Following on earlier posts on (loosely) war and pestilence, I am British, and am seeing a steadily worsening “apocalyptic” situation in the progress of Brexit, which, in brief, was the ripping up of trade agreements of 40 years standing with Europe (with whom much of our trade was, and on which trade we rely, not being self-sufficient in very much), and their replacement with trade barriers. Against the background of this, the current government, with 43% support in the country but a massive 80 seat controlling majority in Parliament, is tearing up safeguards against arbitrary rule, such as the power of the courts to restain government actions, the ability to protest peacefully, Human Rights legislation, the ability of parliament to control what the government does and a fixed term for parliaments. It is not difficult to see authoritarian government on the horizon, even if it maybe isn’t quite already here – and this is against the background of record business insolvencies, shortages of labour, goods and medicines and, of course, a sluggish-to-nonexistent growth in the economy after a substantial contraction due to Covid. Oh, and the likely departure of Northern Ireland and Scotland from the United Kingdom, which will no longer have any claim to that title. Scotland leaving would remove the right to the title “Great Britain” and if Wales were to leave as well (not particularly likely as things stand, but possible), we’d just be England.

This post is in the position in the sequence which should be occupied by famine, and though we have seen a shortage of some foodstuffs, we haven’t yet got to the stage of food riots, which were predicted by some of my fellow Remainers to occur within six months of leaving the EU. But, of course, we haven’t yet completed the process. The EU were carrying out checks on our exports to them, notably phytosanitary, which can, for instance, deny access for nursery plants if they have any soil on them, and rules of origin, which can impose the tariffs the free trade agreement was supposed to avoid if some of the materials used in making the product were from outside the UK, something which is horribly common given transnational supply chains from day 1. We, however, have delayed and delayed carrying out similar checks on imports from the EU. It seems we lack the capacity to do that, and will be delaying again in summer, which, of course, gives EU suppliers a competitive advantage over our own. As and when we do “our side” of the effects of leaving the Customs Union and regulatory alignment, food supply is going to be a major headache – we import a vast amount of our food from the EU.

Add to that the fact that lack of EU labour has meant that crops went unharvested and animals had to be killed and burned, the latter due to the lack of vets in slaughterhouses. Farmers faced with those losses are, of course, not planting this year, and not buying in young animals to rear – so our domestic supply of some foods will reduce, and we weren’t remotely self-sufficient in food to start with.

What I definitely see already is a massive increase in the number of people who need to use food banks in order to survive, and that is going to get substantially worse given that energy costs to households are going up by over 50% as I write, with another increase due in the Autumn. Granted, the energy crisis is not directly a result of Brexit, that is down to world conditions including slowness in recovering capacity not needed during the pandemic and the Ukraine war putting into question Russian (and Ukrainian) supplies of gas and other fossil fuels. But the effect on the consumer is massively impacted by Brexit – we are not in the common energy market of the EU, and that has allowed France (for instance) to limit the increase in its energy bills to the customer to 4%. Do you stay relatively warm or eat? We may not be in famine as a country yet, but the poorest among us are already in famine conditions.

Note that I bemoan earlier the lack of growth in the economy. Yes, I believe we need to try not to rely on economic growth given the reality of climate change, but I don’t relish the prospect of trying to do it as a country alone (as what the rest of the world does or rather is not doing is going to impact us far more than anything we might do by ourselves), and in the process civil unrest and possibly even revolution is a possible scenario. We have, for instance, seen that a reduction of maybe 10,000 HGV drivers threw our supply system into complete disarray. The figure often given for the shortage was 100,000, but other European countries have not far short of that nominal shortfall, but no supply chain difficulties; it appears that the absence of a relatively few European drivers has had a disproportionate effect, though the lack of the ability of our own drivers to pick up and drop off consignments throughout Europe (cabotage) is definitely another factor. It is not difficult to extrapolate that small shortfalls in other areas will have similarly disproportionate effects, and obvious candidates are the lack of seasonal agricultural workers, vets and immigrant staff in the NHS and private care systems. Our economic system is built on growth – if you don’t grow, don’t increase productivity, your business will probably fail. There seems a fair chance that a national decline will mean that the country fails.

So, I see a possible end to my nation, both in the breakup of the UK and in a possible fascist-like state in what remains, with a disintegrating economy.

The revelation of unknown knowledge there is, of course, the idiocy of Brexit as a concept. Admittedly, perhaps 48% of those who voted in the 2016 referendum already knew this, but they were (just) not a majority. Hope for a “deus ex machina” has pretty much faded – back in 2016-19, there remained some hope that MPs would find some solution short of a near-complete severing of ties with Europe, but the 2019 election delivering an 80 seat majority to a Conservative party purged of any but die-hard Brexiteers pretty much destroyed that, and Labour consistently denying any possibility of rejoining has done the rest. For those who, like me, consider Brexit to be possibly the worst national decision we have ever made, there aren’t really any heroes either – perhaps the likes of Steve Bray, who has been demonstrating outside Parliament since 2016 on a fairly consistent basis.


Having started in my last post with Ukraine, which is, of course, war, I thought I’d restructure the rest of what was going to be a very long post around a traditional order of the four horsemen of Revelation, though this is not the order you see in the actual text.  The second is frequently cited as pestilence, which for our purposes is, of course, Covid. That is not, perhaps, an existential threat to the world or even to the UK, but it’s an existential threat to me personally. It appears to hover around the point where it doesn’t kill quite a high enough percentage of those who suffer it to have major economic effects long term, though “long Covid” has to be a worry there, with some estimates indicating that a serious percentage of those infected end up with long term disabling conditions, and that might impact, for instance, the labour market enough to produce an uncomfortable or even catastrophic economic shift. The UK government seems to have decided that Covid is now “over”; they stopped providing free test kits on 1st April, and thus any figures for the prevalence of Covid cases are now going to be wildly inaccurate, as opposed to just somewhat inaccurate. However, on the eve of that change, there was an estimate that one in 14 people in England had Covid, which is actually a significantly higher percentage than at most of the times when we were panicking about it.

Perhaps foolishly, early on in the pandemic I fed in details of my various health conditions to a site which gave an estimate of my chances of survival were I to catch Covid. I expected something significantly worse than the general figure for adults, and even adults over 65, but was somewhat taken aback to find a probability of 86% that I would die if I contracted it. Yes, I am now triple jabbed. Yes, I’ve taken some comfort in the development of molnupiravir, which is a drug which apparently reduces mortality by 50% (that’s overall, not allowing for particular vulnerabilities like mine) and other similar antiviral drugs. However, in the opposite direction has been the emergence of the Omicron variant, which is significantly more transmissible, and may not be protected against quite as well by the existing vaccines. Data I’ve seen so far, however, seems to indicate that it is at the least no more deadly than previous strains, and might just be less damaging. Here’s a recent assessment of Omicron as at the time I started writing these posts.

Covid 19 could still mutate in the direction of something significantly more deadly, of course. It absolutely will mutate, and there will be new strains. That brings me to a tirade I’ve seen from a facebook friend criticising Bill Gates’ encouragement to governments to improve their pandemic response protocols and research into new viruses. He suggested that there has only been one Covid 19 in his lifetime, and such effort to protect against another raises the supposition that there’s a financial incentive. He is wrong, of course. There have been many pandemic or just sub-pandemic viruses – SARS and MERS, for instance, Ebola, Aids, Bird ‘Flu, Swine ‘Flu – not to mention the base ‘flu virus, which produces new strains yearly, and all of which have deadly potential. It’s just that Covid 19 hit a “sweet spot” of being just lethal enough to scare the public health establishment thoroughly while not being lethal enough (like Ebola, for instance, or the original SARS, remembering that Covid is a close relative of SARS) to kill people off too quickly for them to transmit the disease – and being transmitted by aerosol, which improves transmission remarkably. It currently seems that the Omicron variant has managed to improve on that by being significantly more transmissible but also somewhat less deadly, recalling that success for a virus means maximum replication, and if it kills people too quickly, that limits its spread.

After the government’s horribly bad handling of the early stages of the pandemic, a revelation of sorts about the competence of our government, I came to the conclusion that Covid 19 would become endemic, i.e. a constant presence in the population rather akin to ‘flu. Test and trace, coupled with early closing of borders, could have avoided that here, as it did in New Zealand (though whether New Zealand can continue doing this with endemic Covid is an interesting question). I’m thus looking at the probability that I’ll have to live with the possibility of contracting Covid for the rest of my life, and little possibility of it being eliminated or even reduced to an incidence which makes it unlikely I’ll even catch it. This means that I expect eventually to catch it, and I still expect if I do that I’ll quite possibly die of it (absent it being a strain which doesn’t do as much damage, as I’ve mentioned above). Yes, there are those who suggest that endemic diseases are never those transmitted by airborne particles, but I have in mind the common cold (perhaps the world champion at mutation rates destroying any hope of immunisation) and influenza, which mutates itself a new crop of variants each year which labs more or less manage to stay on top of.

Perhaps the biggest revelation Covid has provided me has been something which at some level I already knew, but which has been brought home to me forcibly. Much has been made of “essential workers” and the fact that, without them, our economy and standard of living declines catastrophically. One might think that those whose work is “essential” would be handsomely remunerated for their efforts, particularly when, during a pandemic, they are the members of society most in danger. But they are as a general rule the least well-paid among us. The nurses, supermarket cashiers, warehouse operatives, delivery drivers and refuse collectors are typically on fairly low earnings (nurses are very low-earning compared with the level of education they need, for instance). The combination with Brexit has underlined that seasonal agricultural workers and butchers (for instance) are also really badly paid compared to the work they do. For six months, we were encouraged to go out and clap for the NHS workers during the height of the pandemic. I would have preferred that we start paying them a reasonable wage, but that was forgotten once restrictions relaxed, and they got a measly percentage increase in their pay. Against that, the merchant bankers, corporate executives and, of course, billionaires have seen their remuneration increase remarkably.

Covid is, however, not likely to be the last disease which starts with zoonotic transfer. It certainly wasn’t the first, either; the mother of such diseases seems to have been AIDS. I put it down to zoonotic transfer, incidentally, because on balance I don’t buy the story of a lab leak. Lab leaks have been blamed for virtually every novel disease we have seen recently, and have never been found to be the actual source. Bio-labs dealing with transmissible diseases have spectacularly tight security, and those suggesting that Wuhan was anything other than exorbitantly careful are probably exhibiting a xenophobic contempt for those of a different nationality (and, of course, race). It won’t be the last because there will continue to be people eating wild animals – the area around Wuhan is particularly known for exotic viruses in the wild, but probably African bush meat is a more likely source for the next plague. The next could, of course, be far more deadly than Covid has proved to be, and Covid has demonstrated that our actual performance in the West in terms of disease control is horribly bad. We could, for instance, see something with the death toll of Ebola, but which has a longer incubation period before people exhibit symptoms, and therefore have longer to spread it before health organisations notice. As and when that happens, we would seem likely to be in real trouble…

So, features of appcalypse. We’ve learned we’re horribly badly prepared for pandemics. We spent time hoping for the “deus ex machina” to save us, in the form of science – vaccines and antivirals, notably. And we found some heroes to extol, even though we didn’t collectively want to recognise their actions by paying them.