Brexit and books

The regrettable triggering of Article 50 — the notification of  the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union — has coincidentally led to a leak of a discussion document, purportedly from Whitehall. This suggests that withdrawal from the EU will not only restrict entry to the UK by economic migrants from Europe but that imports of books from the continent may also be restricted. And there’s more.

Here are the main proposals:

  • Books from EU countries shall, after 2019, be repatriated to their country of origin. Those in French shall shipped over to France, Belgium or Switzerland, as appropriate; the same with Spanish, Italian and German etc. Cheap Eastern European publications in particular will be sought out as constituting possible threats to the British book trade. Contracts will go out to tender to private services for the task of policing this repatriation. Agents will be allowed to enter private properties and public institutions to seize any books declared as alien; any individuals or institutions not voluntarily offering up such books will be subject to severe penalties.
  • Books in English (it’s not clear if publications in Welsh, Scots Gaelic or Unified Cornish are similarly affected) already in Europe will lose any right of re-entry, either for repair, resale or lending.
  • Books authored by foreign nationals — Cervantes, Dumas, Goethe or Dante for example — but translated into English and published in the UK will be placed in special holding centres, available only from restricted sections. UK nationals wishing to consult them will have to offer good legal justifications for such; furthermore they will have to go on a special register after approval, and apply for re-licensing every two years.
  • Books seized under these proposals will not be burnt — this being regarded as a particularly European practice — but will be subjected to continuous assessment by trained inspectors until they voluntarily fall to pieces.
  • Finally, books by bona fide British authors will be subject to strict censorship: they will be thoroughly searched for non-British words and phrases, particularly European words and phrases, which may indicate either European recidivistic leanings or the undeclared European origins of the author.

This leaked document — which appeared online — has since been deleted, and I was only able to quickly scan it visually and memorise it before it disappeared. As the viewing was brief I cannot vouch for every statement as it appears above, but I can confirm that the general purport of the document is as summarised.

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21 thoughts on “Brexit and books

  1. And what would happen if Shakespeare’s Italianness were proved one day? Think about the shock !😂

    Dear Chris, I have always been of the opinion that the UK should have had the central, leading role in post war Europe and in the making of a strong EU. That should been your task as natural consequence of your history,but you didn’t. You have always been the unconvinced members of the EU and Brexit is the natural outcome of politics that date back right after the war.

    Think about it, Chris, isn’t it odd to see that central role, more than seventy years after the end of the war in the hands of Germany?

    Stefy🙋🇮🇹

    1. “Oh, what a piece of work is …” the Brexiteer, who thinks all problems will be solved by voluntarily cutting oneself off from continental Europe whence the largest proportion of their language, history, thinking and culture derives. And where Shakespeare — whatever his origins (!) — set many of his great plays: Italy, Denmark, Bohemia, Greece …

      Many of the UK’s prime ministers, of different political persuasions, have always seen Britain as being at the “heart” of Europe; that 52% of Brits who voted believed a virulent rightwing press and populist politicians is an absolute tragedy, one that the 48% who disagreed will suffer for a lifetime and beyond.

      Thank goodness, Stefy, that good sense knows no frontiers!

  2. I wish I could laugh at this. It’s not that I don’t recognise it as a joke, but you parallel well the mentality of this government. How they or anyone thinks that brexit can benefit Britain is beyond me. Day in and day out we learn of more and more of what we will lose in one way or another when this goes ahead. The government tell us about “The Great Repeal”, pretending that once it is in their power to control these laws (and it is already anyway), that we will have our sovereignty back and beat their chests in triumph. Who are they kidding other than those willing to be duped, know nothing of what we gain from being a member of the EU and don’t want to hear anything of the advantages of membership. And what about Northern Ireland and the border between north and south? How can freedom of movement there be maintained? And this morning the talk is of Gibraltar, not that I have a vested interest in the place but I imagine all the British people there do! I love going to France when we can and I loved travelling round Europe in my younger years – I no longer feel the comfort and relaxation even at the idea of travelling in these countries now, not without a car sticker showing I’m European. OK, now I’ve had my rant. Sorry, it seems I just had to get it out.

    1. Everything you point out I absolutely agree with, Alastair, and ever since the vote (and especially in recent weeks) we have seen things rapidly unravelling — with no prospect that our controlling politicians have any control over it.

      Would that it really was an April Fool’s joke and that someone will at the end of the day will shout “Fooled you!” and it will return to the previous status quo. Poor bloody Gibraltarians, Northern Irish, Scots and, yes, Welsh voters bamboozled by false news and lies.

  3. Simultaneously funny and heartbreaking. You and I share the same views on this subect, as you know and how anyone can think Brexit is good for us as individuals or as a nation is beyond me. Feels like we’re a plumped up little boy, playing at soldiers, beating a drum, stuffed with self importance. The whole horror show is unfolding before us and all I want to to is cover my eyes so I don’t have to watch.

    1. Stamina is what we need: this whole shenanigans is a reminder that we must always hold out elected leaders to account, now even more than ever, especially as they’ve made such a pig’s ear over this stupid retrograde step.

      1. Well, we all know it should never have gone to a referendum in the first place but at least that backfired for Cameron – the prune. Small comfort I know. Now it’s done and we just have to make the most of it or emigrate 🙂

  4. The way things are going in the US, I figured this was a leak from us! Very creative, but there is such a ring of truth in it I can barely laugh.

    Everyday here it is something else. One more right is threatened, one more department is gutted and there is already the denigration of science and knowledge. I would imagine books are not safe either.

    We are, all of us, living “in interesting times.”

    1. I can’t see much upside at the moment, any more than you can, Laurie — except that, as fast as Trump undoes all the gains of recent years, another scandal hits the headlines and another henchman finds themselves up to their neck in the proverbial. Small comfort for California, I know.

  5. What is going to happen to someone who tries to enter the UK with one of these books casually slipped in a pocket? Put in the stocks and good patriots can throw tomatoes at them?

    The upside for Australia, of course, in addition to the enormously beneficial free trade agreement we will be striking, (soggy chips from the UK in return for stuffed wombats from Aus) is that the UK will allow red-carpet access to books by Aus authors – true Aussies, I mean, not ones with foreign names or dubious ie foreign parentage.

    1. You’ve clearly seen this leaked memo, Gert — or maybe an updated version of it? Oh for the days of decent hardbacks with decent dust jackets, under which you could hide the reading matter of your choice in the guise of The Good UK Citizen’s Bible or My Country, Right or Wrong or Whatever.

      Hmm, stuffed wombats. Are these the taxidermied ones or the ones with additional sage, onions and prunes?

  6. elmediat

    Meanwhile, Scotland, Northern Ireland,Jamaica, and Belize, will join with Canada to form the New United Atlantic Kingdom. NUAK will then seek membership trade arrangements with the EU. This will give the Trumpsters & Brexiters mucho grand-eh confusion n’est–ce pas ? 🙂

    1. While your vision may be just a tad de trop, Joseph, there’s no doubting that untying itself from a United Europe — sorry, European Union — the UK has risked becoming an Untied Kingdom, with England on its own, and a satellite Wales possibly disengaging itself from orbit when it realises it voted against its own interests in the referendum.

      Still, NUAK may yet become more of a possibility, je n’en doute pas. Where Trump, his Trumpets and Trumpettes would stand on that is anyone’s guess, given his volte-face unfaithfulness to bedfellow Putin.

      By the way, how’s the wall between free Canada and fascist America going? Is it arrivederci or welkommen US?

      1. elmediat

        There was a news item recently stating that fewer people were having difficulty going across the border to Crazy Town than when it was Obama’s Collegial City . Finally, someone pointed out that the stats did not take into account how many simply chose not to cross the border for fear of hassles. A number of school boards across Canada & the Girl Guides of Canada declared they would not make any excursions to the States. They did not want any students left behind/barred entry because they were perceived as a threat because of their religion/ethnicity. The new normal .

        Crossing the border will become more interesting when we legalize cannabis next year. Perhaps when the winds blow south our Americans will learn how to Chill like a Canadian 😀

        1. Always good to dream …

          In the meantime, the UK’s national health service is heading towards an additional crisis as many of the EU workers on which the NHS depends decide they know when they’re not wanted and start to leave. Then we’re all up the proverbial creek without a paddle, and btw the canoe’s leaking too …

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