"Can we see into the future?" asks Chris White

Permit me to be a little whimsical. I woke up experiencing a growing feeling that I have developed the ability to see the future. As I scanned the newspapers and media news broadcasts today the feeling strengthened and seemed confirmed.

Before sleeping the night before, as I often do, I had actually sketched out the theme of the front pages and the highlights of the news generally. Two Conservative leadership candidates had been slogging it out in a televised debate, Boris Johnson, the current caretaker Prime Minister just might be thinking that he could be asked to carry on and a poll appears to be growing in support of that idea. The Conservative Party has more or less committed suicide.

The accuracy of my predictions mounted with reports that the leader of the socialist opposition Kier Starmer is in serious trouble although I did not foresee the public attack on him from Labour Party members at an appearance in the party’s northern heartland.

I couldn’t wait to have a morning coffee with friends to tell them that something had gone on in my brain allowing me to forecast the future. As we supped our coffees reality set in, the response from all was that they too had foreseen more or less exactly what the news would be focused on. “Sorry to have to tell you that what you have told us is a common syndrome and the reason no one at this table buys newspapers or listens to the news,” said one of my friends.

Now I am switching to being serious. What I have lightly set out above is based on reality. The question every citizen has to ask and indeed what many are asking is "what has happened to the United Kingdom?"

As I write this in Deal the issue is the extraordinary fiasco in Dover where people had to sleep in cars as they waited to board ferries.

Dover Traffic

The French have been - rightly - blamed for not properly staffing the customs and immigration lanes at Dover Harbour. But a senior official at the Port of Calais responded quite bluntly that Dover is too small and lacks the facilities to cope with the amount of traffic.

People of Dover and surrounding areas of Kent are horrified by talk of new motorways and vast lorry parks to cope with the volume of traffic. The Calais spokesman is quite right: why does the largest part of Britain’s cross-Channel traffic go principally through one tiny port?

There is a thriving container port in the estuary of the River Thames but it is not served by motorways. Folkestone - adjacent to Dover - was closed to allow seafront housing development. Other ports along the English south coast have closed to ferries or are operating extremely limited crossing services. As people keep pointing out, all ferries and the rail service are foreign owned.

The sea from Dover around the coast into the North Sea is noted for the Goodwin Sands that were raided by the Dover Harbour Board some years ago when they dredged 6.4 million cubic metres of sand from the South Goodwin Bank to create a marina inside Dover Harbour. Now they want another 2.5 million cubic metres to creat, it is suggested, a lorry park. The Goodwin Sands Conservation Trust and their Save our Sands campaign is taking every possible measure to stop them but have been told: “We did it before, we can do it again”.

The point is that the harbour authority and the UK administration appear to be ignoring suggestions that destruction of the sands could destroy communities along the coast. It is complicated but highlights a clear failure of government and local government authorities to take account of public interests and opinion. But then the UK has no real government and will not until at least September, if then...

The Dover situation has domestic implications as well as serious implications for relations with France and the EU. Much has been written about the Northern Ireland Protocol and the effect on relations with the EU not to mention the President of the United States Joe Biden. The multitude of problems I am referring to also have international implications.

One reality that has not been properly reported is that ordinary people consider that the UK has virtually no government at a critical time in terms of global problems. What government there is demonstrates high levels of incompetence and that the administration is showing no sign that it can solve the National Health Service crisis nor any other of the long list of crises undermining the country.

Immigrants crossing the Channel feature in reports that they spend long periods of time in hostels and hotels but the latest news, as many of us had guessed, highlights the failures of the Home Office and long delays dealing with asylum claims costing taxpayers multi-millions.

Curiously I could have forecast that report but even more strikingly I could have forecast a government committee report that putting police on the beat cuts crime. I live in a town which recently had its police station closed and rarely sees police other than those racing past in cars with sirens blaring.

The big question I have is: are my friends right that everyone can see what is going on and forecast the news or have I got some special power? If my friends are right, and I think they are, the future of the United Kingdom and perhaps Europe generally is looking very uncertain and, indeed, negative.

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Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a former UK national newspaper journalist and was the founder and editor of a magazine focussed on EU affairs.

Now writing for EUToday, Chris has his own column, 'Chris's Corner'.

Chris is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world, having been founded in October 1884

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