“What do you think about Brexit?” was the probing question asked by the chair of a televised round table discussion involving some of the most prominent individuals in the UK today.
“What’s that?” was the response of a blissfully ignorant participant for whom the agonies of EU withdrawal had somehow passed by.
“We’re leaving the European Union,” Dani, the chair of the Love Island reality show’s impromptu panel on Brexit, patiently explained to her fellow contestant.
“I seriously don’t have a clue,” was the admirably frank reaction of the blissfully ignorant individual - a 21-year-old model called Hayley who with her second contribution to the debate had managed to sum up how many others, including politicians, must feel about Brexit.
“So...it was to leave the EU, so we wouldn’t be part of Europe,” explained one of the better-briefed panel members.
“Which would mean, like, welfare, and, like, things we trade with would be cut down,” chipped in another poolside sage.
“So does that mean we won’t have any trees?” asked Hayley, throwing the discussion into the left field.
“Cheese?” asked another contestant, keen to add a bit of flavour to what was already becoming a rather tasty (and surreal) discourse.
“Trees,” clarified Hayley.
“No. That’s got nothing to do with it babe. That’s weather,” said Dani, deducing that her fellow panellist was wanting to talk about climate change.
“Why wouldn’t you have trees?” asked another contributor, struggling to see the woods for them.
“What are youse talking about?” interjected Hayley.
“No, we are just not in the European Union. We are still classed as being in Europe,” explained another bikini-clad panellist.
“Doesn’t it mean it will be harder to, like, go to, like, Spain and stuff?” said Dani, exploring another avenue of EU withdrawal. “So it would be harder to go on holidays?” wondered Hayley.
“Yeah, I think so,” another confirmed.
“Oooo, I love my holidays,” responded Hayley, thus achieving something that has eluded all previous Brexit debates – making a point that everyone could agree on.
Those who have been watching Love Island (which may sound like a Leave campaign group but is, in fact, an ITV dating reality show) actually witnessed the exchanges above.
It may be a shade facetious to compare the dumbed-down nature of the great Love Island Brexit debate with the UK Government’s astonishingly unsuccessful attempts to get to grips with Brexit. Nevertheless it is tempting to imagine that very similar discussions are taking place around Theresa May’s Cabinet table.
How else can one explain the farcical turn of events that has engulfed the most gruesome reality show of them all – Britain’s attempts to extricate itself from the EU?
Yesterday’s walk-out of SNP MPs from Prime Minister’s Questions was the latest twist in a tortured process that has seen Holyrood’s refusal to pass the EU Withdrawal Bill emerge as a devilishly tricky sub-plot.
But it is just one of the myriad of challenges facing the Prime Minister. Running a minority government is never easy. Less so when you’re Cabinet is deeply divided over the most important issue of the day. Not to mention your party and the country. Two years after the EU referendum, the Cabinet still cannot agree on what Brexit should mean.
The problem of how to manage the Northern Ireland border is as elusive as ever. Nothing that has been done over the last couple of years can dispel the impression that little or no consideration was taken of the impact of Brexit on the extremely delicate arrangements on the island of Ireland, which took intense and difficult negotiation to overcome decades of violence. At the heart of that difficulty is the customs conundrum. And still no Cabinet consensus on how customs should operate in a UK outside the EU. Against these trying circumstances, Mrs May is having to deal with a Brexit Secretary (David Davis) who threatens resignation when he doesn’t get his own way and is obviously deeply frustrated by the lack of leadership from Number 10. The likes of Boris Johnston appear to find the notion of party discipline anathema.
Philip Lee quit as a junior minister in protest over Mrs May’s Brexit strategy while rumours that more will follow persist. Votes are only pushed through the Commons courtesy of concessions to Tory rebels.
Ardent Remainers in the Westminster village talk of their hopes that Brexit will prove so difficult that it will be cancelled. While the more realistic fear is that Britain becomes stuck in a half-way house which sees the country hang on to the coat-tails of the EU, but which fails to banish the uncertainty that is so off-putting to business and damaging to the economy. The main opposition party are little better.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are also hopelessly split on Europe, adding to the confusion.
Meanwhile the clock continues to tick. The Prime Minister’s decision to trigger Article 50 means that the 29th March 2019 deadline creeps ever closer. Quite how (or if) some clarity can be injected into the leaving process is anyone’s guess.
Having considered the implications of Brexit so carefully - trees, cheese, holidays and all, it would be easy to understand if the Love Islanders were a little reluctant to come home to Blighty.