Brexit: an Existentialist Story

Try imagining Brexit as a novel, with an introduction, a plot, and a conclusion. In this format, it becomes clear that the UK’s premierships can be split accordingly: first we have David Cameron introducing the Brexit to the unsuspecting readers, then, Theresa May developing a confusing plot, and, finally,  Boris Johnson concluding it (or as he likes to say ‘delivering’ Brexit). Yet, when it comes to giving a genre to this imaginary novel, one could argue that Brexit could be seen as an existentialist story: everything is always questioned, everybody works for what they feel are the best solutions, yet characters in the end only contribute to their own dooms as they realise the futility of it all.

Following this pattern of storytelling, David Cameron is long gone and will be remembered solely as a prime minister who promised something, he well knew could be very damaging – thus posing the existential question for the very first time. Later on, Theresa May’s efforts continued to strengthen polarisation in the UK as negotiations have divided her own party, Parliament, and society at large – hence, deepening the story’s angst (an essential existentialist characteristic). Finally, Boris Johnson, has entered the story and is trying to wrap up a Tolstoyan 1000-page long story in the last two pages of the book.

Looking at the last chapter of this book, (which I will title “PM Johnson’s Temptation”), one can see that Johnson is unwilling to give up. Building on the mistakes of his predecessors, he begins his journey with vigour, and acclaims, “Brexit will happen on October 31 – do or die”. Determined to stick to his promise, he assembles his dearest hard-Brexiteers, and calls others to join him on his quest. Arguing that jumping into an ill-defined Brexit void is better than staying in the EU, (with the vague promise of  “new opportunities for the UK unlike ever before”), Johnson reminds us of Nietzsche’s famous quote: “and if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” PM Johnson is currently staring into the abyss, yet it is unknown whether he realises that the abyss is also looking back at him.

Risking everything to accomplish his task, Johnson’s actions are reminiscent of Sisyphus rolling his boulder uphill for the very first time. Unaware of what this punishment of the Gods implies, Sisyphus sees the end approaching, and gives his all for the last push of his boulder. Unfortunately for Johnson, we all know what happens with this last push of the boulder. At this moment, it seems that the Brexit novel is about to end – October is soon approaching. As in many existential novels, this one will likely have a bleak ending, where the main character must contend with what they have done. This, however, does not exclude the possibility of a sequel, with a potentially happier ending, to continue the story after October.