It takes a skilled cook to make the perfect souffle, but the author suggests kitchen competency is the one ingredient missing as Britain prepares to negotiate its way out of the European Union. Photo: Pierre-Alain Dorange/Wikipedia Commons.

I have a passion for cooking, and despite having toiled as chef-patron of a restaurant, my love for the kitchen as a fulfilling therapy has not gone off the boil.

The path has not always run smoothly. At the age of eight, my surprise 8:30 a.m. breakfast for my parents — Sunday’s roast beef in bed — did not excite the warm thanks I had anticipated.

A culinary disaster is, more often than not, beyond salvaging. Once the Hollandaise has curdled or the soufflé failed to rise and after you have smashed a few convenient pots, it’s time to make a fresh start (yes, I know you can incorporate the curdled sauce into a new one).

The point is that when you realize you’ve made a mistake, you go back and start again. You do not plow on regardless.

Now, calmly, dispassionately and constructively let’s consider the effects of the British vote to leave the European Union. Leave aside the arguments about the cost of renouncing membership of the club — let’s focus on the procedures and consequences.

Hundreds of agreements on the plate

There are more than 750 inter-country agreements to be negotiated. Each one will probably require its own negotiating team and, putting a favorable light on it, each will take about two years to complete.

Prime Minister Theresa May approaches a 21st-century dish still obsessed with 19th-century household-management guru Mrs. Beeton, and the EU behaves like a jilted bride. Even Mrs. Beeton’s recipe for rabbit pie began: “First catch your rabbit.”

Logically, why would anyone expect the EU to give the UK the same trading terms after it has lost its Michelin star?

Many of these new agreements will have to be with the EU because Europe is the closest land mass to Britain, the world’s largest trading group. Land-based transportation must traverse EU’s territory. Both lorries and drivers will require licensing to traverse the EU.

Air traffic ‘freedoms’ will be grounded

Similarly, air traffic “freedoms” will have to be negotiated if British aircraft wish to land in EU territory or, as will be necessary for much international air transport, overfly it.

All forms of communication, postal, wireless electronic whether using pylons or subterranean cables, including banking channels for remittances, will have to be agreed upon.

Agreements between the clearing banks across the world must be re-negotiated, new merchant agreements will have to be entered into with Visa, Mastercard, and Amex before the UK can dine at the world’s restaurants; of course, we could carry cash.

Cross-border documentation will revert to petty-fogging pre-1975 regulations with which most people are too young to know or understand.

“End user” certification will prove a particular nightmare for exporters, especially where the goods are of mixed origin, and none of this touches upon possible tariffs and customs duties. Cross-border documentation will revert to petty-fogging pre-1975 regulations with which most people are too young to know or understand.

Like an overloaded menu, Brits will need a 50-page passport to hold all the visas which may be required, and the dishes will not be translated into English.

Apart from the frabjous joy that it will bring to intellectual property lawyers, the prospects for patent and copyright registration and enforcement assume the proportions of a manic kitchen.

Let us not venture into the field of EU quality-control specifications and health & safety regulations for the UK’s meat, fruit, and vegetables. “Welsh lamb? Non!”

None of which is to say that the EU regulations to which the UK is currently party all qualify for the seal of good housekeeping but at least we know wherein the kitchen devil lies.

The witless, office-seeking boobies across all political divides who failed to educate the public about the practical after-effects of Brexit are egregiously culpable for the consequences of this virtually blind and woefully misinformed referendum. I would not employ them as kitchen porters.

Of all the absurd mantras that those elected to high public office deliver themselves, “The people have spoken” has to be the most ridiculous.

There’s plenty of blame to go around

Brexiteers Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, David Davies and Michael Gove were wilfully ignorant about the ramifications and now that they are beginning to see the sunken cakes and leaden pastry consequent upon their misrepresentations, they make headless chickens look like the Brigade of Guards.

Former Conservative leaders, prime minister David Cameron, chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne et al, were equally culpable for their failure to spell out the actualities rather than the vacuous fear-mongering they espoused.

As for the Labour Party, its leaders abrogated their responsibilities to the electorate to make decisions based on a rational consideration of all the available facts. Instead, they blindfolded and bamboozled their constituents before serving up an inedible mess of potage.

We, the electorate, did not select a raft of lawmakers only for them to turn round and say “you do our job.”

It’s not too late to save the sauce but there is an urgent need to acknowledge that persevering with the current recipe will lead to a culinary disaster. Where is the chef of integrity, courage, and vision to chuck the Brexit pudding into the garbage and recognize that the recipe is a poisonous pie?

Just when we need an Escoffier, we have people who cannot recognize a bad egg.

Neville Sarony

Neville Sarony QC is a noted Hong Kong lawyer with more than 50 years at the Bar.

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