Rethinking Europe

Britain’s Future: Back to the Stone Age

Boris Johnson’s Brexit maneuver is backfiring on store shelves and crippling the country’s logistics. But the British PM is a master of cynical, but well-timed distractions.

Takeaways


  • Brexit voters like drinking beer as pints, not liters. They know how much they weigh in stones, not kilograms.
  • Boris takes the core Brexit vote back to the warm and sunny 1950s when England was a top power, there were hardly any Black Britons and even fewer Muslims and where women still knew their place.
  • Australia is the favorite overseas country for most of the English.
  • An English-speaking alliance with the Aussies and the Yanks takes us back to the glories of Churchill and empire.

Forget the media furore over Boris Johnson’s jumping into the AUKUS deal

This is what Johnson loves. Just as the mood in the UK turns sour over exploding natural gas prices and empty store shelves, he – the eternal escape artist — thinks that pulling a fast one on the French plays well with his English voters.

Master of the disaster

While Mr. Johnson is shutting down British Council offices around the world as Brexit Britain turns its back on soft power, the British prime minister evidently has a game plan.

He evidently hopes that the return to Britannia ruling the waves, or at least making waves, in the far-away Pacific is what British voters wanted when they voted for Brexit five years ago.

Stones, pounds and ounces

BoJo’s latest wheeze is to bring back the old English weights of stones, pounds and ounces, in the place of kilograms and grams. This must come as yet another shock to the anti-Brexit younger generation of Britons.

Johnson’s victory both in the Brexit plebiscite or 2016 and then his election triumph in 2019 was based on a massive turnout of voters over 65 and a much smaller willingness to vote by younger voters.

The latter tells pollsters they think Brexit is nuts — but don’t translate that into actual votes.

After all, it has been many years since (Feb 1971) Britain moved from pounds, shilling and pence to a decimal currency, with 100 pence in each pound as in the United States and Europe.

Vague memories of complex math

As for myself, in order to prove my mastery of the currency, I remember having to do sums in me early years at school involving subtractions such as the following: Subtract £138, seven and sixpence from £947, three shillings and twopence. Or divide £1477, six shillings and fourpence by 15.

Brexit supporters have long claimed that Europe – aka “BBB” or Big Bad Brussels — robbed England of its traditional weights and measures.

Boris Johnson is now riding to the rescue of these “stoned” sovereignty worshippers by restoring these utterly unhelpful, anti-modern counting methods.

As a matter of fact, the EU never told London what weights could be used in shopping. It took decades of the UK being in Europe before BBC weather forecasts gradually moved from fahrenheit to centigrade.

Nostalgia rules

The logic behind Mr. Johnson’s latest pronouncements is clear. He needs endless nostalgia presents for his core Brexit voters. To this day, they become furious at any suggestion miles should be replaced by kilometers in road signs.

They like drinking beer as pints, not liters. They know how much they weigh in stones, not kilograms.

Still, Johnson’s move does not a revolution make. Business in the UK will still be done on a metric and decimal basis.

Back to the 1960s

Johnson’s latest move borrows a page from Donald Trump’s – remember him? – MAGA campaign.

Boris takes the core Brexit vote back to the warm and sunny 1950s when England was a top power, there were hardly any Black Britons and even fewer Muslims and where women still knew their place.

Australia, not Europe

Bringing back stone and ounces sounds like Britain is taking another step away from the dreadful and feared continentals. No surprise here. Australia is the favorite overseas country for most of the English.

An English-speaking alliance with the Aussies and the Yanks takes us back to the glories of Churchill and empire.

And the aging yeomen of old England no longer have to work out their weight in European measures but stand proud as 18 stone patriots swilling from pint glasses and shaking their beer bellies at the world.

PS: I think the answers to my sums are £897, 15 shillings and 8 pence and £98, 4 shillings and 7 pence but don’t take that for granted. I was firmly told at school that accountancy was not a profession I would ever master.

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About Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK's Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexiternity. The Uncertain Fate of Britain” published by IB Tauris-Bloomsbury, London, October 2019. Follow him @DenisMacShane

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