The best way to avoid Brexit bust-ups is to pretend that Remain folk are right about virtually everything. This may not be easy. A relative arguing for a second referendum will probably say, ‘in a democracy people can change their minds.’ To which the obvious reply is, ‘So change your mind and accept the verdict of 17.4 million Leavers.’ But it’s wiser to nod and ask mildly, ‘Which part of the Brussels charm-offensive has persuaded the largest number of Brexiteers to recant so far?’
Or you may hear someone claiming that the EU’s world-class diplomatic service has guaranteed peace in Europe and beyond for many decades. It’s best to concede the general point while flagging up the odd exception. ‘Catalonia, eastern Ukraine, the land-grab in Crimea, the riots in Athens following the credit crunch, the gilets jaunes protests today and the tens of thousands killed during years of civil disorder in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. Apart from that, you’re right, it’s all been tickety-boo.’
If poor Theresa May is mentioned, it’s tempting to describe her as ‘the woman who can’t stand up to a man who can’t stand up’. But it might be better to tilt your head sympathetically and say ‘she’s amazingly single-minded, isn’t she?’ and no one will hear you muttering, ‘like David Koresh’.
My Christmas destination is Exeter where my brother lives with his brood of teenagers. Too young to vote in 2016, they consider themselves ‘the disenfranchised’ who will have to endure the consequences of the Brexit blunder. Privately they think of me as an illiterate, hate-filled, racist, thickhead neo-Nazi ideologue who was brainwashed by Facebook on the orders of Putin. At least that’s what they put on my Christmas card. I have a treat in store for them. Each will receive a big shiny box sporting a £39 billion price-tag and containing nothing. Beyond that, I don’t intend to push the Brexit thing too hard. I’m looking forward to a happy family feast on Christmas Day, ‘without rancour’, as Roy Jenkins used to put it.
Exeter is a sad blip of Remain in a wonderful swathe of pro-Leave territory. Travelling there, I often find myself on the same train as the beautifully coiffured Exeter MP, Ben Bradshaw, a People’s Vote enthusiast. I know it’s only a matter of time before he resigns from parliament and demands a by-election to give his constituents a ‘final say’.
On Christmas Eve we all go to the carol concert at the cathedral where I hope to find the Crib modified to suit the city’s Remain sentiments. The star of Bethlehem will be surrounded by eleven twinkling orbs arranged in a harmonious circle. Joseph will be holding a 7 kg ‘Parenting Manual’ written in each of the EU’s 24 official languages. Mary will be enjoying a statutory two days’ leave after being in labour for 35 hours. A behavioural psychologist will be monitoring Baby Jesus for signs that he's actually a she. And the whole thing will be concealed behind an opaque screen for fear of offending non-Christians.
After carols, I’ll wander the streets handing out cash to the city’s large population of junkies and crackheads who have been cruelly overlooked by the government’s No Deal preparations, even though they rely more heavily on drug supply-chains than most of us. I’ll also distribute the 600 Mars Bars I bought last week in a fit of panic triggered by a Project Fear piece in Guardian.
Hopefully we’ll be able to chomp our way through our Christmas dinner without ‘the backstop’ being mentioned. After all, nobody knows what it does, why it’s there or how it got its name. A bit like Boxing Day. We’re usually invited to drinks with a diehard Remain family (he’s a lawyer, she’s a nurse), and their large family. As they’re generous and highly sociable, their Boxing Day bash is a popular and very boozy affair. This, I feel, will be an ideal place for me to shine. I’ll ask male Remainers which European city they’ll enjoy fighting for when they’re conscripted into Juncker’s army. And I’ll playfully tousle the hairstyles of female Remainers while asking them to recharge my vodka glass.
If challenged over my conduct, I’ll claim that I was merely lampooning the toxic propaganda of the far-right Brexit head-bangers. And then, in a pre-rehearsed speech, I’ll delight my hosts by outlining the perils about to be visited on this great European nation. ‘It’ll be chaos. Millions on the dole. Sterling trading at 49 cents. Our beloved NHS in its terminal agonies. The Troubles reignited. Babies starving. Pensioners freezing to death. Pregnant mothers collapsing from hunger in rat-infested gutters heaped with unburied corpses. Plus, it’ll be really hard to just hop on a plane to Pisa.’