On this week’s episode we're looking at the Brexit situation as 2017 draws to a close. We’ll also be marvelling at all the wondrous, and infuriating, jargon to come from our EU withdrawal, and asking whether British aristocrats are being seduced by the new ‘glamocracy’.
First up: the days might be getting shorter, but the crises faced by Britain's Brexit negotiations seem never-ending. Ireland has been the sticking point this week, compounding a torrid month for Theresa May. Her task is Herculean, writes James Forsyth in this week's magazine cover story, not because she herself is Hercules, but because her tasks are getting more and more difficult. Will the EU ever show mercy on her? And even when 'sufficient progress' is declared, will that simply be the start of another distended nightmare? James joins the podcast to discuss, along with Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister who's been at the table with the EU. As James writes:
"The Brexit debate is difficult because the referendum revealed a country that was evenly divided on the question. But splitting the difference would be the worst of all worlds. Being in the single market but not in the EU for anything other than a temporary period would bring the drawbacks of membership without the benefits. As Theresa May tries to navigate her way into the next round of the Brexit talks, she must remember that if Britain is not going to do anything differently, then all of this agony really will have been for nothing."
One fruitful element of the Brexit negotiations has been a flourishing market for jargon. Like the word Brexit itself, the process has given rise to insufferable acronyms like 'EEA-' and 'CETA+', as well as hackneyed neologisms like 'Remoaner' and 'Brexiteer'. Dot Wordsworth tackles these new linguistic trends this week, and we're joined on the podcast by Mark Forsyth, author of A Short History of Drunkenness, and Sam Leith, our literary editor whose new book, Write to the Point, is out now. As Dot writes:
"The whole point of talking of alignment was obfuscation. Mrs Foster knew that, since such wiles are meat and drink to Northern Irish politics. Her anger implied that alignment meant much the same as leaving Northern Ireland as a member of the EU. Perhaps it did. Or perhaps it meant that Northern Ireland would not be plugged into the EU single market circuitry as the Republic is, but would, like an electric toothbrush, gain the same charge by induction. That is a neat analogy, I think, even though it was suggested by my husband in one of his narrow plateau moments between six o’clock drinks and somnolence."
And finally, the only antidote to our collective Brexit obsession is a good, ol' fashioned Royal Wedding. But does Prince Harry's marriage to Hollywood actress Meghan Markle show that upper class Brits are increasingly becoming members of what Harry Mount, in this week's magazine, calls the 'glamocracy'? He joins the podcast along with writer and novelist Sophia Money-Coutts. As Harry writes:
"Young royalty and aristocracy are now just another arm of the international, rich, celeb glamocracy. They are rich celebs. In an age of soaring land and art values, any peer who’s managed to cling on to a few thousand acres and the family Rembrandt is as rich as Croesus; as is Prince Harry, thought to be worth around £30 million. Throw in the column inches that he and his circle attract, and they have become de facto celebs. Gone are the 19th-century days when the Duke of Marlborough had to contract a miserable, desperately ill-matched marriage to American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt to keep the roof on Blenheim Palace. Today’s aristo-crats are just as rich as their inter-national spouses and share the same worldview, the same clean-eating habits, the same Netflix binges and the same taste in Grey Goose vodka martinis."