Wednesday, 15 June 2016
So yesterday – the only non-wet day forecast for the week – I decided to tackle the long-overdue business of fixing the back door. Not the actual full door itself, just the half door fitted to the outside of the frame. Initial diagnosis: door fucked. Cure: make new one. Easy, I’ve done a whole house of bespoke doors in the past. But this was a long time ago and my manufacturing output is a fraction of what it once was. Still, I have most of the tools I need and a dogged determination to do it myself and not be dependent on others.
As I was in the queue to buy materials, who should I find next to me but the Chancellor of the Exchequer. George told me he often popped into the local timber yard to gauge reaction to his latest budget wizardry, but he always did so in disguise. But I recognised you, I told him, whereupon he quickly changed the subject and explained how, outside the EU the wood I was buying would cost twice as much. When I objected that this was locally grown, sustainable timber he merely smiled and beckoned me to come closer.
That’s what the Leave campaigners would have you believe, he told me, but in fact all of our wood, every last plank of it, comes from China. But China isn’t in the EU, I replied and as far as I know, no free trade deal yet exists with China. The Chancellor smiled, as if explaining matters to a child. That’s true, he said, but it’s branded as Turkish, imported through Bulgaria then Poland and then, via Germany and Brussels, it finally gets to the UK. It’s well-travelled wood.
But isn’t that expensive? I had already seen the eye-watering price list as I costed out my modest project. What’s the alternative, proposed George, ruin the Turkish timber export industry? I told him I was unaware that Turkey actually had a timber export industry to which he snorted and scoffed that this was typical of a Brexiteer, to be ignorant of the benefits of the EU. But, surely Turkey isn’t in the EU and according to your boss, Mr Cameron, won’t be for another thousand years I queried. He’s not the boss of me, said George tetchily.
Anyway, he said, due to the economic miracle of the European Union a single shipment of wood could provide an income for families in China, Turkey, Poland, Germany and Brussels as well as making a profit for timber merchants in the United Kingdom; would I deny profits to British companies? But that means British consumers pay through the nose, I objected, to which Osborne sneered and insisted we can afford it. We’re the fifth biggest economy in the world, he said, we ought to be grateful for the benefits the EU brings, not churlish about the price. He felt he had dealt a winning blow.
He's a lumberjack - he's okay...
But what if we left, I asked surely we could source locally grown timber at a lower price, with complete control of quality? He snorted with derision at my naivety, sighed and explained that only a simpleton could believe that. If we left, he said, the British government would have to collect all that tax that we normally paid in stages across the EU in one go here in Britain. It would mean domestic taxes would rise massively he concluded triumphantly. In that instant I knew I was in the presence of greatness and I shook his hand. You’ve convinced me, I told him, you're all bloody mad.