The dice tumble as Mrs Maybe takes a Brexit punt…

BREXIT is the biggest crap game Britain has seen; and what a crap game it’s been so far.

That sound you can hear this morning, as Theresa May puts down her pen, is the clatter of falling dice. They are bouncing on country cobbles and on urban Tarmac; they are hitting Westminster and Winchester; they are raining down on the disaffected Scots and the squabbling folk of Northern Ireland; those falling dice are rolling everywhere, from the Lake District to the White Cliffs of Dover (just watch them tumble into the sea).

Is the triggering of Article 50 today the first step towards freedom or do we prefer the view of last Sunday’s Observer: “Hard Brexit is an epic act of self-harm – only reinforcing rancour and division”?

This is a time of monumental uncertainty as Britain takes the biggest gamble in modern political history. Some – what you might call the “reverse Empire fantasists” – believe Britain will forge ahead (by returning to a past that never was) to a bright new future (that may never be), and that Brexit will “make Britain great again” as a woman from Sunderland said on the BBC Today programme just a moment again, borrowing that tawdry slogan from a trampled-on Donald Trump banner.

Others – the Remains and the Remoaners – fear that Theresa May is rushing towards a Hard Brexit for which she has no mandate, and that instead of using the referendum result to reform our relationship with the EU, she has been pushed by her own right-wing, and by the bellowing chorus from the Daily Mail and others, to jump into the misty unknown.

I am with the worrying Remainers on that score, but we are where we are. And here’s where we are: shuffling in a queue towards a precipice, led there by what the Observer calls “the most irresponsible, least trustworthy government in living memory”. That sounds about right to this observer too, but others proclaim this as ‘Freedom Day’.

The graphic artists have been working hard on this morning’s newspapers, and top marks to whoever came up with the Guardian’s image of a jigsaw puzzle of Europe in which Britain has been removed and put to one side; in the space left sits the headline: “Brexit: Today Britain steps into the unknown.”

In similar vein, the i-newspaper goes for a satellite picture of Europe, with a pair of scissors snipping round Britain.

The Sun, oddly, represents this day with a photograph of those White Cliffs on to which the words “Dover and out” have been superimposed as a message to Europe. On the front of the Daily Telegraph, Mrs Maybe is shown with her pen above the headline “Unite behind Brexit, says May” and next to a robust quote: “It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country.”

Mrs May is good at coming up with stirring words that in the end count for nothing. When she was elected – sorry, my mistake; when she mugged her way into Downing Street – she spoke of uniting the country, and instead she is doing the exact opposite. I think that by ‘uniting’ what she means is for everyone to shut up and do as she says. Or as the Daily Mail tells her she should say.

There is a theory banded about that Mrs Maybe lives in fear of the Daily Mail, and look where that extreme caution got her yesterday, on the front page of that newspaper having her legs compared to Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish pins.

This morning the never knowingly repentant Mail runs the same picture again, only this time the legs have been covered up by a red splash bearing the words: “Censored by the left.” I do think that whoever started another one of those petitions over this was foolishly playing into the Mail’s hands, and encouraging the paper to tick its critics off by having columnist Sarah Vine say: “Oh, DO get a life” next to the picture. I haven’t read what Vine says inside because the life I do have is too short.

The ‘left’ in this context seems to be a sort of angry amorphous cloud, or a convenient grouping to make the Mail feel even smugger than usual. I suspect people were just disappointed to see something so pathetic on the front of a newspaper. You don’t have to be left-wing to think that reducing female politicians to the shapeliness of their legs is just too dismal for words.

But we shouldn’t give into Daily Mail Stress Disorder, as it’s a complaint which only wastes energy and sometimes makes the sufferer appear foolish. And I say this as someone who has suffered a few nasty Paul Dacre rashes in my time, but in the end, it’s only a newspaper. Sadly, puzzlingly, a very popular one, but that’s life for you. Other newspapers are available, a thought to remember as those Brexit dice start rolling for this two-year quickie divorce from Europe that could still descend into a decade long row from hell.

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