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Two developments at home and the Brexit farce goes on (although it might conclude a week today)

For a blog which has its roots in a diary I kept for about 15 years - handwritten at that - I’ve surprised myself by not mentioning two developments, one of which is surely a big moment in any father’s life. Four weeks ago today my daughter married her boyfriend and the father of her young daughter (who is the sweetest little thing - well, I’m biased, of course, but decide for yourselves from the photograph below. I must admit that in keeping with modern trends I didn’t expect her to marry so soon - she will be 23 at the beginning of August - because as a rule women have been getting married later in life than ever before. I imagine this has a lot to do with the fact that over the past
40 years attitudes to women and the roles assigned to them in Western society has changed a great deal.

Then there’s also the fact that the introduction of reliable contraception in the form of the pill (strictly the ‘Pill’, though I can’t for the life of me understand why it should be given an initial capital) has gradually given women more independence. I know - as a semi-regular listener to Woman’s Hour in Radio 4 for at least 20 minutes every day while I have my bath in the morning - that women still feel hard done by and given that in many sectors they are still not paid as much as a man doing exactly the same job, they certainly have a point.

But where we are today is a million miles from the set-up that they were regarded as just so much chattel, had no rights, could not own property and where being forced to have sex by their husband was not seen as rape. However, she has been to university and has graduated and is slowly setting up a childminding and babysitting business so it’s not as though ‘early motherhood’ - early compared to previous generations - and married life will, as happened so often in the past, close down her life.

. . .

The second development is that my very old and very frail father-in-law has moved in with us. He needs constant care and my wife has given herself over to that (although her dedication and conscientiousness notwithstanding, her brusque attentions and constant scolding often make me squirm. I don’t think I am talking out of school (and if I am, what the fuck, but then no one in my immediate family reads this blog) when I say that in some respects the Cornish can be quite singular, but that in the context of being Cornish her family might be regarded as more singular than others, and finally in the context of her family my wife might well be regarded as more singular than her siblings. I hope I have put it delicately enough. But to her credit she is, as I say, conscientious and hardworking.

My father-in-law is now in a very poor way. His father lived until he was 100 hundred - quite possibly because he was a farmer who didn’t drink or smoke - and my father-in-law is now within a few years of hitting his century. His wife died about 15 years ago and he subsequently lived on his own up the road (he had long retired and one of his sons took over the farm just a stone’s throw from where I now live). About 10 years ago - these figures are very approximate - I was diagnosed with prostate cancer but it was not the aggressive kind and he opted to have not treatment for it.

Over the past few years the cancer has spread and about last autumn, after falling several times, he left his cottage and moved into the farm. However, my sister-in-law runs a B&B for families with toddlers business as well as three holiday cottages, and with the holiday season soon to start she is unable to tend to him.

His family decided to put him in a care home, but my wife didn’t like the idea of it, so he has moved in with us, living in the room downstairs behind the kitchen my son has left vacant now that he has gone to university. He is, as I say very frail, and gets increasingly confused, but at least he isn’t wilting away in come home several miles away.

. . .

This whole Brexit farce is still not settled and the next deadline is the middle of the week when our gracious and noble Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May must get a rabble of MPs to back some deal which will govern Britain’s departure from the European Union if we the country is not most certainly to leave in seven days on April 12. That was already a delayed deadline, and if Mrs May can get backing for an agreement - as far as I can see any agreement, Britain’s departure will again be delayed until - I think June 30. it was to be May 22, but for some reason everyone and their cat is now talking about June 30.

I don’t mind admitting I that what with Canada Plus, Canada Plus Plus, Norway, Common Market 2.0, calls for a second referendum, calls for the Leader of the Opposition to wear his pants inside out and calls for I don’t know what else, I am utterly at sea on the detail of it all. I voted Remain in the referendum almost three years ago, but that was on pragmatic grounds, believing that of the two options - staying as a member of the EU or leaving the EU - it was overall in the best interests of the country. And I still do, despite bizarre and unjustified suspicions by my sister and brother that I am some kind of ‘secret Brexiteer’ who simply doesn’t have the courage to come clean about it all. What I am not, however, and I think this might be the foundation for their suspicions is an out-an-out cheerleader for the EU. And because I have explained why to them in the past, I think they think that I am some kind of Brexiteer fifth columnist.

I have to say that Britain is now wholly, not to say dangerously, divided between Brexiteers and Remainers, and that doesn’t bode well for the future. What irritates me a lot is that both sides - and the Remainers are just as bad
as the Leavers, giving the impression as many do that they are on the side of the angels - insist that ‘if you are not with us, you are agin’ us’, so when I do try to explain my position on the EU to either side, I am condemned out of hand by both. I think I have in the past done so here in this blog but I’m not going to do so again and can’t even be arsed to go back and check whether I have done so.

Broadly I think the notion of a European Community - note I do not say European Union, but I’ll explain why in a minute - with wholeheartedly co-operation in as many ways as possible, common health and trade standards and all the rest is a very good one and ought to be pursued. I think it all began to go a little wrong with the Lisbon Treaty of which one core element was to try to achieve ‘ever closer political union’. In fact, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that goal in theory, but that in practice it is pie in the sky. Yet even that is not important: what was and is foolish is how the EU has been going about it, insisting that such political union must happen, no ifs or buts.

To demonstrate why I think that is a rather foolish and cack-handed approach I will cite the rise of the populist right in several EU member states, and bearing that in mind the results of the imminent EU parliamentary election in May should prove very informative. I suggest that a wiser EU would have trod rather more carefully in pursuance of is political goal and might, pragmatically, have been prepared to adapt its plans if necessary when it realised there as small but growing opposition to them.

What for me typifies what I regard as a somewhat arrogant triumphalism on the part of some of the European Commission was the hoopla and jollies which attended the introduction of the euro in January 1999. It was rather like celebrating winning Olympic gold before the race was won. Many ‘convinced Europeans’ insist the euro ‘has been a success’. Well, it has if you live in some EU countries, and it hasn’t if you live in others. In several EU countries more than half of those under 25 have been chronically unemployed. Success?

It is often been pointed out - and quite rightly - that the euro would be far more successful if the EU could overall take charge of the national budgets of member states - in fact, there would no longer be ‘national budgets’ - and set taxes for the whole of the EU. This would, in theory, stabilise the euro and allow the EU central bank to impose the control on the currency it needs to. And that is what ‘political union’ would facilitate. But in practice? Really? I suggest those who advocate the measure spend some time reading up on their European history.

That, however, is all irrelevant as far is Britain is concerned. I sincerely believe we shall be out by a week today, and I also am pretty convinced it will lead to deep economic problems for Britain. I think leaving is daft, daft, daft as does the rest of the EU. Given that Britain was the third largest net contributor to the EU budget it looks as though it might also mean problems for the EU. And I rather fear that for one reason or another the future for the EU isn’t half as rosy as all those swilling champagne and slapping each other on the back when the euro was introduced 20 years ago though it would be.

When things do go tits up in many EU countries, I also fear that Britain’s Brexit madness will get the blame. That would be unfair: it certainly won’t help, but if the EU is honest it has other problems wholly of its own making.


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