epa07290265 Brexit protesters shelter from a rain shower outside the houses of parliament in London, Britain, 16 January 2019. Britain's Prime Minister May is facing a confidence vote in parliament after she lost the The Meaningful Vote parliamentary vote on the EU withdrawal agreement on 15 January.  EPA/NEIL HALL
The British government has been accused of not following the will of the public – of the 71.8% that voted in the June 2016 referendum, 51.9% voted to leave the EU and 48.1% voted to remain. EPA

Brexit might be a slow poison, eroding belief in the political process, but life goes on in Britain


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Life goes on. For millions of households across Britain it is the daily routine of the usual pleasures and frustrations. Feed the kids, walk the dogs. What’s on at the cinema this weekend? How’s my team doing in the league? My boss is being a pain. Where should we go on holiday this year? Ouch, I need to make a dentist appointment.

Life, then, as it has always been. Except that always in the background is an irritating whining noise that can’t quite be ignored and constantly demands attention.

It could be the phone has not been properly hung up, or the refrigerator door alarm. But it’s not anything you can so easily fix. It’s Brexit.

It is 940 odd days since Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union and exactly 190 days since I returned to the UK after a ten year sabbatical in Abu Dhabi from the reality of life in the mother country.

It is to find a country weary of the whole business. Brexit is like a persistent winter cough that won’t go away. It’s an endless grey day, filled with damp and drizzle. It’s like being trapped at a dinner party next to a trainspotting enthusiast.

Except that it's actually worse than that. Brexit – for or against – has become a slow poison, an energy-draining toxin that is eroding belief in the political process and all politicians in general.

The House of Commons, the legislative body for the UK, has simply lost the plot. On the right is a vision for Britain that most thought had vanished with the last gunboat, led by a gang of harrumphing overgrown public (ie privately educated) posh schoolboys who somehow managed to harness the support of some of the country's most deprived communities to take the country out of the EU.

The love affair between the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg (Eton, Trinity College, Oxford) and the voters of Oldham (Britain’s most deprived town, where 65 per cent voted leave) is the most peculiar since the scholarly American playwright Arthur Miller led Hollywood blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe up the aisle.

On the left, Britain’s official opposition, the Labour Party, has literally no policy on Brexit. Its grizzled semi-detached neo-Marxist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has long been against the EU as a capitalist plot to crush the workers, but can’t admit it because his young supporters want to stay.

Much of the parliamentary Labour party is against leaving the EU, but also can’t admit it because so many of their constituents voted to leave. The result has reduced the opposition to a series of pointless stunts, like this week’s vote of no confidence in the government, aimed at embarrassing the Conservatives, but ultimately doomed to failure.

In the middle is a splintering of opinion that varies from a fresh referendum called the “People’s Vote” (because the last one was restricted to cats?) to something called Norway Plus Plus. Or is it Plus Plus Plus?

"How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?", General de Gaulle once asked of France. Substitute “solutions to Brexit” for cheese and you have the House of Commons today, but infinitely less appetising.

Some people are loving Brexit, though. For the British media, the issue has become an obsession. Every morning, the country's flagship news programme, BBC Radio 4's Today show begins at 6am with a three-hour bombardment of Brexit developments that rivals the First Battle of the Somme in its intensity, and achieves just as little in terms of territorial gains.

Outside the Houses of Parliament, on College Green, the small public park that also borders Westminster Abbey, broadcasters have set up a kind of media Glastonbury to follow events, accompanied by a throng of assorted attention-deficit disorder drum-banging loonies dressed either in Union Jacks or the blue and gold stars of the EU.

If they are all loving Brexit, I can tell you no-one else is. Opinion polls show that the country is almost exactly as divided on the issue of in or out of the EU as it was in 2016. What the polls don't seem to reveal is how heartily sick the average Briton is of the whole business.

On the rare occasions when the media step away from Westminster to engage with what might be called the average voter, the view is rather different.

Among the political elite and what is sometimes called the "chattering classes" (liberal intellectuals inside the London bubble), the consensus is that Prime Minister Theresa May is an incompetent failure who needs to go as soon as possible.

In the country there seems to be a rising view that this is a woman trying her best, in spite of the best efforts of her colleagues. “I don’t like her to be fair, but I feel like she is under a lot of pressure so she shouldn’t be hated on as much as she is,” one 17-year-old student told a reporter recently.

“She has gone through hell and back,” Bernard Chapman, 83, told the same journalist. “I feel desperately sorry for Theresa May because she is trying so hard, and you don’t mind being stabbed in the back by the opposition, but not when you are stabbed in the back by your own people.”

It is coming to two years since Parliament voted to invoke Article 50, the mechanism for leaving the EU, and barely ten weeks till it becomes effective.

And what do most people want? My impression is that they just want it sorted.

They have developed immunity to the apocalyptic warnings from both sides about life either in or out of the EU, the so-called “project fear” strategy. Worse, they are hardening against politics and politicians in general.

Their elected representatives, chosen to sort this mess out, have shown to be both incapable and out of touch. They have put their ideological positions above the good of the country. My concern is that at the next general election, millions will look at the ballot paper and feel there is literally no one they want to vote for.

At a time when populist movements are growing in support in Europe and beyond, this is dangerous stuff. It is adding fuel to flames that already flicker too bright.

The British, it seems to me after ten years’ absence, are still essentially a good-natured bunch. The expression “silent majority” is often overused by politicians, but a version of it does exist. People are pleasant to each other, as a rule, I find in the daily interactions of the UK in 2019. They are tolerant, easy-going and want to get along.

They don’t all think the same way, and they certainly don’t all want the same things, but they do understand the value of consensus. The Brexit debate does nothing for any of this.

Perhaps the increasingly obvious public exhaustion over Brexit will now force politicians of all parties to be a little less selfish in their conduct and a little less self-important.

In my new home in Shropshire, local League One side Shrewsbury FC have just knocked Championship team Stoke City out of football's FA Cup and the critically acclaimed Laurel and Hardy biopic Stan and Ollie has just opened in town.

We need milk for breakfast tomorrow and there’s a dental appointment this afternoon to fix a broken filling. In the garden I notice the first snowdrops have opened. Brexit or not, life still goes on.

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

If you go

  • The nearest international airport to the start of the Chuysky Trakt is in Novosibirsk. Emirates (www.emirates.com) offer codeshare flights with S7 Airlines (www.s7.ru) via Moscow for US$5,300 (Dh19,467) return including taxes. Cheaper flights are available on Flydubai and Air Astana or Aeroflot combination, flying via Astana in Kazakhstan or Moscow. Economy class tickets are available for US$650 (Dh2,400).
  • The Double Tree by Hilton in Novosibirsk (+7 383 2230100,) has double rooms from US$60 (Dh220). You can rent cabins at camp grounds or rooms in guesthouses in the towns for around US$25 (Dh90).
  • The transport Minibuses run along the Chuysky Trakt but if you want to stop for sightseeing, hire a taxi from Gorno-Altaisk for about US$100 (Dh360) a day. Take a Russian phrasebook or download a translation app. Tour companies such as Altair-Tour (+7 383 2125115 ) offer hiking and adventure packages.
Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Sri Lanka squad

Dinesh Chandimal, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Niroshan Dickwella, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Lakshan Sandakan, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Kumara, Jeffrey Vandersay, Milinda Siriwardana, Roshen Silva, Akila Dananjaya, Charith Asalanka, Shaminda Eranga and Dhammika Prasad.

The specs: 2019 BMW i8 Roadster

Price, base: Dh708,750

Engine: 1.5L three-cylinder petrol, plus 11.6 kWh lithium-ion battery

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Power: 374hp (total)

Torque: 570Nm (total)

Fuel economy, combined: 2.0L / 100km

Result

UAE (S. Tagliabue 90+1') 1-2 Uzbekistan (Shokhruz Norkhonov 48', 86')

Biography

Favourite book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Holiday choice: Anything Disney-related

Proudest achievement: Receiving a presidential award for foreign services.

Family: Wife and three children.

Like motto: You always get what you ask for, the universe listens.

MATCH INFO

Syria v Australia
2018 World Cup qualifying: Asia fourth round play-off first leg
Venue: Hang Jebat Stadium, Malayisa
Kick-off: Thursday, 4.30pm (UAE)
Watch: beIN Sports HD

* Second leg in Australia on October 10

Voy! Voy! Voy!

Director: Omar Hilal
Stars: Muhammad Farrag, Bayoumi Fouad, Nelly Karim
Rating: 4/5

SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power: 630hp
Torque: 850Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Price: From Dh599,000
On sale: Now

UFC FIGHT NIGHT: SAUDI ARABIA RESULTS

Main card
Middleweight:

Robert Whittaker defeated Ikram Aliskerov via knockout (Round 1)
Heavyweight:
Alexander Volkov def Sergei Pavlovich via unanimous decision
Middleweight:
Kelvin Gastelum def Daniel Rodriguez via unanimous decision
Middleweight:
Shara Magomedov def Antonio Trocoli via knockout (Round 3)
Light heavyweight:
Volkan Oezdemir def Johnny Walker via knockout (Round 1)
Preliminary Card
Lightweight:

Nasrat Haqparast def Jared Gordon via split decision
Featherweight:
Felipe Lima def Muhammad Naimov via submission (Round 3)
Welterweight:
Rinat Fakhretdinov defeats Nicolas Dalby via split decision
Bantamweight:
Muin Gafurov def Kang Kyung-ho via unanimous decision
Light heavyweight:
Magomed Gadzhiyasulov def Brendson Ribeiro via majority decision
Bantamweight:
Chang Ho Lee def Xiao Long via split decision

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

LIGUE 1 FIXTURES

All times UAE (+4 GMT)

Friday
Nice v Angers (9pm)
Lille v Monaco (10.45pm)

Saturday
Montpellier v Paris Saint-Germain (7pm)
Bordeaux v Guingamp (10pm)
Caen v Amiens (10pm)
Lyon v Dijon (10pm)
Metz v Troyes (10pm)

Sunday
Saint-Etienne v Rennes (5pm)
Strasbourg v Nantes (7pm)
Marseille v Toulouse (11pm)

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE

1 Man City  26  20 3 3 63 17  63 

2 Liverpool  25 17 6 2 64 20  57 

3 Chelsea  25 14 8 3 49 18  50 

4 Man Utd  26 13 7 6 44 34  46 

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5 West Ham  26 12 6 8 45 34  42 

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6 Arsenal  23 13 3 7 36 26  42 

7 Wolves  24 12 4 8 23 18  40 

8 Tottenham  23 12 4 8 31 31  39  

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends


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