Belfast Telegraph

Fionola Meredith: Totally bored with Brexit? Bamboozled by the backstop? Believe me, you are not alone

Our relentless focus on the UK's departure from the EU is damaging public discourse, says Fionola Meredith

Can I whisper a terrible secret in your ear? I'm bored with Brexit. Not just a little weary or jaded. This is not some trivial, passing ennui. I am all-out, full-on, utterly, definitively and irrevocably sick of Brexit. It's gone beyond the back teeth.

Yes, thanks, I'm well aware of Brexit's enormous significance. We are living through a time of incredible political upheaval, and any deal that is finally agreed - or any no-deal - will have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences, not least for our own small corner of the world.

Heck, maybe the Union will even implode, as the DUP have been threatening - who knows?

So, I get it. Britain's departure from the European Union could be the biggest political story of our lifetimes, and we all have a stake in what happens.

But Brexit has become so huge, such a relentless, obsessive subject of speculation and counter-speculation - some of it tweedily dull, some of it feverishly manic, much of it ridiculously ill-informed - that there is barely any room left to talk about anything else.

It's like a giant black hole, sucking in everything in its path: education, social care, the NHS, the environment, the no-show government at Stormont.

None of this matters, because Brexit.

Experts now tell us that, at this stage, we have only reached the end of the beginning. Oh please God no. There are years and years more to come of this tortuous manoeuvring, while ideologues of all varieties shriek from the sidelines.

One of the most irritating things is the technocratic jargon that's constantly bandied around. Honestly, if I hear the words 'regulatory differences' one more time, I really think I'll weep from pure tedium.

Still worse is the language of violence and war. We regularly hear talk of annexing, weaponising and entering the killing zone, which seems to me to be particularly distasteful in the context of the recent Armistice centenary, marking the end of a war in which young men were sent to a real killing zone and slaughtered in their millions.

Boris Johnson has had notorious form in this area for years, previously telling EU leaders not to give the UK "punishment beatings" for Brexit and accusing the EU of "extortion" over the financial settlement. Nice to see the ex-Foreign Secretary appropriating familiar terms from our own conflict. Glad we could be of assistance, sir (Doffs cap).

Other Conservatives are really losing the plot, in increasingly grotesque ways. A few weeks ago, a Tory backbencher was quoted in a newspaper saying: "The moment is coming when the knife gets heated, stuck in [Theresa May's] front and twisted. She'll be dead soon." The Prime Minister was also told to "bring her own noose" to a meeting.

It's not just elected representatives who are guilty of such intemperate, self-indulgent and inflammatory language. Certain members of the London Press, bobbing about complacently in the Westminster bubble, are also guilty.

For example, in last week's Sunday Times, a Brexit report referred to Cabinet ministers Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey finding themselves on "suicide watch" - being monitored by the media to see if they were about to resign.

This is what the disproportionate focus on Brexit is doing to our politics and public discourse. It has become so hysterically unhinged that it's now acceptable to use the analogy of somebody killing themselves to describe a possible political resignation.

You know it's bad when even political hacks start saying they're fed up.

Jane Merrick, the former political editor of the Independent on Sunday, wrote on CNN.com that Brexit was a "boring, slow-motion train wreck".

As long ago as April 2017, Sophy Ridge, the high-profile Sky News presenter, was wondering if she could "voice the unthinkable" and declare she was bored with Brexit.

"Does everything have to be viewed through the Brexit lens?" she asked. "Not everything is 'despite Brexit' or 'because of Brexit'."

Ridge admitted that she was secretly looking forward to a time beyond the "all-consuming Brexit monster".If she was that frustrated a year-and-a-half ago, Lord knows what state of eye-rolling tedium the poor woman is in by now. I sympathise.

Sometimes I wonder if all this is even about Brexit itself. Our drawn-out departure from the European Union is frequently used as a vehicle for self-important people - both in politics and beyond - to strut and swagger, posture and parade.

Rather than focusing on collective, constructive problem-solving, most Brexit discussions seem to be little more than an arena for narcissists to compete with one another, and play their infantile war-games.

Well, I'm done with it all.

Wake me up in a couple of years, would you?

Belfast Telegraph

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