the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess

Government, parliament and parts of the media are obsessed by Brexit, almost to the exclusion of all else. The last few weeks have produced a cascade of apocalyptic warnings about the calamity facing Britain if it fails to depart the EU, or does so with or without a deal. These forebodings may or may not be true, but does this sense of crisis reflect the feelings of the British people as a whole?

Are there identifiable signs of popular rage and division similar to those that accompanied the Home Rule crisis of 1912-14, the Great Reform Bill of 1832 or even, as one cabinet minister claimed a few days ago, the English Civil War in the 17th century, in which at least 84,000 died on the battlefield? So far there is no evidence of anything like this, though that is not to say the confrontation over Brexit might not one day erupt into violence.

The media furore over a single MP being verbally abused outside parliament shows, contrary to overheated reportage, how quiet things have been on the streets up to the present moment.

A striking feature of news reporting and commentary in the final weeks before the British withdrawal from EU on 29 March is how narrowly focused it is on Westminster and on the sayings and doings of the political establishment.

Commenters have largely ignored what was supposed to be one of the lessons of the 2016 referendum, which was that London-based television, radio and newspapers were out of touch with the feelings of the country – a…

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