Would the last person left in David Cameron’s Britain please turn out the lights?

Get the hell out of here while there’s still time.

So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, and all the other ways of saying goodbye sung by that creepy chorus of Austrian children in The Sound of Music  – I’m leaving this sun-forsaken country for happier climes and saltier shores. Here’s the good news: there’s still time for you to join me, and the flock of other expatriates making their way to countries with illiberal rights records and economic growth. So hitch up your caravan to a hornéd beast, tie your worldly possessions bulgingly to its flanks, and clad your teenage children with ill-fitting rags: it’s time to vacate this blessed plot.  

Now I realise I’m arguing against some deeply engrained prejudices in asking you to leave the UK. You’re probably thinking: filthy, lazy emigrants, leaving here, quitting their jobs, speaking our language, sending their money back into our country, easing the pressure on the NHS, educating their kids in someone else’s schools, what a disgusting way to live.  

So I’ve assembled several convincing arguments to show you that life’s better when it’s conducted elsewhere. Let the British Diaspora commence: let’s begin a stampede that will lead to David Cameron getting his head stuck inside a light bulb on the front page of the Sun. (In hindsight, it was only ever a matter of time until someone realised that Neil Kinnock’s head was exactly light bulb-shaped. The moral: don’t go into politics if you have a light bulb-shaped head. Democracy, eh?)

Here goes:

The Economy

We are living in a post-industrial, post-Fordist, Post Office closure economy, overseen by a smug 12-year old with an eminently punchable face, a 2:1 in History, and no other qualifications or real world experience; a 12-year old who considers his gap year the most exciting time of his life, and who regards quarterly growth of less than half of one per cent as a vindication of his existing prejudices. But many other Conservative Chancellors lacked training in economics, pleads Osborne’s biographer, Janan Ganesh. Yes. They were also crap. Norman Lamont’s career, for example, makes most sense if you assume that he was in fact a troll, offering opinions so patently contrary-to-fact that they must have been intended exclusively to enrage. “There are going to be no devaluations, no leaving the ERM.” What could this have been but a dark joke, or a work of conceptual art? We should be grateful that none of his Budgets contained Rick Astley videos.

And another thing. This last year, the price of a can of tuna has increased from around 60p to at least £1.20. That’s Quantitative Easing for you. Cheers, Monetary Policy Committee.

The Weather

On the Eighth Day, God turned down the saturation levels all across the UK, so that it would forever experience a sort of grey, Purgatorial permagloom. And He saw that it was oppressive. And He did nothing about it.  

Michael Gove’s face

Which is a synecdoche for our parliamentary system entire. In which small children hurl playground insults at one another, while an even smaller child tells them off for being too noisy. What happened to the elegant, innovative putdowns of Benjamin Disraeli, who once boasted of his opponents that he had “squabashed” them? Politicians used to take their jobs seriously: on becoming PM, Gladstone wrote "I ascend a steepening path, with a burden ever increasing in weight." David Cameron, by contrast, when considering the Premiership, boasted: "I think I’d be good at it." Walking around Whitehall, you can practically hear the sound of Chris Grayling licking his thin lips as he considers another way to make things slightly worse than they were before.   

And then there’s Michael Gove’s face itself. It’s the face of a man who can argue anything, knows little, and cares less. A face that needs glasses to make it look less grasping and unkind. A face untouched by natural light, or benevolence.

Stewart Lee

Thanks to whom it’s no longer acceptable to make jokes about the weather, people having sex, or the suffering of others. Instead, jokes must now be about other jokes, the exact mechanisms of which are to be painstakingly laid bare by analysis of the comic tropes and rhetorical structures they employ. Now, whenever I find myself making a joke anywhere within the borders of the United Kingdom, I think to myself: were the workings of this joke made explicit to its listener, would she consider it a clever, ironic and postmodern comment on our collective joke-making practices, or would she simply see it as a predictable and ritualistic attempt to cause her diaphragm to spasm for the purpose of developing our social relationship? Is its very comedy really just a tawdry attempt authentically to relate to another person, which, in being necessarily doomed to fail, is in fact a source of profound tragedy? Is she laughing with or at my attempt to laugh at my attempt to cause her to laugh with, but not at, me? Cheers, Stewart Lee.  

These are more than enough reasons for you to quit this scepter’d isle, quite frankly, and to provide any more would be to succumb to self-indulgence.

So fly, you fools. I’ll cover you.

Photograph: Getty Images
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Why Angela Merkel's comments about the UK and US shouldn't be given too much weight

The Chancellor's comments are aimed at a domestic and European audience, and she won't be abandoning Anglo-German relationships just yet.

Angela Merkel’s latest remarks do not seem well-judged but should not be given undue significance. Speaking as part of a rally in Munich for her sister party, the CSU, the German Chancellor claimed “we Europeans must really take our own fate into our hands”.

The comments should be read in the context of September's German elections and Merkel’s determination to restrain the fortune of her main political rival, Martin Schulz – obviously a strong Europhile and a committed Trump critic. Sigmar Gabriel - previously seen as a candidate to lead the left-wing SPD - has for some time been pressing for Germany and Europe to have “enough self-confidence” to stand up to Trump. He called for a “self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans”. Merkel is in part responding to this pressure.

Her words were well received by her audience. The beer hall crowd erupted into sustained applause. But taking an implicit pop at Donald Trump is hardly likely to be a divisive tactic at such a gathering. Criticising the UK post-Brexit and the US under Trump is the sort of virtue signalling guaranteed to ensure a good clap.

It’s not clear that the comments represent that much of a new departure, as she herself has since claimed. She said something similar earlier this year. In January, after the publication of Donald Trump’s interview with The Times and Bild, she said that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands”.

At one level what Merkel said is something of a truism: in two year’s time Britain will no longer be directly deciding the fate of the EU. In future no British Prime Minister will attend the European Council, and British MEPs will leave the Parliament at the next round of European elections in 2019. Yet Merkel’s words “we Europeans”, conflate Europe and the EU, something she has previously rejected. Back in July last year, at a joint press conference with Theresa May, she said: “the UK after all remains part of Europe, if not of the Union”.

At the same press conference, Merkel also confirmed that the EU and the UK would need to continue to work together. At that time she even used the first person plural to include Britain, saying “we have certain missions also to fulfil with the rest of the world” – there the ‘we’ meant Britain and the EU, now the 'we' excludes Britain.

Her comments surely also mark a frustration born of difficulties at the G7 summit over climate change, but Britain and Germany agreed at the meeting in Sicily on the Paris Accord. More broadly, the next few months will be crucial for determining the future relationship between Britain and the EU. There will be many difficult negotiations ahead.

Merkel is widely expected to remain the German Chancellor after this autumn’s election. As the single most powerful individual in the EU27, she is the most crucial person in determining future relations between the UK and the EU. Indeed, to some extent, it was her intransigence during Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ which precipitated Brexit itself. She also needs to watch with care growing irritation across the EU at the (perceived) extent of German influence and control over the institutions and direction of the European project. Recent reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which suggested a Merkel plan for Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB have not gone down well across southern Europe. For those critics, the hands controlling the fate of Europe are Merkel’s.

Brexit remains a crucial challenge for the EU. How the issue is handled will shape the future of the Union. Many across Europe’s capitals are worried that Brussels risks driving Britain further away than Brexit will require; they are worried lest the Channel becomes metaphorically wider and Britain turns its back on the continent. On the UK side, Theresa May has accepted the EU, and particularly Merkel’s, insistence, that there can be no cherry picking, and therefore she has committed to leaving the single market as well as the EU. May has offered a “deep and special” partnership and a comprehensive free trading arrangement. Merkel should welcome Britain’s clarity. She must work with new French President Emmanuel Macron and others to lead the EU towards a new relationship with Britain – a close partnership which protects free trade, security and the other forms of cooperation which benefit all Europeans.

Henry Newman is the director of Open Europe. He tweets @henrynewman.

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