The most dangerous thing you can say about Brexit is that it's boring

You might be suffering from Brexistential ennui, but we’re sleepwalking into the apocalyptic event of our generation

Most people couldn't even be bothered to find out what the EU was before the referendum – because really, who cares?
Most people couldn't even be bothered to find out what the EU was before the referendum – because really, who cares?

My first date with my now-girlfriend was four days after the Brexit vote. For the first hour or so, I assumed she didn’t like me.

The main symptom of what I perceived to be her having a crappy time was a mildly irritable malaise and contempt for small talk. This mood, which I initially took personally, turned out to be a precursor to a mood that now characterises a large chunk of our generation: Brexistential ennui.

I should have realised this immediately. After all, the vote was the first thing we discussed. I barely remember saying “hi”. We might as well have stopped a couple of paces short of one another, said “Brexit” simultaneously, making sure to avoid any niceties like introductions or smiles, marched to the nearest pub and downed a bottle of – in an attempt at the world’s most effete and middle-class protest – the Frenchest wine known to humanity.

But it had been an especially depressing few days for Leo, my girlfriend, who probably wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the EU. It was the post-War ideology of a Europe free-flowing with all nationalities that made it easy for her English mum to move to France, meet Leo’s French dad and have entirely Frenglish kids.

A few months after our first date, we watched America elect Donald Trump as President, and our relationship was cemented by a mutual loss of faith in humanity. And now, in this heady fart cloud of Brexit negotiations, our future is becoming more and more a shadowy mist that I’d really rather not think about.

When the Brexit Secretary himself, David Davis, conceded that economic risk assessments are boring, and the impact of Brexit could be similar to that of the 2008 financial crisis, a funny (definitely not “haha”) thing occurred to me.

I suppose I’d always assumed the apocalyptic event that would shape my generation would be a third world war, or an environmental disaster. I never thought it would be this… bureaucratic. But that’s the odd thing about Brexit: it’s lethal because it’s boring.

18 months on from the vote, the sound of the word alone – crunchy and dry, like a cereal for the clinically insufferable – is enough to make me want to perforate my own eardrums.

Its dullness is not only the reason I strongly suspected the UK voted to Brexit in the first place (no one could be bothered to research what the EU actually is, because reading about trade regulations is about as fun as Theresa May’s hair); it’s the reason that we’ve become so fatalistic about our post-EU, economically ravaged future.

“This incredibly horrible and boring thing is happening, and there’s nothing we can do about it”, is not so much a mantra as the extremely depressing underlying principal of Brexistential ennui.

But if anything is going to break the boring spell, it’s the possibility of a second referendum. Because that’s what directs us back to the outright lies – the £350m NHS claim, the promises of “taking our country back” and so on – hawked by the Leave campaign. And lies are juicy.

A second referendum, at a time when we now see Brexit for what it is, would at least be a pop-up saying, “Really?!” Which only seems fair, seeing as so many people had no idea what they were voting for the first time round.

Most importantly, though, we mustn’t allow Brexit to obscure itself in a fog of boringness, where it goes undetected and is free to shape-shift into the bureaucratic doomsday device of our dullest nightmares.

Eleanor Margolis is a columnist for the New Statesman and DIVA

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