Post-Brexit Britain Doesn't Exist

‘Brexit’ is a concept. As concepts go, it’s possibly one of the least agreed upon ones in history. It’s also a fairly unique one in how it insights extremes in us: hope or despair, joy or anger, division or unity. It evokes these extremes because we all have a different idea of what ‘Brexit’ actually means (and no, it doesn’t just mean Brexit).

Originally, the key idea of ‘Brexit’ was nothing more than the suggestion of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. This is like saying you had an idea for a meal but hadn’t actually thought about what the meal would contain or how it would be cooked. The idea needed substance, and depth. So it was built upon by the very conflicting opinions of the Leave and Remain campaigns. And whatever unique concept of ‘Brexit’ we pieced together between statements on social media, the slogans on the side of a bus, and the voiced opinions of prominent “experts”, is what we based our vote on in the EU Referendum in 2016.

But the story didn’t end there. As it turned out, the idea was very clearly not agreed on, and now it’s morphed - significantly. It’s had large concepts added to it, like “alternative modes”, “Withdrawal Act” and “backstop”, and it’s been thrown from side to side as various “deals” were repeatedly formulated and rejected. In the past 3 and a half years, none of us can actually remember what the terms were that we voted on all that time ago - and so it dawns on us: there weren’t any. Whatever ‘Brexit’ meant or was in 2016 is very clearly no longer what it is.

We’ve watched for 3 and a half years as this thing has changed into something we don’t recognise. We’ve watched the pound plummet in value and then re-stabilise, albeit in a worse position than it was. We’ve watched prospective Conservative leaders rise up and fall back down again, like cartoon characters passing a bomb around as the fuse burned away. We even voted in an early General Election ourselves with the suggestion that a position - any position - would be strengthened by it. And since that failure we’ve watched resignation after resignation, and “meaningful” vote after “meaningful” vote.

All of this has brought rise to common phrases such as “since Brexit” and “since we Brexited”, and I find myself screaming in my head “Brexit hasn’t happened yet!” Everything that’s happened so far are symptoms of a pre-‘Brexit’ Britain. The fan has been spinning, but nothing has actually hit it yet; the arm has just been poised to throw and left in position for so long that it’s beyond aching, the muscles are now in agony, and the proverbial is running through our fingers.

Whether we voted Leave or Remain, when, or if, ‘Brexit’ does actually happen, we won’t recognise it. We’re not post-‘Brexit’ yet, and we never will be, because the EU Referendum was a mask with some idea of ‘Brexit’ beneath it that was unique to each of us, but never truly existed in formal or concrete terms. So we can never be past it, because the reality we end up with collectively, will never match the unique idea each of us had of it back then.

What Does Defiance Mean To You?

The agreed consensus after the EU Referendum, at least by the media, was that a large portion of the Leave vote was an act of defiance; that it was the defiance of the towns, cities, and rural communities outside of London that were sick of being neglected by the political status quo.

Interestingly, this highlights how deviously clever the Conservative party has been (though it may have been more by luck than judgement). The suggestion is that the past 9 years of austerity measures put in place by the Conservatives, which hit communities outside of London the hardest, prompted the defiant Leave vote. But we now find ourselves in a scenario where voting to carry out that act of defiance essentially means voting for the Conservatives. They’ve managed to flip the scenario on its head, whereby voting to validate that original defiant act, will actually re-validate the political status quo, and ensure further austerity and neglect.

Posted: November 7th, 2019
Categories: life, politics