How Brexit happened and what lies next

Over the weekend I watched the film Brexit: An Uncivil War starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings, the brains behind the original Leave campaign. I must admit that I had not heard of Cummings before I saw this film. He seems to be someone who keeps a low profile and after running the campaign has largely disappeared again, leaving others to pick up the debris. The film highlights the use of data-mining people’s online activities to find out what drives them and targeting ads to exploit their fears, especially those who had dropped out of the system and no longer voted.

While the film was mixed on the merits, it did give a good sense of what went on in the original campaign for those of us who were not paying attention at that time. Rory Kinnear gives a good performance as the head of the Remain campaign who realizes too late that what the Brexit referendum unleashed was the long pent-up frustrations of an older and white population who felt that the country was no longer ‘theirs’, and that no logic or evidence that being part of Europe was better for the country was going to change their minds. These voters were looking for any reason to stick it to the establishment, and the fraudulent Leave promise that the money that was supposedly being sent to Europe would go to the popular National Health Service, and that the borders would be shut to immigrants, especially the threatened hordes from Turkey, was alluring.

The potency of that kind of political appeal to a mythical period of past greatness and to people’s frustrations and prejudices should be familiar to people in the US too.

Here’s the trailer.

While waiting at airport for my flight back to Cleveland, I enjoyed John Oliver’s return of Last Week Tonight for a new season. He gave an excellent review of how the UK got into the Brexit mess and what its current options are, none of which are good. It was typical Oliver, informative and funny even though the Brexit situation is no laughing matter really. (language advisory)


  1. says

    I watched all 20 minutes of Oliver’s Brexit summary. I, an American, knew it was bad, but it is worse than I knew. I guess the Brits will muddle through, somehow.

  2. says

    Would it be selfish to hope for a worst-case Brexit, so the pound crashes so when I retire and move back to the UK my US pension will be worth Way more?
    Just asking for a friend.

  3. KG says


    That won’t help your friend if they are promptly killed and eaten by starving Brexiteers! (We Remainers will long since have applied for asylum in some comparatively peaceful and prosperous country such as Syria or Afghanistan.)

  4. KG says

    Jeff Lowery@2,

    I think most Brits suffer from a delusion similar to most Americans, due to escaping the worst of the 20th century: that totalitarianism or societal collapse “can’t happen here”. I’m not saying they will, but we can’t assume we will “muddle through, somehow”.

  5. file thirteen says

    And at most places (eg. the videos were also unavailable (I’m in NZ which is still ostensibly part of the monarchy, so that’s probably why). I did manage to find a version on YouTube I could watch, although it was cropped with ads to the side, interrupted by ads, cut short, and was recorded off a tv with someone appearing to point a laser pointer at it for half of it. For this reason I’m not going to provide the link -- you may as well see whether you can find a better version as you couldn’t do any worse.

    Entertaining nevertheless!

  6. Mano Singham says

    file thirteen @#9,

    If you subscribe to a proxy service like NordVPN you can choose the location of the server and thus access YouTube content that is only for the US market.

  7. John Morales says

    Mano, that costs money.

    Way I see it, merely watching it boosts their ratings, so I’d be doing them a favour thereby.
    I’m not gonna pay any money merely to do them a favour.
    I’m not gonna spend time searching for an alternative; bugger that.

    Bah. Geocrippling is a stupid strategy.

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