What Game of Thrones can Teach us about Brexit

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Half the people wanted Jon Snow to be executed for treason; half the people wanted him to be exonerated. The decision to send him permanently to the wall left no one happy, which, as Tyrion wisely observed, is the definition of a compromise. No one was happy but no one went to war.  

In 2016 the UK voted 52 to 48 to leave the European Union. With a result so close, a compromise position was the obvious way to bring the country back together and move on. A very soft Brexit – possibly the Norway plus model – would have left both sides judging, correctly, that we were worse off than before. But it would have delivered what was voted for in the referendum. If the PM had stressed from the start that the close result called for a compromise, a consensus might have been achieved that would have isolated extremes. Instead she put forth a tautological battle cry: ‘Brexit means Brexit!’

Whether or not compromise was once a possibility, Thursday’s EU elections have revealed that British voters now have no appetite for meeting halfway. Half the country is saying, ‘F**k you, we’re gonna stop Brexit’ and half the country is saying ‘F**k you, we’re going to leave with no deal.’ In this climate, the Labour party has no option but to come out wholeheartedly as the party of Remain, and to energise its base in those terms.

It is also crucial, however, for Labour to shift the narrative. Whilst most of my peer group seem obsessed with reversing Brexit as the only goal of political importance, the really important fight is not between leavers and remainers but between the 99% and the 1%. Legendary polling guru Professor John Curtice has shown how whether one is leave or remain has no implications for one’s position on economic justice, which gives hope that an inspiring vision from the radical left has the potential to unite leavers and remains in a common goal. People know the system isn’t working and they’re looking to the extremes of left and right for solutions. Either the radical left can inspire the masses with a plan for a Green New Deal, the Preston model, and workers having equity in firms, or the easy options of nationalism, nostalgia and scapegoating of immigrants will win out. Labour has no choice now but firmly to back remain; but they must also do their very best to change the subject.

The Author

I am a philosopher and consciousness researcher at Durham University, UK. My research focuses on how to integrate consciousness into our scientific worldview.

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