Brexit: The Movie

by John-Paul Pryor


If the historic night in British politics got a Hollywood makeover – what kind of movie would it be?


Sadly, it’s not a pitch for a dystopian Hollywood epic based upon a twisted John Le Carre novel—it’s the reality of a place I call home. What the British have been referring to as Brexit, which, let’s face it, sounds like a breakfast cereal from Trader Joe’s, has proved itself the most effective and divisive tool of the post-factual, post-political paradigm we are now seemingly collectively entering. And it bodes ill for the future not only of Europe, but also for the world, in that it gives hope to a certain orange-skinned simian-like billionaire that the rhetoric of division, cocktailed with a heady shot of factual inaccuracy, can indeed prevail.

So, what in the hell did happen? And how best to make the movie? Well, one angle is tragedy. Brexit: The Movie could base the central narrative upon a heartbreaking tale of the brash foolhardiness of a ruddy-faced Etonian Prime Minister. A man who, at one time, wanted to appease a rabble of Eurosceptic ministers in his political party, and, to secure loyalty, thusly promised them a referendum on whether to ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ the European Union, assuming a win—a tale of an irresponsible political gamble that turned into a gargantuan monster; this would, obviously, be epic in sweep. Another pitch would be that it’s essentially the story of a vile propagandist popular tabloid press gone utterly rogue, one that would lie to the degree that they even falsely claimed the sovereign of the isle wanted to ‘leave’ and incessantly plastered xenophobic headlines of hate across every possible medium—this angle could be a contemporary reframing of Orwell’s 1984, but with alcoholic hacks taking the role of Big Brother (The Sun and The Daily Express being particularly complicit).

Perhaps, though, one could take the family-movie angle that it is the tale of a floppy-haired bumbling posh boy with a spider's name who, hungry for power, accidentally causes a referendum by spending  years bemoaning the European Union and then has no idea what to do when the outcome he thinks he might want given his lust to become Prime Minister (but being such a bumbling flopsy, isn’t too sure) is announced. Pixar might even pick up on that one. Let's be clear, this is a man whose quote upon the 'leave' win he fought for was: "We cannot turn our backs on Europe, we are part of Europe.”

Brexit: The Movie  could also be played as an all-out horror-flick, with the central theme being the rise to prominence of an angry seperatist amphibian freak with no real plan of what to do (in any given situation) but with a penchant for divisive hate rhetoric and Animal Farm-like slogans, such as ‘Let’s Take Our Country Back’. I'm sure that one sounds all-too familiar to US ears. That version is pretty terrifying—a darkly absurdist piece of cinema, it would kick off with the assassination and the scream, ‘Britain First! Death to Traitors!’ This would then be followed by a pan to a bill-poster portraying very sad-looking people of color standing in a very long queue, and a number of speeches about the 'dangers of job-stealing migrants' from said strange toad-like creature holding a pint of lager.

But then, Brexit: The Movie could also be framed as an earnest kitchen-sink drama of ordinary working people. After all, if you are wondering why Britain would vote (by a very, very small margin) to be the first country to leave the European Union you need only look to people in working-class post-industrial towns who have used the referendum as some kind of emblematic vote against the establishment, largely because they are flat broke and their towns have been "shat on by Tories, shoveled up by Labour…" to quote the late Richard Griffiths in the classic British comedy Withnail & I. Perhaps someone like Ken Loach could even direct this version, in order to overturn the neo-liberal notion of some mythical, racist, educationally subnormal underclass - after all, when people have nothing, they have nothing to lose. This would feature the scheming subplot figure of the leader of the opposition,  a shambling supposed do-gooder failing to convince the blue-collar heartlands of The Left to 'remain', and then resolutely refusing to step down despite his utter ineptitude.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, Brexit: The Movie could be shot as a short; a prelude opener to a film in which a psychopathic Oompa Loompa entrenches himself in the White House, gets over-excited about stickle bricks and and plays footsie with a nuclear arsenal—think The Hobbit before it morphs into The Lord of The Rings. The sad fact of the matter, however, is that, in absolute reality Brexit: The Movie is all these elements hashed into one ungodly mess, which has pitted a swathe of 'leavers' about to slip this mortal coil against the younger generation, who voted emphatically to 'remain'. And yet, there is still one more thing to take into consideration. The referendum is not legally binding, and means little (in law at least) without the invocation of the irreversible Article 50 of The Lisbon Treaty, which will press-the-button on the two-year process of a member state leaving the European Union into gear. The ruddy-faced leader who created the mess has at least had the decency to fall on his sword and leave that 'activation' to his, likely floppy-haired, successor. The timing, process and decision to do this have to be decided upon by Parliamentary process, so, hey, it's not over, till it's over - which begets the possibility of a sequel, or two...  However, you cut it, though, the black humor at the heart of this fiasco is that the referendum that shall hereto and forevermore be known as Brexit, never really needed to happen, and that’s its tragedy—it’s just a very, very bad idea that snowballed. Don't let that happen here.

Written by John-Paul Pryor