Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Straight talking about what might happen now the EU and UK are parting company. Well, sometime anyway.
Geoffrey Brown has over 20 years’ experience working as a consultant and contractor deep within the bowels of the EU, specialising in the funding of the arts, culture, heritage and creative industries. Last year, his Fringe show exposed to the gullible public (i.e. us) a few home truths about an organisation that we’d just two months previously voted to march away from. Well, 52% did. The other 48% were left stamping their feet and crying “foul”.
This year he’s back to tell us what we’re going to be missing once the divorce settlement has been agreed. And just how little time we’ve got to decide who gets the toaster and that whatnot your elderly maiden aunt gave as a wedding present over forty years ago. Yes, it’s over 40 years since the UK marched into the EU. So, there’s not a lot of folks still knocking about that have experience, for example, of setting up a trade deal. That’s just one of the many things that’s been taken care of by the EU since a large proportion of us came of age.
As befits a man with so much inside knowledge, his delivery is assured and accurate but it’s never heavy handed. There’s a lightness of touch in the way he conveys a bewildering series of facts through an extended question and answer session with his audience. Subjects on which he tests our knowledge include the history of the EU, its principal offices of state, where all that money is spent and how much of the UK’s legislation is driven by Eurocrats rather than our own Parliament.
What was really surprising, though, in contrast to last year, was the level of audience knowledge. Perhaps this whole Brexit thing has reignited our interest in politics. Or perhaps people are becoming a little more sceptical of the polemic headlines so favoured by certain elements of the UK popular press.
Using a rather neat “fact star rating” (ranging from a 3 star “unarguable” to a 1 star “treat this with suspicion”), he outlined a number of issues we are going to need to get our heads around, and quickly. For example, were you aware that there are 200 border crossings between Ireland and Northern Ireland? Back door entry into the UK, anyone? Or that the EU needs immigrants to maintain its population – fertility rates in most constituent states are some way below the 2.1 per family required just to keep the population constant. They are only 1.9 in the UK, for example, so we are going to have to let a few folks in to keep the working population up to snuff.
This show could easily have died on its feet given the subject involved. That it didn’t was down to Brown’s engaging, energetic presentation and his clever mixing of humour with the stream of enlightening facts he communicated. Brown has a way with words that could probably make a telephone directory sound interesting and he dealt with a topic that has split a nation down the middle in a calm and objective manner that puts the conduct of one or two of the more prominent public figures on both sides of the Brexit exit debate to shame.
Forty-five minutes of informative entertainment that’s well worth listening to.