Sunday 19 January 2020

Television review: Brexit: It's not when, but if

  • Brexit (All Channels)
  • Prime Time (RTE1)
British Prime Minister Theresa May loses her grip on her notes
British Prime Minister Theresa May loses her grip on her notes
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

At some point in the last 10 days, newsreaders in Britain started saying "if Britain leaves the EU", not "when".

Having declared from the start that "there will be no Brexit", that reality in its myriad forms would find a way to allow for these changes, while leaving everything more or less the same, I am heartened by these developments.

And yet perhaps the true nature of the damage is largely unspoken, but is revealed almost every time a British politician is seen on television.

When Theresa May is standing at the podium next to Emmanuel Macron and her papers are blown away by the wind, when she is left standing absurdly alone as she mistimes her move in the Mexican wave at the football international, it seems that the gods are working fiendishly to give expression to this underlying truth - that the people who run Britain really should have found a way out of this foolishness by now, and due to their failure in this regard, Britain can no longer be regarded as a serious country.

The TV camera itself seems to have become a protagonist here, relentlessly diminishing May during the campaign, draining away the illusion of competence which many had simply assumed that she possessed, making it clear with every encounter that her personality is just far too limited for the job she is supposed to be doing. That far from besting the Eurocrats, they will devour her.

So now it is "if", not "when".

And it is a good thing too, that this is happening in these terrible weeks after the football season, that politics is for once providing us with matters of some substance to divert us.

Yet they are always reminding us too that the silliness of their season never ends, like with that asinine ritual whereby one of the correspondents who seem to live outside Number 10, shouts a question to whoever is coming out the door.

"Prime Minister, will you be resigning?!" one of them calls out, as if they're trying to prove to their editors at the BBC or ITV that they are in position at Downing Street, not at the bar of the Rose & Crown, where in truth they might be doing something more useful than this pointless bellowing.

After all, I am not aware of any Prime Minister or other politician actually responding to these shouts in any meaningful way. None of them has ever stopped walking, paused for a few moments of sober reflection, and then beckoned to a Laura Kuenssberg to join them with the microphone into which they say something like this: "Will I be resigning?...You know Laura, I hadn't actually considered that option until you mentioned it just there… but now that you've brought it up, you know what?... I really think you might be on to something there… in fact… I have just this moment reached a decision on this… I will be resigning…thank you for your contribution Laura, and later today I will be making a full statement in the Commons."

No, you don't see much of that, but still they do it, still it gives them some strange pleasure.

And watching this, our political class has stirred itself with an unusual spate of midsummer action, responding to all the primitive noises coming from Britain with what we perceive to be a progressive move, the election of a new Taoiseach with a modernist air about him.

It's a bit too early for "Mr Varadkar, will you be resigning?!", but "Prime Time" put on a Wednesday night special to welcome him, without mentioning his most important attribute - the fact that beside Theresa May, he will look like some kind of a movie god meeting an unhappy ancestor.

We are watching these things, because Ireland in the time of Brexit has become like a passive smoker, getting all the fumes and none of the fun, as our neighbours indulge themselves in another massive cigar - the type which they are probably trying to sell to the Cubans, when they leave the EU.

If they leave the EU.

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