Once upon a time there was a Great Big Country with lots and lots of people, who ate rice and wore hats that looked like lampshades. The country was called the Middle Kingdom, even though it didn’t have a King. The people in this country liked partying and having a good time, so they had one big party, called the Communist Party, which made all their decisions for them, so that they could concentrate on having fun.
The Rulers of this country were not very democratic, but they were Very Wise and they knew that in a very few years’ time, their Great Big Country would not have enough land to feed its rapidly growing population. The Wise Rulers therefore decided that they had to find more places to rule, so they set out to spread their power and influence around the world.
The Middle Kingdom was called the ‘Middle Kingdom’ because, as the Wise Rulers and their mapmakers saw it, it was in the middle of the world surrounded by several other big lands. Some of these lands were called Continents;
To the north there was a very cold land where it snowed a lot and there were lots of scary people who wore big winter coats and beards and furry hats and drank vodka. The Wise Rulers of the Middle Kingdom decided that these people were too scary and their country too big and cold to bother with, so they left them alone.
To the west they found another continent where the people were very poor, didn’t wear hats and mostly had black skin. The Wise Rulers decided to make friends with the black-skinned people and offered to build them shiny new sports stadia, so that they too could have a good time. The people in that continent were very happy with their stadia and were even happier when the Middle Kingdomers offered to build roads and railways and all sorts of other things that the people didn’t have.
Gradually, the Wise Rulers became very powerful and influential in the land of the black people. Lots of Middle Kingdomers moved to these countries and little townships sprang up in all the big towns, where the shop-fronts and signs were all written in the Middle Kingdomers’ strange secret language.
Then the Middle Kingdomers found another land, another continent, to the east, where the people wore bright colours and very big hats and played strange wind instruments made of little pieces of bamboo. Here again, the Middle Kingdomers made friends and built things. They also bought lots of minerals that they needed to expand their country. Sometimes they dismantled whole mountains full of precious ores and shipped them right around the world, back to the Middle Kingdom.
Having bought up large parts of the Continent of the People with Big Hats, the Wise Rulers turned their attention to another Continent to the North that was made up of many different countries, where people spoke lots of different languages.
In one of these countries the people wore berets and striped jerseys and ate cheese with loaves of bread that were as long as your arm.
In another, people wore leather shorts with bracers and hats with feathers in. They ate lots of sausages and drank lots of beer. They also made very good cars.
And then there was another country where the people wore bowler hats, drank tea and ate fried potato pieces with vinegar. This country called itself the United Kingdom, although it wasn’t really very united. It didn’t have a King either, but it did have a very old Queen, whom the people loved.
In the northern part of this not-very-United Kingdom there was another smaller country where it rained a lot and the people drank whiskey and were often quite grumpy. This was a very cold part of the country, where the winters were long and harsh, but despite this, the people wore skirts instead of trousers, which probably explained why they were so grumpy. They didn’t really want to be part of the United Kingdom at all.
Indeed, the United Kingdom itself also wasn’t sure whether or not it wanted to belong to the big Continent to the North with the people who made cars and ate long loaves of bread. Some people thought that, because many years ago it ruled over a great empire, it didn’t need to be part of any bigger group and that it was powerful enough and important enough to sit on its small island and be independent of everyone.
The rulers of the United Kingdom were not very wise and decided that they couldn’t decide whether their country should remain part of the bigger Continent or to leave it, so they arranged for there to be ‘referendum’, which involved many months of discussions, confusion, argument and conflicting opinions, from which the people were supposed to gather all of the information about the benefits of remaining or leaving the Continent to the North and then the people would decide.
The grumpy people in the skirts were not at all convinced about all this. They just wanted to be a separate mini-country on their own and to remain part of the bigger Continent
Meanwhile, back in the Middle Kingdom, the population continued to grow and grow, and many of the rulers in the other countries started to get worried that the Wise Rulers of the Middle Kingdom were trying to increase their power and influence over the whole world. Middle Kingdom factories were making things much more cheaply than the factories in other countries and continents and many people in those areas were unable to find work.
As the Middle Kingdom became more and more unpopular, the Wise Leaders decided that they would export all the goods that they made in their factories into the Continent to the North at prices that were so low that the factories in that Continent would not be able to compete and then everyone would lose their jobs. Then the countries would become poor again and the Middle Kingdom could come and make friends and build sports stadia for them and increase their influence.
At the same time, the Middle Kingdom began occupying small islands and coral outcrops around its coastline and turning them into military bases and airfields, just in case the other countries, who were seeing their industries being destroyed and their people put out of work, got angry and wanted to start a fight.
Seeing the danger approaching, the countries who made up the Continent to the North started to think of ways of protecting themselves from the relentless competition and growing power of the Middle Kingdom.
And it was just at this point that the United Kingdom had to decide whether to stay as part of the big Continent to the North or to break away from the rest of the Continent and to row its own boat, all by itself, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
“What happened next?’, I hear you cry.
Did the Wise Rulers succeed in their attempts to destroy the economies of the countries in the Continent to the North and increase its power and influence? Did the United Kingdom, with its respected old Queen, prosper after its decision about being part of the large Continent?
Well, after the 23rd June, we will be able to start to write the next episode of the Fairy Story.