‘Can I just marry a French friend?’: Nish Kumar answers all your pressing Brexit questions
Is this the end of the booze cruise? And what’s with the price of Lurpak? The comedian turned agony aunt answers your Brexit dilemmas
Written by Nish in The Guardian on April 9th, 2019
Brexit is tearing this country apart. Families are being pitted against each other, and who knows where it will leave our economy? To resolve this, the Guardian has turned to me. My name is Nish Kumar, and I am a standup comedian and (if only for one day) a Brexit “agony aunt” ready to answer Guardian readers’ dilemmas. But, I hear you cry: “This is a sensitive time for the country. The last thing we need is for things to be made worse by a man who has absolutely no qualifications for this position.” And to you I say: this country has had enough of experts. So here we go…
How long is it appropriate to wait before talking politics with my leave-voting partner? Also, how smug can I be when the subject is raised?
Liv N Denial, South Shields
If you have managed to last three years in a relationship without mentioning politics, I have a question for you: how? My girlfriend and I can barely last five minutes without the subject coming up (naturally, this habit delights our friends, who describe it as “genuinely tedious” and “a vibe-killer at brunch”). But if you have made it this far, why stop? It will be a great challenge – and a welcome distraction in our turbulent times – to see how long you can last without a political discussion. If you and this relationship endure, then you have saved up a really juicy nugget for your deathbed. Also, if you leave it until your deathbed, you can be as smug as you like – you won’t be around to see the consequences.
Do I keep growing my veg in case of a no-deal Brexit or do I grow some nice flowers instead?
Without wishing to be alarmist, PLEASE DO NOT STOP GROWING VEGETABLES. WE CANNOT EAT PRETTY FLOWERS. Who knows what will happen with produce after Brexit, but it certainly won’t hurt to have your own food supply. In the event of a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic dystopia, people with supplies of food and water could become warlords or chieftains in the social order that emerges out of the rubble. Doesn’t that sounds fun? To be a warlord? Maybe once you have got your farm up and running, start on the flowers to brighten the arid wasteland.
I have had a close French friend for 60 years. We are both straight women with grownup children, who are also friends. Recently, my friend’s daughter, seeing my obvious unhappiness at losing my European citizenship rights, suggested I marry her mother “since same-sex marriage is also legal in France”. Her mother agreed. Is this possible, and would the arranged marriage stand up to legal scrutiny in law, even if each of us remained domiciled in our separate countries?
Anonymous, south Wales
I’m not sure that this would stand up to the most cursory scrutiny, especially if the authorities find out that you wrote this letter. However, I think you should give it a go, and then, in a worst-case scenario, sell the film rights to Hollywood. The whole thing sounds like a 21st-century update of the classic Gérard Depardieu/Andie MacDowell film, Green Card. This story has everything: shifting geopolitics, an unlikely coupling and a scheme dreamed up by a sassy kid. If you could eventually fall in love with your friend for real, that would provide an ideal narrative resolution, but it’s not a dealbreaker; we’ll just say that you did.
I share my home with four west highland terriers. It turns out that when the westies are getting overly excited, I can turn into John Bercow. I used to call out: “Quiet!” in a calm, measured voice, but now I command: “ORR-DERR! ORRRRR-DERR!” in a most Bercownian manner. You would think, living in North Carolina, we’d be at a safe distance, but you would be very wrong. Will this verbal tic pass when the Brexit farce ends?
Nigel, North Carolina
I want you to know that you aren’t alone. Bercow imitation syndrome (BIS) is a serious condition that many people have developed as a consequence of Brexit. There is no known cure, although scientists are experimenting with a vaccine made from some of the Speaker’s spit, expelled in the commons as he expresses frustration over another day of Brexit wrangling. All we can do is pray.
I’m going to Portugal this week. Will I be able to get back on the 17th? Or will I have to stay there for ever?
This seems like a win-win scenario. Either Brexit is delayed and you get to return home, or you are forced to stay in the land of the pastel de nata. I’m not saying that I would renounce my citizenship of this country for the chance to live in the birthplace of this tasty, sweet treat, but all I’m saying is that it would be a conversation. I don’t know if you can claim asylum on the basis of “loving a cake”, but I am going to Google that now.
How do I deal with these “dig for victory” types who say things like “we have been through worse” – without becoming incoherent with rage?
I’m assuming that the phrase “dig for victory” encompasses everyone who invokes the spirit of the second world war as an analogy for Britain in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. Remind them of three things: 1. Why would you vote for something where the best-case scenario is that millions of people die? 2. Saying “we” survived is a misnomer. “They” survived the second world war; “we” can barely survive our phones being at 8% battery without having a nervous breakdown. 3. At the time of the second world war, Britain had an empire from which it was able to divert food and resources. If we’re going to pull that off this time, Gibraltar is going to have to pull its socks up.
Will Brexit spell the end of bringing a carload of cheap wine back from France?
As with most of the elements of Brexit, we have absolutely no idea because our government has not even got past the withdrawal agreement, much less established what our goods and trading relationships will be with the EU. I would say, though, if they have any interest in truly reflecting the concerns of British people, alcohol must be a priority. For those of us who favour maintaining freedom of movement, this may be an important bargaining chip: “The UK will continue to maintain free movement for EU citizens, as long as they bring us stuff we can use to get lashed.”
Every time I hear the word “Brexit”, the Magic Roundabout theme starts playing in my head. How do I stop this?
Jim Bob, Lewes
Why would you want to? Brexit is a ceaseless grind of conversations about customs unions and backstops. Anything that can add an air of whimsical, childlike wonder to proceedings can only be a good thing. I’d go further – every time you hear the word Brexit, you should sing the theme from The Magic Roundabout OUT LOUD so that those around you get the benefit. (If you are a newsreader or working for the Department for Exiting the European Union, I would strongly advise against this. Otherwise, sing on!)
Having noticed a 500g tub of Lurpak spreadable slightly salted butter has gone from £3.30 to £3.60 in recent months, I found a 1kg tub costing £6 in Costco, but on “special”. In Waitrose, I bought 2 x 500g for the same £6 price. Weird. As Brexit seems to have turned economies of scale on their head, should I consider tactically becoming lactose intolerant? Am I alone in recognising creeping food prices? Can you recommend any other tactical intolerances I should adopt as Brexit looms? #LURPAX
Anxious of Chester, Chester
That would be a great start to adjusting to life after Brexit. In the event of no deal, prices of some imports may increase, including meat, so I would suggest pre-emptively going vegetarian. In the event of shortages of medicine developing, I would advise developing an ability to heal yourself, in the manner of the X-Men character Wolverine. It’s a system I’m trying myself, but so far all I’ve done is grown my sideburns, gone around calling people “bub” and been generally rude.
I just can’t stop being apoplectic with rage at Brexit, the people who lied to bring it about, the people who voted for it and the storm of problems it’s bringing. How do you stop being cross?
Alasdair, the south-east
I’m afraid I can’t help you. I have not stopped being angry, I have simply been doing it on stage. Far from suppressing my rage, I have monetised it. So, I guess my advice is, take up standup comedy. I should point out that, as my tour has only been over for a week and I have already called my television a “bell-end” twice, I may have to get back on the road.
I’m a Labour-voting Brexiter, and so are most people I know. I feel quite proud of this. I want to know why remain voters, who are usually from the south, seemingly don’t understand or care about the fact that their arrogance and contemptuous attitude is the reason people are turning against them.
I understand that many Labour voters voted to leave, and may not have a racist bone in their bodies. But the truth is I feel they have sided with the bigots, and left many of us feeling alienated from our home country. I have no idea why people are smug, though. If you are right, the smug will look foolish as our country proudly emerges from the rubble into a brighter future outside the EU. And if it’s a disaster, there will be no use in saying: “I told you so,” as we fight to the death for food and water in the Thunderdome.
What should I do on Facebook? If I post earnestly about Brexit, I look like a ranting idiot who takes life too seriously. But if I ignore it, I look like I have no gravitas. I thought about posting ironic Brexit memes, but these are getting banned by the EU. Why is life so unfair?
The important thing with Facebook is to remember that it played a role in facilitating Brexit because it inadvertently allowed leave-supporting groups to use harvested data to target key voters. Therefore, the only sensible thing to do is cause chaos in the algorithm by continually posting contradictory information. Post something about how you love Big Macs and then immediately post horrifying statistics about cattle farming and its impact on global warming. Or just leave Facebook entirely. I hear Snapchat is cool now.
I’m going to France in late May. How can I make it clear I was a remainer? Will I have to wear some sort of tasteless badge, so I’m not seen as a lunatic leaver? (I hate badges.)
Borrow a trick from my American friends who, when abroad, manage to seamlessly work the phrase “I DIDN’T VOTE FOR HIM” into any conversation as quickly as possible. You can see the rising tide of panic if an opportunity doesn’t present itself organically. They resolve this by yelling it anyway. Still, a small price to pay. To avoid that scenario, I suggest using the word “REMAIN” as a barely appropriate synonym: “We will be REMAINING in this hotel for three days”; “my favourite Bee Gees song is REMAINing Alive”.
How can I forgive my mother and her husband, who are classic lifelong Labour supporters yet voted for a Brexit that will probably harm those they sought to protect? They have robbed my children of their future freedom to travel. They have enabled a rightwing takeover (in the unelected hard-Brexiter prime minister) which will further entrench division and resentment. They are unrepentant.
Anonymous, West Midlands
A friend of mine is in almost exactly the same situation. They instituted a policy of “no political conversations” whenever the family were together. Unfortunately, the tension persisted and only really lifted after they had a child. Maybe you should have another child with your partner so that you have something else to talk to your mother about. Failing that, you may have to have an open and honest conversation about how upset you are, and trust that you love each other and can come through with your relationship intact.
What’s the Canada option? It had better not involve sending any of your MPs here for resettlement.
First, great to hear from you, your majesty. Second, the Canada option was a trade deal based on yours with the EU. Unfortunately, your majesty, it was dismissed because only 10% of Canada’s external trade goes to the EU, and mainly takes the form of precious stones and metals. Our trade volume is much higher, and our most significant trade is in the form of services. So, in short, it was never relevant, and everyone who suggested it should hang their heads in shame. Sadly, the concept of “shame”, like many beloved celebrities, died in 2016 and so all those people are still cracking on. Rest assured our politicians will be remaining here, leaving you with the “talents” of Doug Ford, and your handsome president and scandal-mired presidency.