The ‘B’ word is strangely absent from the conversation today


Today is the fourth anniversary of Brexit. Hardly anyone is marking the occasion.

Take a look at the eight front pages below. None of them refer to that transformative event, which set off a period of intense political turmoil in Britain, paralysing Parliament, polarising the country and pushed two Conservative prime ministers out of office.

The Brexit referendum.

Today, is the fourth anniversary of David Cameron’s referendum on European Union (EU) membership. Cameron called the referendum and hoped for the best. Instead, when 72% of the nation voted, the result was narrow and consequential. By 52% to 48% Britain voted to leave the EU.

The anniversary is being remembered by only the most committed: politicians, pundits and professional commentators.

David Gauke, who sacrificed his cabinet position, for the greater cause of a balanced approach to the EU, tweeted about Brexit four years on.

Professor Anand Menon, who heads the King’s College-based research group the UK in a Changing Europe, wrote an op-ed about the “rollercoaster ride” of the past four years.

The Guardian’s cartoonist poked fun at the “larks” Boris Johnson might still be promising Britain, at some unspecified point in the future, “once we’ve got everything back to normal.”

The Financial Times’ front page story on a “post-Brexit deal” between Japan and the UK makes a roundabout mention of the consequences of Brexit. It notes that ‘Japan has given the UK just six weeks to strike a post-Brexit deal, putting Boris Johnson’s government under pressure to agree one of the fastest trade negotiations in history — and Britain’s first in more than 40 years.’

Other than that, the ‘B’ word is largely absent from front pages and the national conversation.

To some that might seem strange, considering Brexit consumed Britain in the years since that fateful day 23 June, 2016.

But then on 31 January, 2020, some of the more debilitating effects of Brexit uncertainty suddenly ended. Johnson’s government finally and formally pulled the UK out of the EU. Brexit was, in Johnson’s words, “done”. It had become fact, an irreversible reality for the foreseeable future.

Uncertainty about Britain’s trade prospects and political standing continue to persist, but there was no going back on Brexit, the deed.

Perhaps the finality of that act may be the reason hardly anyone is marking the anniversary of the Brexit referendum.

Or, perhaps it’s because Britain, like much of the world, is consumed by two other competing stories: the coronavirus crisis and anti-racism measures.

Either way, until the end of January this year, Brexit was the only thing we talked about. Now, it’s the one thing we don’t talk about.

Originally published at