Brexit films, books, and television.

Brexit films, books, and television.

Brexit Billboard in Los Angeles Sparks Conversation and Reflection

Brexit Billboard

Los Angeles, known for its glamorous lifestyle and sunny weather, served as the backdrop for an intriguing encounter surrounding the topic of Brexit. As I rode through Hollywood Boulevard in a cheerful taxi, basking in the joy of promoting my latest book, “Capitalism in America: A History” – co-authored with Alan Greenspan, a giant red billboard caught my attention. The billboard simply read, “BREXIT.” Perplexed, I queried my taxi driver, hoping to decipher this unexpected sighting.

To my surprise, my driver informed me that the billboard was advertising the new Benedict Cumberbatch film, ominously titled “An Uncivil War,” but more commonly known as “Brexit” in the United States. I seized the opportunity to ask him his thoughts on Brexit, conducting what foreign correspondents refer to as “research.” With a background in political science and a penchant for studying political failures, he offered a remarkable summary of the entire tumultuous saga, rivaling the expertise of seasoned lobby correspondents.

Hailing from Nigeria, he had migrated to the United States after completing his studies. His assessment of Brexit placed it at the top of his ranking of disastrous political decisions, followed closely by David Cameron’s leadership. Although I balked at the comparison, suggesting that Britain was not on the same level as Venezuela, he argued that it was a matter of trajectory. He believed that Britain had fallen significantly from its previous position, surpassing any other nation in the realm of political calamities.

Insights from Sir Ivan Rogers: “Nine Lessons in Brexit”

Among the numerous writings on Brexit, Sir Ivan Rogers’s book, “Nine Lessons in Brexit” stands out as an illuminating perspective. Sir Ivan, Britain’s former Permanent Representative to the European Union, who resigned due to the government’s dismissal of his concerns about the challenges of Brexit, accurately predicted the profound disaster that awaited the nation. While I won’t delve into all nine lessons, a few notable points caught my attention.

Firstly, the argument for reverting to World Trade Organization (WTO) terms while simultaneously claiming that Brexit would provide an opportunity for Britain to negotiate trade deals on different terms contradicts itself. Secondly, the European Union’s influence as a regulatory superpower extends beyond the governance of goods to include the control of information flows. As a consequence, Britain must adhere to these regulations without the ability to influence them, a significant blow to the service economy that increasingly relies on information exchange. Lastly, even if Brexit proceeds without any catastrophic events on March 29th, the most challenging phase of negotiations with the EU still lies ahead, guaranteeing that Brexit will remain at the heart of British politics for years to come.

Sir Ivan expresses a belief that the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit is higher than conventional wisdom suggests. While many may argue over the accuracy of this assertion, there is a growing sense among influential parliamentary sources that a crash out is becoming a probable outcome, placing the odds at approximately 60%. The European Research Group, a faction of pro-Brexit Members of Parliament, has been trying to normalize the idea of a no-deal Brexit. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May’s primary focus seems to be keeping her Conservative Party intact rather than prioritizing the best interests of the country. The Europeans, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly convinced that the situation may be untenable.

Embracing Decline and Marginalization: A British Specialty

While Brexit undoubtedly poses a threat to Britain’s potential growth in the immediate future, it may inadvertently play into an enduring British characteristic – the ability to reconcile themselves with decline and marginalization. This intriguing talent has been chronicled in British comedy, often spotlighting entertaining failures and studying seemingly hapless characters who navigate life’s challenges in remarkable ways.

Iconic figures such as David Brent from “The Office,” Alan Partridge, the DJ on Radio Norwich, and Basil Fawlty of “Fawlty Towers” epitomize the British admiration for resilient anti-heroes. These characters resonate with audiences because they reflect the experiences of many Britons laboring under ineffective management in unexciting towns. Astonishingly, research reveals that Britain’s long-tail of poorly managed companies contributes to its “productivity puzzle.” The struggles faced by these characters strike a chord with a wide audience who can relate to encounters with inept bosses, dreary accommodations, and subpar service.

Philip Larkin, regarded as one of the greatest post-war poets, also embraced themes of decline and marginalization, capturing the essence of his era. Despite living an unassuming life in Hull, away from the glitz enjoyed by his friend Kingsley Amis, Larkin reveled in contemplating solutions as potential problems and blessings as disguised disasters. His poem “Mr Bleaney” explores the emptiness of life in remote places, where happiness and fulfillment remain distant memories or seemingly irrelevant dreams.

While Margaret Thatcher attempted to inject an American “can-do” spirit into British politics and challenge the notion of “managed decline,” her efforts failed to take root. Instead, managers akin to David Brent thrived, and alongside a booming City, the Britain of Basil Fawlty and Mr Bleaney entrenched itself in the provinces. Paradoxically, this uniquely British trait of embracing decline and marginalization may now prepare the nation for its future.

Political Optimism Amidst Division and Uncertainty

Amidst the turmoil of Brexit, a glimmer of optimism has emerged, embodied by the actions of the twelve MPs who recently left their parties. Their departure from the parties to which they dedicated years of their lives is undoubtedly a decision laden with uncertainty about their future. Nevertheless, they exude a sense of relief and happiness, liberated from the shackles of party machines they have come to despise. Their departure promises the possibility of something better.

Heidi Allen, one of the MPs who exemplifies this optimism, has been particularly effective in conveying the spirit of this significant moment in British politics. Previously overlooked and underserved by the Conservative Party, Mrs. Allen’s talent remained largely unrecognized. Prime Minister Theresa May, tarnished by her disastrous handling of Brexit, must also be remembered as one of the Conservative Party’s most lackluster managers. Her cabinet’s retention of underperforming individuals, such as Chris Grayling and Gavin Williamson, along with her failure to leverage the potential of rising stars like Rory Stewart, perpetuates a sense of stagnation.

The billboard sighting in Los Angeles, sparking conversations about Brexit, serves as a reminder that Britain is on the precipice of change and uncertainty. While emotions run high and divisions deepen, the ability to find humor and embrace decline may just prepare the nation for its future. As Britain navigates the complexities of Brexit, the spirit of optimism embodied by the departing MPs represents a refreshing and dynamic force in British politics, holding the promise of transforming the nation’s trajectory.