London, New Year’s Eve 2018.
It is a very English middle-class trait: the world will end if the price of a certain life style goes up. Certain services will be cut. Access to certain travel destinations might be restricted. (The usual European haunts in France and Spain rendered dearer if not inaccessible.) But there is no denying that the attitude to the New Year from this side of the world is one of gloom made normal.
Not a day goes by without a digest of panicked revelations about what will happen in the event of a “no-deal Brexit”. A lack of certainly has propelled a set of speculations so thick as to be asphyxiating. But there is always room for more, the next desperate act of a government so cadaverous it can only give vague clues that it is still alive, wincing, dodging and avoiding what faces the United Kingdom before the mandarins in Brussels and the nostalgia driven addicts in the Conservative Party.
London itself is the ground-zero of teeth-chattering panic. Stockpiling of essentials (and various non-essentials) is taking place in a manner reminiscent of the doom that might arise from nuclear holocaust or a crippling blockade initiated by a foreign power. These fears are not entirely irrational: no one knows what might happen to the smooth exchange of goods ands services with the EU in the absence of any clear set of guidelines.
The latest manifestations of this sense of heightened neuroses can be found in three ferry contracts that have been…