Brexit and Literature: A Student’s Reading Guide For All Things Brexit
The vote to leave the European Union in the summer of 2016 was one of the most divisive moments in the UK’s modern political history, with 17.4 million people choosing to leave the EU with the result itself triggering an increase in hate crime despair and rising fears towards the value pound after Brexit, and now with Britain in disarray following Prime Minister Theresa May’s parliamentary defeat after the majority of MPs rejected her Brexit deal by 230 votes – the largest defeat for a sitting government in history
Now with Brexit being postponed until October led by a new prime minister that is to be determined – it is becoming increasingly important for us, especially as students, to understand policy negotiations on Brexit by reading around the critical responses to Brexit
Since the EU referendum, it is assuring that both journalists and writers are beginning to approach the subject in its entirety by confronting some of the present issues relevant to Britain, providing us with a context behind the complexities of the campaigns to the legal and constitutional ties between the UK and EU
Here are some of the best non-fiction books published since the referendum:
Why the UK Voted for Brexit by Andrew Glencross
Brexit, in what Glencross defines as ‘David Cameron’s Great Miscalculation’, both the events leading up to the UK’s vote to leave the UK and its aftermath are analyzed in Why the UK Voted for Brexit Glencross’ interrogation of the remain campaign to the future impact on the UK’s foreign policy as well as domestic politics to eventually foreshadow the challenges of negotiating the terms of Brexit that we are currently bearing witness to.
Brexit: What Everyone Needs to Know by David Allen Green
Written by Green, who is a seasoned lawyer and writer, Brexit: What Everyone Needs to Know is balanced and yet informed account of Brexit in its entirety and is careful to consider the full implications on Brexit and the referendum’s impact on policymaking, trade deals and immigration across the UK and EU.
Clean Brexit: Why Leaving the EU Still Makes Sense by Gerard Lyons and Liam Halligan
In Clean Brexit provides its readers with a rather optimistic outlook on how to
‘make a great success of Brexit’ by drawing on discussions with leading politicians across UK and Europe on the prospect of the UK reinventing its economy and establishing itself as a dominant figurehead of trade and politics.
However, with most Brexit literature covering abstract issues ranging from trade and the economy to immigration and employment, Brexit as a theme merges the tropes of utopian and dystopian fiction by portraying a polarized society on the brink of either hope or turmoil –with both becoming almost interchangeable terms. In light of this, here are some of the most renowned novels on Brexit to read as a student:
The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig
As a pre-Brexit novel, The Lie of the Land is a forewarning of the instability of the
UK’s economy in the interplay between money and marriage, the marriage of protagonists Quentin and Lottie is almost akin to the symbolism of marriage to the Biblical depiction of Christ’s relationship to the Church.
Though, Craig opts for a more dystopian tone of both a metropolitan couple and nation on falling apart given against the backdrop of rural isolation and disillusionment to explore
the issues of a declining middle class and poverty through one family’s experiences.
‘Quentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can’t afford to divorce.
Having lost their jobs in the recession, together they must downsize and move
with their three children from London to a house in a remote part of Devon’,
Autumn by Ali Smith
Heralded by The New York Times as the ‘First Great Brexit Novel’, Ali Smith’s novel Autumn (2016), is a window into the surprising companionship between Daniel Gluck and Elizabeth Demand despite a 69 year old age gap – it is a relation that is an attempt to bridge the gap between the young and old.
This comes, as the result of studies uncovering that there was a correlation between the different age demographic groups and the voting habits of Britain in the EU Referendum.
In these studies, statistics showed that Over-65s were more than twice than their under-25s counterparts to have voted to Leave whilst more than 70 per cent of young voters chose to remain. It is a topic that Smith does not shy away from with the novel often making reference to the United Kingdom as a nation politically divided by one historic summer:
‘All across the country, people felt it was the wrong thing. All across the country,
people felt it was the right thing. All across the country, people felt they’d really
lost. All across the country, people felt they’d really won…’ wrote Smith.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Published in 2017, Exit West navigates political fault lines of the West by fusing the real with the surreal says The New York Times. Although the novel does not reference Brexit directly, it authenticates the plight and experiences of residents and immigrants, which bares significance given that immigration dominated the political jargon of the Leave campaign.
With the UK’s post-Brexit immigration plans being negotiated amid reports that the home secretary plans to cut European immigration by 80 per cent under stricter entry conditions, Exit West is a tale of the individual facing alienation building the courage to find a place of belonging:
‘In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly
at war, two young people notice one another. They share a cup of coffee, a smile,
and an evening meal. They try not to hear the sound of bombs getting closer
every night, the radio announcing new laws, the public executions’, wrote Hamid.