A Brexit thriller

Brexit may indeed mean Brexit, though that looks a little less certain these days. But what else does it mean?

To answer the question of meaning, you have to delve back into history, especially in a nation where Brussels assumed the peculiar position of Rome in the English psyche in centuries gone by.

But there are some truths that are not really communicable in the usual think-tank reports with an executive summary. Sometimes you have to fall back on fiction to help people understand parallels that are actually a good deal stranger. So I have.

I have become obsessed with understanding the significance of Brexit in this way, especially the parallels with the 1530s – when England went through a sudden withdrawal from mainstream Europe and a parallel selling off of the public service infrastructure (in this case, the monasteries) to the new rich.

I have always said that this was likely to be repeated – first as tragedy and then as farce, as they say – but had not expected it so soon, nor predicted the strange alliance of May and the hardline Ulster protestants who would seek to bring it about.

Which is strange, because my Brexit thriller – set during the EU referendum and taking place on the Pilgrim’s Way – is just published, and imagines the conspiracy is led by a forgotten quango, still beavering away in the bowels of Whitehall, set up by Thomas Cromwell, and now dedicated to a protestant Brexit.

The novel is called The Remains of the Way  and is now available in most formats. It is strange that it should be published just as the extreme protestants re-enter government for the first time since the reign of Edward VI.

My other recent book Dunkirk also looks at a peculiar Brexit parallel, though much a more recent, and a much more sudden one…

* David Boyle is policy director of Radix, co-director of New Weather, a fellow of the New Economics Foundation, and the author of The Xanthe Schneider Enigma Files and other books.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • the thing is the break with Rome proved to be a good thing in the long run. Having said that I don’t think there are real parallels at all. The EU isn’t anything like papal power and the selling off of assets has been happening for decades, while we were in the EU.
    To be honest, to me it seems more like the Eurovision Song Contest of FIFA. Lots and lot of noble sounding platitudes about unity, much lobbying to grab a bit of the spotlight and some extra dosh , with the voting patterns driven by a mixture long forged historic national biases and long standing cultural resentment.

  • Sue Sutherland 14th Jun '17 - 12:31pm

    There is another time in our history when extreme Protestantism took over the country and that’s during Cromwell’s era in the mid 17th century. The Great British public soon got fed up with their dour rules and got Charles II to come back.

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