The storm approaches and sturdy men lash themselves to masts and spars as they brave The European Seaway, formerly known as the English Channel. Clouds gather, darkening and lowering as, laden with foreboding, they advance on the good ship Great Britain. For millennia great tumults have assaulted our weather-beaten hull but we manage to float on. But now we doubt our ability to sail alone and seek to join a flotilla of uneasy alliances and uncertain allegiances. Assurances our ship’s company will be cared for by our partners are cold comfort but then our numbers no longer function as a crew with a shared mission, so we all keep one eye on the exits.
Crewed by mercenaries, steered this way then that, yet ever closer to that uneasy union and uncertain end, our clear sense of purpose is gone. Being part of something bigger means being a smaller part of that bigger thing and the bigger it gets the more we recede from view. The far-off and foreign land which used to be called Europe now looms large in the captain’s glass as he wonders what course to set. It doesn’t seem to matter very much; in his madness, everywhere he turns he sees only the gaping maw of the relentless great whale pursuing him.
The numbers swell as we pick up drifters and scavengers and allow others to board without question. The ship becomes unstable and with so few who now understand how to sail her she lurches from port to starboard, left to right… until the lookout calls. Nobody listens at first; this Chicken Licken has been warning of danger for years and so far we have ridden every wave, but this time it is different. He points at the great whirlpool astern, into which the ship is being dragged. The morbid fear of all our past masters is now upon us. Instead of making European landfall when we could we dithered and now we face the danger alone.
As the maelstrom drags us away from land and we teeter on the outer rim of the vortex everybody panics. Those who are able seize the lifeboats and strike out alone, leaving the old and sick, the weak and the loyal to make the best of their fate. Certain doom is all they expect, all they have been taught to deserve, and as the revolutions increase and the ship tilts alarmingly to head down to the depths of the ocean they brace themselves for oblivion as Europe disappears beneath their new and shrunken horizon.
Europe - going down the plughole
With an undramatic bump the ship suddenly arrests its descent and with a small shudder it cants slightly to one side, then all movement ceases. Opening their eyes those who remain on board nervously peer over the gunwales and look down. The last of the water is gurgling down the plughole and HMS Great Britain sits easily, securely and safely on drying land. In the distance, those who took to the lifeboats are stranded and those who actually reached Europe are cut off and forgotten. The fearful and mighty ocean deep of unilateral UK Independence, warned about for years, turns out to have been just a puddle.
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