Saskia Murphy on the Brexit game that nobody can win

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On that day of doom back in June 2016, when half of the population was driving to work filled with a sense of fear and dread while the other half gave excitable interviews to ITV about how Nigel Farage was finally about to give us our sovereignty back, I’d already decided which side of the fence I was on.

The word Remoaner seemed to pop up out of nowhere. But it was perfect. It was like one of those Scandinavian words that captures a feeling perfectly. That was me. I was Anna Soubry. I was never going to accept this nightmare. The simple question of Brexit was wrong, the campaign was wrong, the result was wrong.

The day after the referendum, a former acquaintance from school shared a screenshot of a friend request she’d received on Facebook. The man in the image was South Asian, and this person had shared it to her profile accompanied by the caption: “Hahaha, don’t be trying to marry me for a visa now our borders are closed.”

Of course this person’s Facebook profile was swiftly deleted from my friends list before my eyeballs exploded out of their sockets, but the reason I’m sharing this is to prove a point. A lot of people did not understand what Brexit was.

Plenty of people had valid reasons for wanting out of the bloc, and it is not helpful or polite to disregard them, but the question of whether or not we left should not have been put to the British public before we knew what life outside the EU would look like. The question of leave or remain was put on a ballot paper with deceptive simplicity. People were sold promises that could not be delivered. Emotions were stirred and ultimately swayed a vote on a topic that is so complex and unsentimental that most of us have switched off at the point when political commentators are telling us it’s getting interesting.

Last week a Britain Thinks poll found 83 per cent of people are sick of hearing about Brexit. We are walking bored and blindfolded into a crisis.

Who’d have known that rather than answering a simple question of remain or leave, what we were actually doing back in June 2016 was playing a game. We were becoming pawns while a number of high-profile politicians fought for their legacy. The reason Cameron gave us the vote in the first place is because he wanted to keep his seat on the Iron Throne. The reason May is clinging on with her last breath is because she wants Brexit. After more than two years of deliberations, May wants to go down in history. She wants recognition. Meanwhile Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg are watching from the sidelines, hoping they will have a chance to swoop in and become architects of a Tory leavers’ utopia.

But to what extent will politicians forsake the wellbeing of the country for their own political gain? Will it be when the nation’s insulin stores are completely empty, or when fruit and vegetables are left rotting in the back of lorries and supermarket shelves are bare?

Of course the great irony in this silly game is that at the moment nobody is winning. After all the lies, infighting and resignations, nobody is getting their legacy. And if the past three years have taught us anything, it’s that they don’t deserve it.

Saskia Murphy is a Manchester-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter @SaskiaMurphy

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