“Brexit talks in endgame, says Theresa May” – that’s a headline on the BBC website this morning. “What’s Brexit?”– two of my students yesterday.
Oh, what blissful Brexit innocence. If only we all could be left in such an immaculate state.
These are not journalism students, but they do study aspects of journalism. And they are only 18 or 19. A little further probing levered out a cautious nub of knowledge about leaving the EU – but the topic still came under the headline of “oh, that’s all just politics”.
Two thoughts occurred to me in that session, which was in part about living in a post-truth world. According to that arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg-or-Moog (see past ledges), it might take 50 years to discover the benefits of Brexit. That would make these students even older than I am now. They’ll be pushing 70 by the time Britain knows if Brexit was a good idea (spoiler alert: it isn’t).
The second thought concerned the brotherly shove between the two Johnson boys. It’s not often, or indeed ever, you see that surname in a headline about Brexit and think, “Oh, he’s talking sense.”
But that was my reaction on reading Jo Johnson’s resignation letter. Unlike Boris, Jo is a low-flying Johnson. So low-flying that some people’s reaction on hearing this news was: “Ah, there’s another one – never knew that.”
This other Johnson was until the other day the Minister for Transport. But now he has transported himself out of government, declaring in his resignation letter that the handling of Brexit presents the “greatest crisis since the Second World War”.
Not-Boris also said that the emerging Brexit deal is “a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis”. That debacle occurred just as this ledge-bound pursuer of a this-and-that life was getting born, which suggests that these affairs can certainly drag on.
Some fear that Jo might even be understating matters here – not a failing associated with his grandly gobby brother. Jo and Boris stand on opposite sides in the Brexit debate; Jo has always been a Remainer, while Boris flipped a coin to decide which side he was on. He came out in favour of Brexit for what many consider to be reasons of self-interest: he reckoned it gave him a better shot at being prime minister (spoiler alert: not yet, thank God).
This fraternal divide is interesting: both brothers are against Brexit, even though they stand on different sides of the fence – or maybe it’s more of a thorny thicket, as fences are too neat an analogy.
Jo Johnson supports a second referendum and said after his resignation that Britain needed to “pause and reflect” before doing “something irrevocably” stupid over Brexit.
He said this second vote was necessary because what is being offered fell “spectacularly short” of what we were promised. What we were promised, if you can remember that far back, was a quick and simple exit, followed by years of sunshine in a British Empire Mark II.
It’s always struck me as odd that this shoddy scenario both celebrates the shedding of one foreign influence (Europe), while requiring us to chase around after foreigners who live further away. At least one of whom is an unstable, self-declared pussy-grabber with morals so low they struggle to fill the worn-out toe of one sock.
To close with an ‘incidentally’, the non-bullshit, Not-Boris is married to the Guardian journalist Amelia Gentleman, who ran her newspaper’s coverage on the Windrush scandal. And to bring things full circle, I am in contact with Amelia for a session next term on the theme of “when journalism does good”.