the future of The Rock.

Another example of Little Englander chauvinism was hard on its heels with Cadbury Easter Egg gate. A complete and utter non-story if there ever was one. It would have taken anyone looking seriously at this dire threat about four seconds to see the word ‘Easter’ plastered 13,000 times all over the National Trust’s website.

What Theresa May was doing opining about the importance of defending Easter eggs while hanging with those cuddly Saudis is anyone’s guess. The PM seemed to find it easier to condemn the National Trust over it supposed misdeeds than the Syrian goverment over yesterday's reported sarin gas attack. 

And, as for the spent force that is Nigel Farage wading in with his tout defence of ‘Judeo-Christian’ traditions... a few Jews might beg to differ that defending Easter eggs is high on their list of national institutions for which they would die in a ditch.

It’s going to require a lot more than this kind of juvenile, backward-looking tub-thumping if we are going to find a decent and sustainable way in our brave new world. If we plan to get our exports to India, for example - where the Chancellor is busy today exuding warmth - above the 1.7% of our export total where they currently languish, then we need to grow up a bit. Get cleverer. Not rely on dewy-eyed references to Empire and building railways plus civil services which leave Delhi stone cold in 2017.

What these concerns have in common is a looking backwards to a jumpers for goalposts, 50s-style Britain when everything was great and god was in our garden. It wasn’t. And, even if it was, there is no going back. No plea to stop the world because we want to get off and then take the train back in the opposite direction.

We are going to have to work out what we are and what we’d like to be. I never thought I’d find myself missing Blair’s Cool Britannia. But at least that confection celebrated things that were contemporary, modern and strong rather than elements of our national life that are old, grey, and fraying round the edge. Like Gibraltar.


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