Belfast Telegraph

Pol O Muiri: If you won a game of football 52 to 48, it would be over but with Brexit, there's no final whistle in sight


Prime Minister Theresa May holds a Press conference in Brussels last week
Prime Minister Theresa May holds a Press conference in Brussels last week
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Novelist Franz Kafka

By Pol O Muiri

You may not have read any of his books, but you will recognise the name Franz Kafka. He has given the English language the adjective "Kafkaesque" and his work, in my dictionary anyway, describes his writings as showing man's "fear, isolation and bewilderment in a nightmarish, dehumanised world".

One of Kafka's best known works is The Metamorphosis, a novella in which a wandering salesman, Gregor Samsa, wakes up to find himself transformed into an insect. He does not know how or why this has happened, or how to change back.

Samsa is helpless in his new form, caught between what he knew and what he has now become. Something has happened to turn his world upside down and he is powerless against the forces that have beset him. "Kafkaesque" is certainly more than a fitting adjective for what we face now; we have all been turned into Brexit-beetles. We wake up flailing around helplessly every morning wondering how this process has turned our world upside down and how do we get back to our right forms. Is it even possible anymore?

Fear? Isolation? Bewilderment? Nightmare? Check, tick, yes and aye.

It seems entirely appropriate that Samsa was a travelling salesman; freedom of movement and free trade being part and parcel of the Brexit debate.

Events have become even more Kafkaesque the longer Brexit has gone on. A million years ago a vote was held to leave the European Union. Those who wanted to leave won. Those who wanted to remain lost.

Then, somehow, those who wanted to remain did not lose and those who wanted to leave did not win. The result was too close to call, with only 52% wanting to leave, while 48% wanted to stay - though, if you won a game of football by 52 goals to 48 you would have won; a game of rugby 52 tries to 48 you would have won. The final whistle would have been blown, the game completed, the cup awarded.

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However, it seems that there is no final whistle in Brexit. The game carries on and on and on and on and becomes more and more bizarre.

Even more Kafkaesque, politicians also change into something that seems to be stuck between two worlds.

Prime Minister Theresa May, before she gained the highest office in the land, wanted to remain.

She lost the referendum vote, but also won when her predecessor David Cameron resigned over the lost vote. Churchillian spirit in the face of adversity, where are you?

The May leopard changed its spots to become a fierce tiger who would fight for Brexit. Then the tiger became a sloth, moving, moving, moving, slowly, slowly, slowly, along the branch of politics to grasp the fruit at its end.

The Prime Minister drew up a withdrawal agreement that many in her own party did not actually think involved withdrawing and left them worse off than before.

Many gave off to May about her plan. Then, some of those who had given off to her and did not think that her agreement went far enough, voted for it anyway. Kafka would have a field day with such material.

Worse, May, who did not want anything to do with the Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, decided that, no, wait, she would have a chat or two with him about the whole thing after all. Yes, it is all very high-powered stuff, but smacks of someone deciding to issue a last-minute wedding invitation to the boring uncle who no one wants to sit with.

It certainly confuses the issue even more. Who is playing on which team now? Is there any team now? Where is the ref in all this?

Now, there is an extension to the process and EU deadlines seem to be as movable as our own peace process ones. The March and April deadline have passed without VE Day and now the process may go on until the end of October - at least. Will the political war to end all political wars be over by Christmas?

There is also the very real possibility that the UK will have to run election candidates for a European Parliament that millions of its voters do not want and which they are supposed to leave.

Perhaps we need to leave Kafka behind and see Mrs May as the Black Knight in her own version of Monty Python And The Holy Grail (of Brexit). She has lost limb after limb, but still thinks she is capable of fighting - "Tis but a scratch... a flesh wound".

And why did the EU's politburo allow for another extension and not just let the UK leave with a no-deal? After all, if the neighbours from Hell want to trash their property and move away, why would you stop them?

If no-deal is something that is just going to impact badly on the British, then why did the Continental powers not just let them get on with it?

Did we see a hint in all the bluster that the remaining EU countries have as much reason to fear the nuclear option of no-deal as the UK?

Is that MAD - Mutually Assured Destruction - or just mad?

People often laugh at that old story about philosophers in the Middle Ages, who used to wonder about the nature of time, or how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

Are we any better? How many deadlines must pass to take the "dead" out of deadline? How many times can a withdrawal agreement appear in Parliament?

When is a withdrawal agreement not a withdrawal agreement? If you vote to leave an institution, but still adhere to that institution's rules and regulations, can you really have said to have left?

Medieval philosophers would have a field day wondering how many withdrawal agreements could dance on a pinhead and what is EU time.

Once upon a time the British had an Empire on which the sun never set. Now it is Brexit on which the sun never sets.

Pol O Muiri is a writer and commentator

Belfast Telegraph


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