Brexit Derangement Syndrome is just a natural consequence of an unhealthy attachment to politics. It’s now rampant within Project Wreck, says Sean Walsh.
Ah, the narcissism of imagined indispensability! Be honest, what did you think when you saw that David Miliband had flown in to save us from Brexit? I will confess that I had a mental image: David Brent, sacked from Wernham Hogg, waiting for the phone call that will invite him back and then- unable to wait any longer – driving over to Slough anyway. But I might be suffering from “Brexit Derangement Syndrome”. Matthew Parris has it, he has divulged. He’s not quite right at the moment. Similarly, the “Muslim intellectual” (her words not mine) Yasmin Alibhai- Brown. She’s not her usual self either <coughs>. I once saw Ms Brown on a book review program on BBC Parliament when she blithely announced that she had not bothered to read the book she was reviewing. As Guido has implied, if she thinks that Brexit has driven her mad she might want to check her dates.
You can’t be too careful: there’s a lot of Brexit about – and almost as much derangement. Last weekend I decided on a complete Brexit detox. I turned to The Sopranos. Big mistake.
As you will know, the Sopranos is David Chase’s awesome drama about a fictitious New Jersey Mafia “family”. They have their own code. Except when they don’t. They look after their own. Unless it’s worth more not to. In the episode I watched one of the Soprano capos decides that the life of extortion he’s signed up to is not, after all, for him. That if he leaves then he might be worse off financially, but that this will be offset by the fact that he will be freer and happier. He tries to leave. They refuse. He offers money to leave. They say “no”. He kills himself.
Somehow it did not seem the Brexit distraction I’d been hoping for.
Is there such a thing as Brexit Derangement Syndrome? Sure, in a way it’s real enough for the simple reason that excessive interest in politics is bad for you. It encourages attachments to the ephemeral and discourages acceptance of those things ( that is to say most of them) over which we are powerless. Mrs May’s insistence that we will of course be leaving the customs union puts me in mind of the parent who greets her child’s imprecations with “We’ll see, we’ll see”. We know what that means: that the parent is already rehearsing in her own mind just how to let the child down gently. Politicians lie to us not because they are (all) bad people but because they are so attached to the here, now and immediate future. This causes a misalignment of the psyche and a loss of authenticity. Politicians become personally and systematically dishonest because they have surrendered their selves to the contingencies of politics. Brexit Derangement Syndrome is just an end product of this more general malaise: it marks the point at which the usual condition of the politician reaches out and infects the commentator.
So why should we take any notice of those politicians and has-been politicians who are archetypes of the dishonesty that has infected the Brexit discussion? The same Wreckers who “warned” us before the referendum that to leave the EU meant to leave the single market and customs union are now saying that the vote to leave the EU did not mean a vote to leave the single market and customs union. Not just the same campaign but the very same people. If there is a crisis here then with all due respect to David Miliband, Nicki Morgan and the other bloke it’s not clear to the rest of us that co-ordinated cognitive dissonance is the best response to it.
I’m more than aware of how Project Wreck responds here. “Leaving the EU does not mean leaving all its attendant structures. Being outside the EU is compatible with membership of the customs union and/or single market. Look at Norway! Look at Turkey! Don’t be so binary!”. But this move is misconceived. These countries are heavily implicated in the structures of the EU and the attendant compromises in their independence is vindicated -if it is- on grounds of a precarious economic consideration. Our vote here was motivated not by economic motivation but by a wish to recuperate our freedom. We were reminded of that in the weeks prior to June 2016. Not least by David Miliband and Nicki Morgan et al. We did not vote to swap membership of the EU for incarceration by it. I don’t know what is the current composition of the politburo which functions as Jeremy Corbyn’s mind, but even he sometimes seems to get this – before the lights go out again.
I wonder what the Wreckers’ next move will be. I guess they could argue that if the EU were to change its name to the European Partnership or some such then we could “leave” the EU without anything changing at all. That’s no more “deranged” than most of the confected outrage that substitutes for debate in these strange times.
I hope that’s not given them any ideas. Mrs Soubry: if you are reading this then please ignore that last paragraph. Don’t listen to me! It’s been years since I changed a nappy!.