One of the many things that I like about spending time at the Club is the variety of topics and opinions that one encounters over drinks at the bar. Obviously, there are plenty of the old guard around, reminiscing about the Empire days or what they see as the lack of moral fibre in society today. Whilst one has to have some sympathy for their views, one cannot always agree or even understand what they are talking about.
The chaps and I have often found ourselves at loggerheads with some of the old duffers over one issue or another, and I have also found myself, on more than one occasion, completely at a loss to understand what they are talking about at all. They sometimes seem to have their own language and talk about people and places that I have never heard of. At the same time, one has to respect them and their achievements. Many are war veterans and seem to spend their days and evenings reliving adventures in far-off corners of the old empire.
But there are times when the life experiences of the old guard are actually very interesting. Whilst one or two of the old chaps have obviously lost the plot completely, a number of them still have enough of their marbles to provide valuable insights into some of the political discussions we often fall into. And we have certainly been having a few of those recently, what with the interminable discussions about Brexit, this week’s budget and events in Zimbabwe, there have been some very lively discussions going on. Not that I have too much to say on some of these subjects, but it is always interesting to see just how passionate some of the chaps can get over seemingly trivial things.
The one topic that continues to surprise me is Brexit. I mean, we had the vote, a decision was made, so why don’t they just get on with it? All this faffing about and opening up debates about so-called divorce bills and such look like nothing more than political procrastination. And I am not alone in becoming a little frustrated by having the issue constantly thrust in my face everytime I switch on the news or read a newspaper. Mind you, I had thought that the fellows at the Club would be pretty united on the subject, but it seems not. Whilst I knew that there were one or two who were closet remainers at the time of the vote, their ranks have apparently swelled somewhat over recent months, and last night it all came to a head when the debate was re-opened once again after a fairly lengthy drinking session.
I think it was all sparked off by the announcement in last week’s Budget about the amount of money being set aside to pay for the Brexit process. Admittedly I don’t normally take much notice of the budget as it rarely has any real impact on either myself or my immediate family, but even I was shocked to see that the Chancellor has set aside £3bn to pay for Brexit preparations. That seems quite a lot of money to me, considering that we are also looking at paying something like £40bn just for the privilege of leaving. I also learned from one of the chaps that over 8,000 people have been employed by the government just to manage the process of leaving the European Union. Obviously, anything that creates that many new jobs has to be applauded, but I for one had not anticipated all of this extra money and work being part of the Brexit process.
A couple of the chaps were very concerned at the loss of jobs in the City as EU institutions have already begun the process of moving to other cities on the continent. I do not remember any conversations during the referendum where these things were mentioned. Although I have little time for the interference in our affairs by our continental cousins, I have always been sympathetic to the freedom of trade and employment that membership has brought. I think like many my main concern has always been the unnecessary bureaucracy, the needless harmonisation and the feeling that our sovereignty and culture were under attack. Now, after one of the most heated debates I have seen the Club for quite some time, I am beginning to see why so many influential people warned against Brexit.
I remember well the divisions within the Club in the months leading up to the referendum. And from where I stood, it looked to me like it was the younger members who were supporting the Remain campaign, and the older chaps who wanted out. The way I saw it, the younger chaps were simply not experienced enough to see the problems the country faced if it were to remain part of the European Union. I know a lot was said about foreign workers coming over here and taking all our jobs which is something I had thought would have been of more concern to the younger people, but apparently not. Several of them were more than happy to employ Easter European workers in their businesses, often stating that they were cheaper and more productive.
One thing I do know for sure is that if my father were still alive he would be furious about what is going on. He was a very firm supporter of the European Union. He often spoke quite eloquently on the subject, and although we didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the issue, I did respect and admire his position.
So it seems that the closer we get to leaving the Union, the less support it has, at least amongst my friends down at the Club. However, amongst the old guard, support for Brexit is as strong and determined as ever, although I am not sure that some of them will live long enough to see the result.