In true Northern Irish “slagging” style, the guest speaker at the football club dinner targeted a certain politician in the audience suggesting he was in a school class that wasn’t too bright. The teacher promised a prize of sweets for anyone who could answer how many is eight times seven. The pupil guessed 48.

But he got the sweets, because he was the closest!

Just saying, but if I asked you to explain the Brexit situation, I think I’d get a range of answers and would probably just pick one and say: “that’s close enough.”

I’m sorry, but after millions of words written and spoken by the so-called experts, mostly with an axe to grind, are we any closer to a definitive understanding of all the issues? Brexit, to be fair, is an extremely important phenomenon which will directly affect our lives for years to come. And yet.

And yet, many of us switch off when the subject is raised. Who to trust, eh?

I’ve enjoyed seeing the old clips of now-deceased Labour left wingers Peter Shore and Tony Benn railing against the undemocratic nature of the then EEC with decisions being taken outside of their own country. Both men were passionate about centralised European bureaucrats implementing policies to suit the rich and powerful banking institutions.

I suppose there’s a certain irony that nowadays, it’s this very argument of losing control of democracy that is being used by the British right wing’s array of upper class twits and monied spivs. The difference I think is that this lot are a bunch of little Englander Nationalists who just want to keep Johnny Foreigner out and who hanker back to good old days when the Empire ruled.

This wing of the Tories has been agitating for this for years, virtually from the start, as leaders such as John Major and David Cameron know only too well. And now Theresa May awaits to see if they will do for her as well.

I get the undemocratic nature of the EU. I do get that. A few years ago I was one of a number of journalists invited on a fact-finding trip to Brussels, and among the other facts I found was my undoubted distaste for the arrogance of distant, unelected civil servants raking in good salaries without being held accountable for anything.

That doesn’t sound much like democracy to me.

However, there is a lot to admire about what the European Union has achieved, not just in terms of peace in a Europe which warred for years, but also with workers rights, equality laws and the economic benefits of economic markets without barriers. We’re also going to lose, I think, a lot of advantages for our young people in particular to get opportunities to live and work in Europe, and the benefits of a much-needed workforce coming the other way.

On balance, then, I’d have preferred to remain in the EU, albeit with much-needed reform because the idea of a united states of Europe has gone too far away from the original concept of a federal system where individual states retained their own power to self-govern.

But we are where we are; the United Kingdom as a whole voted to leave and even though a good majority of Northern Ireland (and a probably increased majority now) it very much looks like Brexit is going to happen.

It’s said that this is what people voted for; but I’m not even sure we know what they did vote for exactly. There are big issues; we may even see panic buying of Mars Bars and Bisto gravy. I shouldn’t joke, but the debate at times verges on the ridiculous.

How does the UK get out? Big question, of course, and we’re bogged down in the detail of single market, customs union and the Border. I would not like to overplay the dangers of a return of a hard Border, but at the same time a Border is a Border in Ireland and people of my generation know only too well what happens if attitudes to it harden.

One commentator simplified it thus: the choice is deal or no deal. May’s deal means retaining certain rules (and economic benefits) of the EU with no say in making the rules. No deal means crashing out with dire economic consequences.

Let’s be honest, the Boris Johnsons, Jacob Rees-Moggs et al are only interested in either their own personal ambition, wealth or ideology so we should treat their scepticism of the May deal with a shovelful of salt. And anyone who calls the British negotiators weak and pathetic has clearly forgotten that there are two sides to any negotiation.

Remarkably, in the context of where the UK is at this point in history, who could’ve written a script where ten DUP MPs would play such a crucial role at Westminster when it was making a decision about the future direction of Britain for generations to come.

Especially, one has to say, at a time when the future direction of the DUP as a party is the focus of such scrutiny. The RHI inquiry has not, to say the least, put the party in a good light on top of the breakdown of the Assembly here. There is certain to be change in the DUP next year, but what of now?

Remarkably, they are now at loggerheads with the leaders of the farming industry and other business figures. For a party which would normally enjoy such good relationship with the farming community in particular, the difference of opinion is striking. For their support of Theresa May’s deal, Sammy Wilson calls the UFU and business leaders “puppets of the NIO.”


In Northern Ireland, Unionists and Nationalists will elevate their identity and ideology above any economic argument; but one wonders if the UK establishment or the Irish powers-that-be are going to put the interests of this corner of the island above their own self-interest.

Where is all this heading? Who knows? I don’t even know what will happen between the time I write this and you read it in the paper.(You are still reading it, right?)

BBC correspondent Chris Mason said: “So, where are we in this Brexit process? You know what? People like me are paid to have insight and foresight and hindsight about these things, and to be able to project where we’re going to go.

“To be quite honest, looking at things right now, I haven’t got the foggiest idea what is going to happen in the coming weeks.

“Is the Prime Minister going to get a deal with the EU? Dunno. Is she going to get it through the Commons? Don’t know about that either.

“I think you might as well get Mr Blobby back on to offer his analysis, because frankly I suspect his is now as good as mine.”

He took a bit of flak for that answer, but he’s spot on.

Give that man a bag of sweets for being closest!