Brexit is the nightmare combination: boring and important. And it’s allowing Theresa May to lead us towards disasterby Ian Dunt / November 30, 2018 / Leave a comment
When British and American liberals get together, there’s often a kind of competitive grieving over what’s going on in their countries.
No-one in the Brexit debate—not even Nigel Farage—is as bad as Trump, the Americans say. And it’s true. But the Americans have a significant advantage. Trump’s detonation of political norms is ugly, but it’s compelling. And if they can just get past a maximum of two terms, he goes away.
Brexit, on the other hand, is unimaginably dull. It is a serious of technical debates on the subject of trade policy and regulatory systems. But the actions which take place now will define our country for the rest of our lives, on a deep structural level. We are messing around with the levers in the engine room.
This is why everyone is so deeply bored of Brexit. It is the nightmare combination: boring and important.
Even those of us who write about it for a living feel the same way. You switch the radio on in the morning and hear two men—it is nearly always men—babbling away about the most godawful technical jargon. Phrases like “customs union,” “backstop,” “regulatory equivalence” and “sanitary and phytosanitary standards” seem weaponised to make normal people switch off the news.
People are desperate to talk about something else. Broadcasters know that coverage of trade nerdery is like hara kiri for viewing figures, but they’re unable to completely pull away because it’s the only political story in town.
MPs are also awful at this. They have not been selected for parliament on the basis of their forensic technical abilities, but for their compatibility with constituency party concerns. Asking them to keep on top of Brexit is like asking people who like doing watercolours of sunsets to sketch out a technical diagram.
Everyone, in short, wants it to go away. Brexiters and Remainers are united in one thing only, and that is a desire to stop talking about the issue which divides them.
But by cruel irony, neither side can achieve it. We have tried to dress up a technocratic problem in populist clothing. It can’t be done and now we’re all paying the price.
Theresa May has embraced this sentiment as a core part of her Brexit…