This year will mark the 50th anniversary of a musical masterpiece that continues to speak illuminating truths about the impossibility of the human condition, and how people from these islands tend to cope with it. Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon was released in March 1973, as the last traces of postwar optimism gave way to mounting economic strife and international tension. The response it offered was twofold: a call to empathy and mutual understanding, and the pointing-out of a national trait that this writer – among many others – has probably quoted far too much. It comes nearly six minutes into a song simply called Time: “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.”
As a new political year begins, those nine words seem more apposite than ever, and they snugly fit one defining fact of our national predicament: that the wreckage of Brexit is all around us but our politicians will still not acknowledge it. The evidence now encompasses reduced trade, diminished investment and the fact that the UK has been the only major economy not to have returned to its pre-pandemic size. Brexit has resulted in a hit to tax revenues estimated at an annual £40bn – enough to have prevented 75% of the spending cuts and tax rises that were announced in November.
Meanwhile, amid impossible passport queues and howls of pain from businesses now tied up in red tape, stories that symbolise the folly of our exit from the EU seem to arrive at least one a week. Just before Christmas, for instance, it was reported that the Metropolitan police would now be buying armoured ministerial cars from the German manufacturer Audi because no UK firm was “able to meet the requirements of the tender”. Here was more proof of the supply-chain problems that are afflicting British producers, and a malaise that has caused annual UK car production to fall by more than half since 2016. [Continue reading…]