Imagine spending 20 years of your life and millions of pounds demanding something, and then it arrives and puts you out of a job.

You find yourself adrift, unable to tell port from starboard, wondering how in a war-torn, post-pandemic economic belch you'll be able to make ends meet.

It's not so bad though, because at least you're not one of 800 P&O staff who found out in the course of a 75-second Zoom call that the billionaire domestic abuser who ultimately owns the firm thinks its initials stand for "Piss" and "Off".

You're Nigel Farage, proto-prat, and you have a voice loud enough to tell the world just how cross you are that the Brexit you demanded, campaigned for, and made more extreme, is suddenly not the Brexit you wanted, after all.

"We shouldn't measure everything in terms of GDP figures or economics," Nigel told the BBC in June 2016. "There is something called quality of life."

Go and sell that in Dover this morning, Nige, see how far you get in the redundancy blockade.

Four years earlier he told the European Parliament: "It's a European Union of economic failure, of mass unemployment and of low growth."

Nigel! The Bank of England's on the phone, they've got a bitter laugh for you.

It's like Henry VIII saying: "When I said behead her, I actually meant behold." Or Hitler turning round at the end of the war and telling his generals: "No, JUICE! I hate juice! You fools." Or, to use a despot Nigel claims to understand, it's like Donald Trump claiming he really wanted the girls to KISS on the bed.

He's not raising his beer glass now, is he? No, he's selling online Mother's Day video messages on for £74 a pop, which is twice what a decent bunch of flowers costs and smells distinctly iffy. Unlike ferry staff, he's found a berth at GBeebies News where he's paid what must be an unreasonable amount to wail about trans rights, climate change, and teenaged Swedes.

Quite what Nigel expected when he demanded, and got, an end to jobs red tape is unclear, but he seems surprised to find it means Bahamian-flagged ferries operated by foreign crews via a shipping agency based in the European tax haven of Cyprus.

Which is odd, considering Nigel was a member of the European Parliament for 21 years where all the rules that made that possible were discussed and voted on, and where for several years he also sat - when he could be bothered - on its international trade committee, where such laws were studied in detail.

Anyhoo. Blue passports!

'Nigel Farage is cross because Brexit is doing what it said it would'

And to be fair, Nigel is not the only one who's having to swivel. In April 2016, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union told its members to vote for Brexit "to protect workers' rights". Then-general secretary Mick Cash called the bloc "a bosses' club that... attacks the shipping and offshore sectors".

Yesterday, his successor Mick Lynch called the P&O sackings "one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations". What he didn't say was that Brexit was another.

After leaving the EU, the UK is no longer strictly bound by its rules protecting employment rights. And it's a fact that P&O staff in France, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Ireland, have not been made redundant.

It's also a fact that the Brexit deal we agreed promises that one party shall not lower its employment rights, in such a way that it means the other party suffers. And, as far as P&O is concerned, this clause holds up fine, because the only party which suffers if Britain burns its jobs laws is Britain.

And last month, Boris Johnson announced a Brexit Freedoms Bill which will make it possible to rip out any remaining protections the EU gave us, overrides judicial precedent, and gives ministers the right to make all those changes with a memo, rather than a vote.

Now, that's a long way off being law - but P&O didn't sack a third of its UK staff without asking a lawyer if they'd get away with it. They put balaclava-clad security goons on standby, they laid on buses, and they had to strike a deal, somehow, to get 800 Cyprus-registered agency staff on seafarers' passes into the country and to the ports all in one go.

Plus, they surely had to get a few of them full UK work visas for the internal route between Scotland and Northern Ireland, and do it en masse rather than individually. The whole process will have taken months, and involved the co-operation and knowledge of government officials.

The same government that, today, has announced itself "extremely concerned and frankly angry" to find the thing it had helped happen had now occurred.

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And so here we are, in a place where Brexit has enabled British workers to be replaced with foreign European ones, and ours are unable to head to Europe to find new jobs.

Without changing our employment laws, we've nevertheless found a way to reduce the legal responsibilities of an employer which has saved itself millions in pension contributions and National Insurance, because the Brexit deal makes that OK so long as only Britain suffers.

And with new customs checks, we've stopped £44bn of goods being traded with the EU, which put fewer lorries on ferries and caused the accounting loss that P&O used to justify the sackings.

If someone promises to rip up red tape, what you'll get is a tangle. They didn't promise to tighten it, refine it, remove or secure it; rip up, they said, like it was wrapping paper standing between you and a Christmas present. Every parent in the world knows that means there'll be a mess to clean up, and here it is: a bonfire of rights and responsibilities, while capitalists push whatever they can find through the loopholes, to the detriment of the humans who can no longer put food on the table as a result.

Still, they could always sign up to Thrillz. I wonder how much a former engine room petty officer can get for a video message telling Nigel to go and f*** himself.

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