Almost everything about Brexit has surprised me. The narrow vote in its favour was driven by well-off politicians exploiting a fear of immigration. But the measures we took in response have left us short of the workforce we need for prosperity. The original intention was that we should then ally ourselves even closer to the United States. But first, we had an American president who was pretty well insane – partnership became impossible – and his successor is now furious with us for throwing away any influence for good we once had. We are left triumphantly celebrating cheap Australian sheep-meat.
The other amazement has been the level of practical incompetence. If you’re on a mission, surely you will give some serious thought to its execution? Apparently not. Everyone defines a UK/Irish border according to taste. But it unarguably exists. Our negotiator, David Frost, believes in creative ambiguity. Six months after the deal went through, you will find him protesting that his own deal is unsustainable. But who negotiated it?
Artistically, we have cut ourselves off from Europe by tangling up musicians and actors – theirs and ours – in the red tape which Conservatives dishonestly pretend to dislike. For every industry, the break has involved one big cat’s cradle of statist bureaucracy. Far from setting us free, it’s tightened our chains. I love the stoicism and humour of the British people. I love their literature and I love the best of their communal institutions. But we have just suffered, in succession, the six worst governments in British history, with both of Boris Johnson’s openly law-breaking and corrupt. Why do the British put up with it? I have absolutely no idea.
David Hare is a playwright, screenwriter and director
This article is from our “How Brexit changed us” series, marking five years since the referendum.