January 31, 2020

Boris Johnson’s Plan to Kill ‘Brexit’
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Shortly after his election victory in December, it was reported that Boris Johnson wanted the word “Brexit” retired. Not just retired, but expunged as a matter of urgency once the U.K. has left the European Union on Jan. 31.This would be like Donald Trump telling White House staff that they need to drop the “Make America Great Again” thing. Without Brexit — and his “Get Brexit Done” campaign — we’d mainly know Boris Johnson as just another former mayor, a talented politician who wrote amusing newspaper columns.This attempted change of language seems trivial, but it’s not. For nearly four years, the neologism “Brexit” has dominated British politics, and resonated around the world. Why try to retire it now? I can see two reasons: The word is a constant and powerful reminder of the division and open wounds in British society; and while it was a weapon Johnson wielded successfully against his opponents, it might easily be used against him in future. The first concern is honorable, the other more Orwellian. But how successful Johnson is in changing the language of British politics might prove as important as anything he gets around the trade negotiating table with the European Union and the U.S. this year.The word “Brexit” appeared back in 2012. Peter Wilding, a former lawyer and aide to former Prime Minister David Cameron, had little idea of its impact when he coined it in a May 2012 blog, inspired by the Greeks:Unless a clear view is pushed that Britain must lead in Europe at the very least to achieve the completion of the Single Market, then the portmanteau for Greek euro exit [Grexit] might be followed by another sad word, Brexit.A few years later, it spread like bush fire. By 2016, it had a place in the Oxford English Dictionary and was later named “word of the year.” But Wilding was appalled to find his invention used as a tool of destruction. Now chairman of the British Influence think tank, he sees Brexit as a “narcissistic victim syndrome ignited by charlatan nostalgists.” He has said it might do to Britain what the Treaty of Versailles did to Germany.Brexit, in Johnson’s hands, wasn’t a flaccid noun but a powerful verb. One might argue that you could have called Britain’s EU departure campaign pretty much anything and the result would have been the same. Perhaps, but something happened when those two words — British exit — fused. It became a rallying point for a passionate, but small, euroskeptic core of Johnson’s ruling Conservative party. It anchored a Leave campaign whose language invoked national pride, appealed to people’s bias for action over inaction and their preference for simplicity.In his book, “The Language of Brexit,” the linguist Steve Buckledee shows how skillfully this was done. Brexit stirred passion and represented action; Remainer language was limp by comparison and passive. The British Twitter poet Brian Bilston captured the power of the word in the last stanzas of a poem titled Meaningful Vote, which was the name given to the attempts of Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, to win parliamentary approval for her Brexit deal:How foolish, it seems; How senseless, absurd,To re-define a nation In pursuit of a word.Johnson, of all politicians, understands the mobilizing and seducing power of language. He’s probably the most prolix (and prolific) political leader Britain has had since Winston Churchill. He loves words that pack heat. He famously denied an affair by calling the allegations an “inverted pyramid of piffle.” He often invents words where a conventional formula won’t do — such as “backstop-ectomy” to denote his determination to remove an element of May’s Brexit deal known as the Irish backstop, which he and other Brexiters disliked.But now that the war is over, the weapon looks unsightly. Brexit represents a heroic and victorious campaign for freedom to one side of the divide, but a perfidious act of self-harm to the other. RELATED: Why Brexit Opponents Lost the Vote and the ArgumentEven many Brexiters are battle-weary and spent, no doubt worried about how well things will go from here for Britain. Hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, a vocal Brexiter, is holding back on the mirth. Sarah Vine, the columnist wife of cabinet member Michael Gove, says being on the winning side has left her numb. “I think, like many Leave voters the length and breadth of the country, I have found the hatred and vitriol of the past few years ultimately very brutalizing,” she wrote for the Daily Mail (not exactly a bastion of temperateness). “We Leavers have been accused of innumerable crimes, cast as racist, short-sighted, xenophobic and, above all, thick and uneducated. We’ve been compared to the Nazis, been blamed for the actions of every lunatic extremist, accused of lying — not to mention held responsible for every stock market fluctuation (downwards, naturally) or passing economic squall.” If that’s how the victors feel, spare a thought for the losers. Johnson won the war, but he won’t succeed in keeping his new Conservative coalition together (which includes plenty of Remain voters who were fearful of allowing Labour’s hard-left leader Jeremy Corbyn into power) if the loaded language of Brexit frames all discussion.But burying “Brexit,” the word, is a way of shirking responsibility too. If everything that happens from now is just another tick on the plus or minus side of the Brexit ledger, the divisions will eventually tear away at Johnson’s power and every concession over fish or drop in GDP growth will be seen as an indictment of the Brexit campaign that swept him into Downing Street.By getting rid of the Department for Exiting the EU and rechristening the U.K. negotiating side something positive like Taskforce Europe, Johnson is saying “nothing to see here but some tedious trade negotiations.” Why should voters worry about such minutia as will be discussed when Britain and the EU sit down to work out their future trade relationship? If the word “Brexit” is a call to battle, “trade taskforce” is an invitation to snooze. That must be the hope, anyhow: That if Brexit is only muttered occasionally, somewhat apologetically, or better yet, not said at all, there will be less scrutiny — and criticism — of what lies ahead. Separating Britain from the EU is bound to be painful. Johnson’s ultimate political survival may depend on whether he can denuclearize the domestic conflict he waged so successfully with Wilding’s B-bomb.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Julia Fox defends viral ‘Uncut Gems’ interview moment: ‘I was stoned’ | Page Six Celebrity News
February 17, 2022
4m-p0_-ePd8
Alexia Echevarria pushed ‘RHOM’ producers to show more of son Frankie’s recovery | Page Six
February 17, 2022
E-wTaN9NfkI
Pete Davidson rejoins Instagram amid Kanye West drama | Page Six Celebrity News
February 17, 2022
SsC3dmsI6t4
Aaron Rodgers And Shailene Woodley Reportedly Break Up | TMZ LIVE
February 17, 2022
FoErdRE8Qe4
Chet Hanks Done Talking About Famous Parents, Becoming Personal Trainer | TMZ
February 16, 2022
5_UrULOkQ6o
Woman Stabbed at Foot Locker During Nike Shoe Release
February 16, 2022
TfuXMs1JdVg
Steph's Freaky Side, "Summer House" & "Love During Lockup"
February 17, 2022
9W_raO0zlA8
Tay or Nay, Offset's Sushi Anxiety & Nick on Monogamy
February 17, 2022
PauYHpJRA6o
Kim Kardashian & North West TWINNING in Matching Pajamas | E! News
February 17, 2022
b-_Oib6R108
Adam McKay - Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony
February 17, 2022
tYtzsHoOZzo
Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, and the Cast of 'Uncharted' Talk Most Challenging Stunts
February 15, 2022
d3ksX-SKi8c
Ryan Reynolds and Walker Scobell on ‘The Adam Project’, ‘Deadpool’, and Possible ‘Star Wars’ Role
February 16, 2022
5TxJsbJr9Dk
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
04
May
CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Playoffs
Seattle Sounders - Pumas
04
May
USA: Major League Soccer
FC Cincinnati - Toronto FC
03
May
ENGLAND: Championship
Bournemouth - Nottingham Forest
02
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Brentford
02
May
ENGLAND: Championship
Fulham - Luton
02
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Getafe - Real Betis
02
May
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Eintracht Frankfurt
02
May
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Monchengladbach - RB Leipzig
02
May
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Salernitana
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur - Leicester City
01
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Mallorca
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Bologna
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Arsenal
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Chelsea
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Udinese - Inter Milan
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Fiorentina
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Venezia
01
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Rayo Vallecano - Real Sociedad
30
Apr
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Mainz - Bayern Munich
30
Apr
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Bochum
30
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Newcastle United - Liverpool
30
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Athletic Bilbao - Atletico Madrid
30
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leeds - Manchester City
30
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Madrid - Espanyol
30
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Sassuolo
28
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Chelsea
27
Apr
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Semifinal
Liverpool - Villarreal
27
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Inter Milan
26
Apr
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Semifinal
Manchester City - Real Madrid
25
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Sassuolo - Juventus
24
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Rayo Vallecano
24
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - AC Milan
24
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Everton
24
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - West Ham United
24
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Empoli - Napoli
23
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Brentford - Tottenham Hotspur
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.