Small towns and villages along the southern coast of England and Wales from Margate to Tenby welcome the return of a once much loved and long missed industry thanks to Brexit.
At Felpham the landlord of The Badger Inn is delighted, “It’s been a while hasn’t it? But I am rubbing my hands at the prospects and opportunities for local businesses to thrive as this traditional trade picks up again!”
Meanwhile, just to the west of the village, I spoke to a source who wished to remain anonymous. We met on a beachside bench by the Butlin’s South Coast World that dominates the town of Bognor Regis, infamous for seeing off one of the British Empire’s last monarchs.
“It’s been hard work for generations, obviously tightening the laws around recreational drug use gave us hope, but my grandfather said to me when he handed over his boat, ‘You’ll be vilified lad, but remember our family has been in this line of work for over 300 years and you’ll promise me that you won’t be the one who lets it go.’ I’ll always remember his last words, ‘Vote Tory, they’ve always been good news for spivs and chancers, they’ll look after their own.’ He was not wrong, was he?”
As he got into his silver Mercedes AMG GT C and prepared to visit Mandy’s boatyard on the river Hamble to put a cash deposit down on a new boat, my source added, “Brexit means we’ll be back where we belong as well respected members of the local business community. I’m through with drugs. It’ll be good to renew our trading links with our French cousins. It’s going to be busy, busy, busy here.”
Around the coast, where the sea extends into the many creeks of Chichester Harbour I spoke to a local estate agent, again anonymously. “I’m not sure how it will affect the local housing market. Maybe the current owners of the bigger houses around Bosham might get a bit twitchy about the surge in business, but in the long run a wealthier local population, reduction in unemployment and renewed interest in small, fast sea-going craft will increase demand for properties with easy and discrete access to the sea. Everyone’s going to be on board with it. Bring it on, I say.”
Another pretty seaside village, proud of being in Hampshire rather than Sussex, is Emsworth. There I spoke to Tony, a long time resident of the village. “Since the Americans bought Pompey from us and took the floodlight pylons down, I have been feeling like the world is going down the pan, but a return of the local, traditional entrepreneurial spirit has given me a boost. 2020 has been rubbish, hasn’t it? Another play-off defeat and that bug thingy, so if things are looking up for small businesses I am delighted.”
Val, another long-time resident, but whose Shropshire accent of childhood could still be detected added, “I can’t wait for some decent cheap Bordeaux to be delivered to my doorstep. These guys were on it before Amazon and Ocado, generations ago, can’t wait for the trade to pick up again. I understand car parts and Swiss pens and watches will be coming through Emsworth. Don’t say I said so, but it will be super to see the harbour here and at Langstone being used again commercially, even if it’ll be at strange hours of day and night, We’ll just have to adjust. I suppose they’ll be using those drone machines, not just boats, but we have to keep up with technology too, I suppose.”
Back at The Badger the landlady chipped in, “It’ll be great for us, the Revenue used to stay here regularly in the old days. Smuggling’s alright. We’ll support any local firm trying to give it a go. Pubs as places to buy and sell stuff, you know, have become quite rare. The hospitality industry could so do with a boost. Anything to bring in the punters.”
When asked to comment the Chancellor of The Exchequer’s press secretary said, “Cripes! Really? I’ll get back to you on this.” Nothing official had been received by the time we went to press.
n.b. Names of pubs and interviewees have been changed.
Illicit Trade Correspondent
Voyages Writing dot Com