Tune in next week for more drama in the Brexit soap opera
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
"You're going to love it," the plucky screenwriter pitches to the stone-faced television executives, "It is thriller, but a history; it has tragedy, as well as comedy. There's back-stabbing, sex, money, and grabs for power. A cast of mis-fits and villains, pompous comic relief and Machiavellian characters lurking in the studios."
The bloated bosses are now on the edge of their seats, with the pound signs rolling in their eyes. "What is it called?!" they demand.
The small screen has brought us high-suspense political dramas such as House of Cards, A Very British Coup The West Wing, and Designated Survivor, as well as comedies including The Thick of It and Yes, Minister. The next big thing is the blockbuster that is costing the country billions of bounds: Britain's exit from the European Union.
Brexit is "getting dramatic", reports the BBC's Europe editor Katya Adler. She calls the Brexit negotiations "a dance around a standstill", noting that - to no surprise whatsoever - there are low expectations about round six of the talks on the Brussels side of the Channel. This does not mean they are being met with "a sea of EU shoulder shrugs", however - instead, the EU is feeling incredibly agitated at being unable to resolve the money issue as time runs out.
Politico calls the Brexit talks "a tragicomedy in five acts", starring "an international cast of characters, moments of high drama and two leading men who enjoy hamming it up for all they're worth". However, it has failed to live up to expectations as a five-star classic – and they chronicle the failure of the talks over five acts:
The curtain opens in Act One of Phase One, but the action has already started before the actors took to the stage. Britain recovers from a snap general election, and Theresa May's inability to secure a mandate as her majority in the Commons is lost. The players now "draw heavily on that classic EU sub-genre – talks about talks", preposition over action.
Over the following acts, the actors forget their lines (or their notes, with David Davis and his team appearing unprepared) and tensions flare over money, with an underscore of mutterings suggesting that the first deadline in October may not be met. Mrs May's speech appears to create "a new dynamic" in the negotiations, with the prime minister assuring the EU that Britain will meet its budgetary obligations and agree to the jurisdiction of the ECJ over the transition period. However, Act Five in the Brexit tragicomedy is the same old script, with the actors unable to move on to the next scene.
The president of the CBI, meanwhile, argues the current Brexit negotiations resemble "a prime-time soap opera". Instead of new plot developments to shock the audience week-by-week, episode-by-episode, there needs to be a story arc that spans the entire series. Paul Drechsler told the lobby group's annual conference that it is time for government and business to unite behind "a clear strategy".
He said: "We need a single, clear strategy, a plan for what we want, and what kind of relationship we seek with the EU.
"At the moment, I'm reminded of a prime-time soap opera, with a different episode each week. First Lancaster House, then Article 50, the European Council, two dinners with Juncker - and no doubt many exciting instalments to follow.
"Each one becomes the Big Story, until the next one rolls around."
Part Six of the Brexit drama is set to hit our screens, but we may have seen the action before as the actors follow the same script of EU citizens' rights, the Irish hard border issue, and the divorce bill. Tune in for more tragicomedy before the production is halted in March 2019.