It was a hot and smoggy day in June, and the clocks had just struck one.
Winston Smith logged off his computer and headed to the cafeteria. He wanted to be there in time for the Independence Day party.
He arrived a little late. The room was decorated with hundreds of England flags and the air was dank with cigarette smoke. Jim from accounts had Mavis from sales backed into a corner, telling her his latest Syrian joke. The telescreen showed Nigel Farage giving Boris Johnson a hearty backslap – the present and former Prime Ministers very pleased with themselves. Labour Party leader Liz Kennedy stood quietly in the background, with an expression that was four parts glum and one part resigned. The last remaining LibDem MP had been invited, but had decided not to come following a party vote.
Someone turned up the volume, and Farage’s cheerfully blokey voice rang out:
“… they said it would never happen. They said it would be a disaster. But here we are! Free and independent. No longer having to take dictates from Brussels, or deal with the dead weight of those layabouts in Edinburgh and Cardiff, or those terrorists in Belfast. English jobs for English workers.”
Here he paused for applause, which was forthcoming.
“And I’m proud to announce that we have built our relationships outside the EU. Our low labour costs and flexible work standards are paying off. This morning I signed an agreement with Russian President Rogozin to expand our fracking technology with their know-how – not something we could have got from Brussels with their job-killing regulations.”
“But we still have some problems. Now look, I know things were hard after we left at first, but some people just don’t want to get back to work. It seems like you can’t move without bumping into some skiving Scouser or bolshie Geordie. You know, mates, maybe if you learned to speak proper English, people might ‘gizza’ that job you’re looking for.”
Laughter. Kennedy frowned a little, but remained quiet.
“So that’s why I’m saying – no more. We can’t all keep moving into London. So if you’re from Liverpool, Sunderland, or one of the other recovering areas, stay put. We’ll bring the work to you. There’s some very promising opportunities coming, courtesy of Chairman Li. Of course, you know the problem with Chinese investment? After an hour, you want some more.”
It was an old joke, but still drew the laughs.
“Enjoy yourself, start the weekend early and go down the pub. And Monday morning most of you will find your London permit in your GovMail. So just have it printed and ready to show if you need to be here in the capital.
Well that’s enough from me. Happy Independence Day!”
The telescreen switched over to the Benny Hill retrospective. It would be on for a while.