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4 September 2017

Nick Clegg’s cup of tea and 6 other metaphors for Brexit

“It's a bit like staring at a building site and saying we've made progress because we've made a cup of tea.”

By Julia Rampen

Nick Clegg may no longer be the MP for Sheffield Hallam, nor the commander of the student vote, but his gift for metaphors ensures he will continue to influence political debate for some time to come. His latest contribution is to belittle Brexit secretary David Davis’s suggestion the government has made progress on Brexit. “It’s a bit like staring at a building site and saying we’ve made progress because we’ve made a cup of tea,” he told BBC Radio 4.

But the Cleggster is not the only politician with a Brexit metaphor or simile. Here are some of the best to emerge since 23 June 2016:

1. “More complicated than a moon landing”

If the Brexit secretary’s idea of progress is modest, that might be because a year after the Leave vote, which he campaigned for, Davis declared: “Half of my task is running a set of projects that make the Nasa moon shot look quite simple.”

2. “An infinitely replenishing cake”

Recent Leave convert Boris Johnson’s shell-shocked face might have spoken for the nation on 24 June 2016, but three months on he was declaring: “Our policy is having our cake and eating it.” He added cryptically: “We are Pro-secco but by no means anti-pasto”. 

3. “A military coup”

The philosopher AC Grayling, on the other hand, told Euractiv in May 2017 that “the way in which things have been handled since the referendum, with the lack of debate, the way the government has pushed to get on with things before people start to notice they are making it up as they go along, it is starting to look a lot like a coup.”

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4. “Graduating from college with unrealistic expectations”

The Tory MP John Redwood declared in January: 

“Being in the EU is a bit like being a student in a college. All the time you belong to the college you have to pay fees. You have to obey all the rules of the institution. When you depart you have no further financial obligations.”

Our literary critic Stephen Bush unpicks the questionable logic of this metaphor here.

5. “Buying our second home”

Chancellor Philip Hammond may have backed Remain, but he seems to have come round to Brexit by convincing himself it’s similar to buying a second home.

“When you buy a house, you don’t necessarily move all your furniture in on the first day that you buy it,” he told Radio 4

6. “Children fighting to death”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was unconvincing as a Remainer, but at least when it comes to negotiations he sounded genuine. “There must be an end to this Hunger Games approach to Brexit negotiations, which gives no consideration to EU nationals in our country or British nationals living abroad,” he said. 

Our Media Mole, while also concerned by the fate of EU nationals, was a little worried that along with the undoubted frustrations of legal limbo, there was now apparently the prospect of children fighting to the death and then eventually overthrowing a repressive regime.