If Great Britain were a person, we'd imagine his story would be something like this.
If Britain were a person right now, it would be a graduate university student that landed in a high-flying London position, probably a lawyer, but it’s currently 3am. The bars are closed –or rather, Mr Britain has been barred; he’s not had a drink for a few minutes and he’s on his way to McDonalds. He’s accomplished great things; he’s accomplished terrible things.
But right now, in a drunken stupor that’s slowly fading to a melancholic awareness, he’s gradually becoming aware that – like any good university student’s first splash of the cash – he’s done some stupid things, in a moment of drunken optimism.
He splutters something about “control,” ironically clinging to his Big Mac as if HMS McDonalds has hit a rather rough patch of water, and then hits the greasy, salty deck with a final exclamation about “making Boris great again”. Thump.
Fortunately for Mr Britain, he’s got a likability about him and the pleasant night-shift staff at McDonalds have seen enough of these moments to know that he’ll recover quicker than most, and be suitably dressed come sunrise.
If there is one thing Mr Britain did commit to that night, however, it was abandoning the red-lit hue of a seedy bar on Brussels Street.
It’s an easy place to spot. there’s a big burly bouncer – the gender is pretty hard to distinguish, through the muscles and body hair – but he/she always demands the same entry requirements every time: £350m and a place for the whole bar to crash at, no questions asked.
Couple more things though: your friends from uni can’t come in. It’s all post code politics, typical London gang stuff; the chums were born on the wrong side of the estuary, so they’d need to do some extra pleading and they’d rather not.
Pst. There’s a side window, they can have a drink and share the gossip there but they just can’t come in.
The Incredible Bulk lets you in, muttering about how the other guys already know your name and they want you in but – there’s another doorway. A sign adjacent to it reads: “our club, our clothes."
Looks like you’ll have to abandon the top and tails and false teeth here, it’s varying shades of aristocracy – so anything with purple, a musky French scent and golden accents should do wonderfully. So, they tell you how to dress, what next?
Hold the front door! – actually, don’t, this isn’t the place for pleasantries – the sign below the dress notice reads: “Oh, and don’t forget to unlock your phone and hand it to Merkel.” Merkel, as you find out, is in charge of texting and phone calls. Essentially, she’ll be texting and making phone calls for you. Don’t worry, she won’t share your erotic nudes and your summer-getaway with Miss ‘Aussie’.
But alas, you hand your coat to the pair of attractive women at the cloakroom, they give you a ticket – Article 50 – and you show that to Merkel, along with handing over your phone. You’re in to The Union.
You glance over your shoulder and spot a couple of staggering bodies being directed by Merkel back to your apartment. You wince, mutter about saving the monarchy and decide alcohol will be the best remedy for dealing with a drunken slumber party at your place, which you’re not even attending.
“Yeah, I’ll have a White Russian please,” you ask.
A gaunt-faced barman glances over the frame of a rounded set of glasses, pondering you for an inexorable and painful time. He hangs, tall and wide over a stained, gungy dark-wood bar – a smell crawls up your nostrils, acrid, sharp and decidedly aged, leaving you to wonder if his breath is a biological weapon or he’s hiding a rotting carcass below the bar.
“… a White Russian,” You mutter again.
A gnarled, hairy hand reaches across and taps you on the chest – just once – sending you heavily back to a squeaky leather chair. In a series of deep, crudely formed syllables he informs you that, in The Union, they decide what you’re having.
The money you paid for entry never went on a tab, it went to the other customers. You never decide what drinks they have, or if Mr Franc has had too much champagne – He always has too much champagne and then tries to bed Merkel with a sales pitch that’s best described as “bold”.
In the Union, the barman orders your drinks for you – he ordered Mr Britain a Long Island Ice Tea –, he decides who pays for the rounds and also uses your money to pay for others.
On this fateful night, however, Mr Britain wanted his £350m spent how he wanted it spent. With a number of Long Island Iced Teas keeping him surprisingly buoyant and stable, he called to Merkel and the manager – John Paul Junk, a man of only short words – that he wants the drunken slumber party removed from his apartment, he wants his friends to join the club and he wants to be able to decide the bot difficulty on his apartment’s copy of Mario Kart.
But Mario Kart was too much – probably the Italian clubber’s input – and so Merkel and Junk wanted Mr Britain out; They wanted him out quickly, smoothly and without setting fire to the Union as he went. They’d heard of Chris Columbus and America, they wanted none of that here. But alas, Article 50. That coat was some challenge to find – two years in fact. For the sake of this metaphor, we’d say he had a lot of patience, plus a continual supply of Long Islands as he waited.
And so, his friends still hung at the side window. He still wore the awful colour combinations. His money was still being spent on German comedians and he still couldn’t change Mario’s difficulty.
And as Mr Britain awoke in his apartment, surrounded by dozens of unknown faces, and as the dawn called through a crack in his gilded golden curtains, he saw it. The Union, burnt to a well-seasoned crisp – not a French fry.