Kathy Sheridan: City of Culture farce pretty much sums up Brexit

Blustering have-your-cake-and-eat-it Brexit brigade blunders on regardless

In case you missed it, Ireland’s uilleann pipes have made it on to Unesco’s 2017 list of Intangible Cultural Heritages – “a highly developed instrument with strong roots in tradition dating back many generations”.

Just reading the list is balm for the soul. Turkey got in for whistled language, Italy for the art of Neapolitan Pizzaiuolo (a kind of pizza-twirling). Last year, Belgium got the nod for its beer culture, Cuba for Rumba, Mongolia for the coaxing ritual for camels, Portugal for the manufacture of cowbells and Romania for Lad’s dances.

Luckily, in the new spirit of detente with our grumpy, chaotic neighbours, this column brings good news

Dismayed that the UK had failed to make it into the list – hell, not even for morris dancing – a tongue-in-cheek Guardian writer proposed his own British contenders: pub etiquette, tea-making, the shipping forecast, the rail fare rise, pronunciation of place names and the friendliness of everyone north of Watford.

Well, pffft. With the possible exception of the shipping forecast (actually an unbeatable narcotic), we Irish could claim them handily, including many of those friendly north-of-Watford folk.


Luckily, in the new spirit of detente with our grumpy, chaotic neighbours, this column brings good news. The UK is not actually signed up to that particular Unesco convention so was never eligible for consideration. Phew. So no need to add a mass outbreak of Unesco-hating to the EU-bashing that ensued when British contenders discovered they were no longer eligible for the 2023 European Capital of Culture award because, um, by 2023 they would neither be in the EU or EEA or seeking to join the EU (as if…).


That EU was getting REALLY mean and spiteful now, went the consensus. The Times called it an “EU snub”. In parliament, Theresa May’s surrogate said that it wasn’t surprising “really” that EU institutions would not continue to be in a non-EU state. But... But… It was “extremely disappointing that after [the commission] let British cities ask to apply to be part of the process, they’d decided that they couldn’t”.

The government was now in “urgent talks” with the commission, he said, “because cultural development has been shown to be an extremely good basis for the regeneration of cities and towns across the United Kingdom”.

Is there a more perfect summation of the entire have-your-cake-and-eat-it Brexit movement ? Of blundering into battle against an imaginary foe without getting your facts straight. Of failing to establish in advance what questions should be asked. Of utterly disdaining an alternative, unifying vision while obsessing about trade, blue passports and colonial nostalgia.

As we marvel at the latest display of Brexiteer arrogance and bluster, the question is how the Remain campaign missed so many open goals. Writer Alex Andreou took another look at the five central campaign planks that still grace the front page of the “Vote Leave” website.

Brexit promulgators such as Nigel Farage, who routinely used the blue passport as a prop, will claim his handsome £73,000 EU pension because, 'why should my family suffer?'

Here’s a reminder: “Turkey is one of FIVE new countries joining the EU”; “The EU already costs us £350m a week”; “The European court will still be in charge of our laws”; “We’ll have to keep bailing out the €”; “Immigration will continue to be out of control”. Each is demonstrably false.

We are chivvied for not being more understanding of those who voted Leave, say, to get their old, blue passports back. Yet little Croatia somehow managed to retain its distinctive, blue passport. And Brexit promulgators such as Nigel Farage, who routinely used the blue passport as a prop, will claim his handsome £73,000 EU pension because, “why should my family suffer?"

Boorish presenter

Perhaps a better question this week for boorish Sky TV presenter Adam Boulton, is how he and his ilk, with their vast audiences and no Fox News-style rival, allowed these falsehoods to get past the electorate. Or how they continue to square the vaunted “will of the people” schtick with that pig-in-a-poke referendum?

This is not just about fighting old wars. The battlefield is live. After the first phase of talks – designed to create trust, apparently – this week’s EU27 decision on whether to accept “sufficient progress” to progress to phase 2 will be taken against a background of swaggering David Davis on tour as Humpty Dumpty with his words-mean-what-I-choose-them-to-mean showstopper and that fantastical theatre of triumph around Theresa May in the Commons.

Today in Westminster, amendment 7 of the EU Withdrawal Bill – to ensure parliament has a “meaningful” say on the terms and conditions of the UK’s Brexit package – will be put to a vote. Though backed by 10 Conservative rebels and others, those Labour MPs who usually side with the Government could kill it.

Which brings us to the final astonishing element : Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour messiah for the many not the few, who still manages to straddle both sides of the Brexit fence.

Amid that fiasco, the concealment of impact studies, accelerating inflation and stagnant wages, his party should be streaking ahead. The latest YouGov poll puts the Tories in front by a point.