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The Brexit “Who Dunnit?”

OK, I admit it: I couldn’t follow this season’s Westworld and got more and more lost as each episode moved deeper into a narrative veered further into the multi-temporal, back-and-forth trajectories.  I gave up after the fourth episode. And this is exactly how if feel about many subjects that cause my eyes to glaze over when I hear (or am forced to hear) about anything to do with: business management, mobile phone apps, financial brokers, and how exciting someone’s wedding is going to be (which it probably will be for some guests unless they offer marijuana to their guests which is now apparently a thing at weddings).  I’m pretty good at following complex narratives, but like everyone, I have my limits and just as I am finding Westworld impossible to follow, I am finding that following this third season of Brexit an even more arduous task then the previous two seasons.

Let’s recap shall we.  In 2016, there was a referendum by those in the UK to decide whether to vote to leave or to remain in the European Union. Sounds simple? Well it is, if you organise such a referendum in tandem with the media promotion of a series of lies and vast misrepresentations such that nobody has a clue as to what they are voting for (aside from the PR spin they were handed) and believe that said referendum is consultative and not binding (as we were told). Roughly speaking the “vote leave” folks tended to sold on the false promises of working class “revolt” with several promises among which were: a fall in NHS waiting times thanks to the £350m diverted weekly from the EU to the NHS; a cut in immigration; a free trade deal; a rise in wages and increase in jobs;  a reduction on school class sizes; and a cap on rents. Since the first episode of Brexit (and let’s not forget the left’s Lexit), things have not gone as planned. 

Scripts were rewritten, principle actors left the production, others went on to become BFFs with U.S. President Donald Trump, and there has been such an extreme shift in characters, that nothing about the 2016 opening season of “Brexit, the musical” looks the same today. While the Tories have demonstrated breathtaking incompetence given that every single actor involved in pushing for Brexit has resigned, disappeared, or changed campaign promises, I am equally as concerned by what is going on the other side of the aisle, where the situation is no better and astonishingly falling into it’s own tragicomedy. Some pundits critique the failure of Jeremy Corbyn to step up to the challenge to address the reality that two-thirds of Labour MPs are Remainers and the looming problem that Gina Miller’s court case present for the sovereignty of Parliament. And just yesterday it was announced that SuperDry co-founder, Julian Dunkerton, has donated £1m to the campaign for another EU referendum. As if we need another season!

As soon as the Brexit result was announced two summers ago, I immediately saw reverberations within academia as many colleagues had grants in the air whcih depended on EU money.  Most didn’t go forward. Many other colleagues chose to return to their homelands of France, Germany, and Austria seeing the writing on the wall.  In recent months U.K. scientists have expressed extreme concern as to how Brexit has already begun to affect the country’s ability to draw in the best talent through research fellowships. There has already been a 5% decrease by scientists outside the UK noted from 2015-2016 to 2016-2017.  Since it was launched last month, leading British scientists to include two Nobel prize winners are among the 687,000 who have signed the “Final Say” petition launched by the Independent asking for a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

Brexit is awash in a series of myths that have led to this massively confusing situation today. We are witnessing an abuse of public confidence from the stories we were told two years ago to the promises made to those on both sides of the aisle about what would happen either way. And not surprisingly, we wake up every morning to a flurry of news that is so enigmatic, that we quickly switch over to the business news or another article on the latest smart phone for “light reading.” Yes, it’s that bad.

Brexit has become so confusing that it is quickly becoming boring.  So boring that I am now considering giving Westworld another go-around since it’s either that or to assume that Mrs. Peacock killed Colonel Mustard with a bridge trophy in the study when it comes to the future of the U.K.  At least a Cluedo ending, even if confusing, is far more entertaining.

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Julian Vigo is a scholar, film-maker and human rights consultant. Her latest book is Earthquake in Haiti: The Pornography of Poverty and the Politics of Development (2015). She can be reached at: julian.vigo@gmail.com

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