SELWYN DORFMAN

Trade with nations we despise... or be left with Dutch cheese or dubious Swedish toys

ANOTHER Sunday lunch surrounded by extended family, and another fierce debate on the issues of the day with the participants lining up six against one. No prizes for guessing who is in the minority.

What a joy, says our “adopted” son, to see crowds outside the Dorchester Hotel in London demonstrating against its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, for introducing the punishment of stoning for gays.

There is near-unanimous agreement around the table that we should all boycott Brunei (and the Dorchester) until it repeals the law.

I doubt that family members could find Brunei on the map, still less tell us anything about that country save for its zero tolerance of homosexual relationships.

We are very lucky to be living in Britain, a country which, for all its faults, is open and tolerant of diverse viewpoints despite the tireless efforts of so-called “liberals” to silence anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the latest whims of the PC brigade.

Not everyone has the “golden ticket” entitling them to live on this “sceptred isle”. There are many, many countries where it is illegal to be gay, where people are prosecuted and persecuted for belonging to the wrong ethnicity or caste or religion or for expressing opinions critical of the government.

Why the sudden interest in Brunei, which Neville Chamberlain would undoubtedly have branded “a far away country (of which) we know nothing”? Boycotting this nation of fewer than 400,000 people is virtue signalling of the highest order.

No one of any importance and with any real influence would seriously propose boycotting China, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, whose human rights abuses today dwarf anything in Brunei (which, incidentally, hasn’t actually executed anyone since 1957 when the country was still a protectorate of the UK). Of course to impose the death penalty on a person for being gay is abominable and we should all condemn Brunei’s new laws without reservation.

But we can’t boycott every country whose ethics and practices we deplore or we wouldn’t have contact or trade with anyone except Holland and Scandinavia. There would be nothing on our supermarket shelves except Dutch cheeses and Swedish sex toys.

Nothing on the shelves brings me neatly to Brexit, a topic guaranteed to get everyone agitated. As I write, we are expecting in the next few days one of the following:

1) To crash out of the EU without a deal. Or:

2) Surrender to Corbyn’s demand for a permanent customs union to ensure that leaving the EU is barely distinguishable from staying in. Or:

3) The government to revoke Article 50. Or:

4) The EU to kindly grant us a long extension so we can devise another cunning plan.

Which of these four bitter pills would you choose?

I never thought I would say this, but I agree with President Macron. Frankly, I can’t stand the man. He thinks he is God’s gift to France.

So why can’t he get himself a proper wife instead of marrying someone old enough to be his Mum? France is chock-full of sexy women who would do anything to hook up with their president. I seem to remember Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, having three women on the go when he was in the Elysee Palace.

But I digress. For once, Macron is right. After two years’ wrangling, we still haven’t cobbled together a Brexit withdrawal plan.

What then is the point of granting us more time so we can bugger about for another 12 months with our “meaningful” and “indicative” votes and our doomed cross-party discussions which are leading nowhere as we hurtle towards the next deadline?

Better, surely, for the EU to demand now that we leave immediately or stay for good.

That’s not unreasonable, is it? Mrs Dorfman has asked me several times over the past few months if I regret voting for Brexit. And at this Sunday lunchtime table, I have to confess that I now wish we hadn’t had the referendum and that we hadn’t voted to leave. I still think Brexit could have worked out fine.

But I never anticipated that the losing side would take it so badly; that rich and important people in both the House of Commons and the Lords, in the media and the legal profession, in the arts and across the whole spectrum of the establishment, would fight so hard to obstruct the democratic will of the people as expressed in the referendum.

A referendum, lest we forget, that was approved unanimously (if you exclude the SNP) by the House of Commons. If MPs were convinced that Brexit would be so disastrous for the economy, why did they all vote for a referendum?

Who could have foreseen that MPs would then reject every proposal to leave the EU while simultaneously promising to honour the referendum?

Who could have imagined that, with Speaker Bercow’s help, they would have hijacked Parliament so that MPs could dictate to the government how they should govern, thus bringing us all to the edge of a real constitutional crisis?

I didn’t envisage a country so torn apart with each side hurling insults of betrayal, racism, extremism and bigotry. It’s been a terrible ride and, in or out of the EU, I just wish it would stop.

We should be grateful to Tim Moorey, the crossword setter for The Times, for giving us an anagram of THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT: it is LOONIES FAR UP THE THAMES.

By the time you read this, we will know whether or not Israel has a new prime minister. I do hope the loser gives in gracefully, refrains from shouting abuse and allows the winner to take office without demanding a rerun.

It would be a salutary lesson for us all here in Britain.

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