Since that moment in the early hours of June 24 when David Dimbleby said 'The answer is: we’re out', Brexit has been compared to many things. The Reformation. The Corn Laws. Weimar’s collapse into Nazism. Prohibition. The French, Russian and American Revolutions. But I think I’ve got a better comparison: first-time parenting.
Scrolling through Twitter, reading about Brexit (as an anxious, just-about-Leave voter), I noticed my moods were rapidly cycling: from glee to gloom, from Bremorse to Brextasy, about every fifteen minutes. Indeed, there’s only been one other time in my life when I’ve been similarly prone to dramatic mood swings, and that’s when I was about to become a father for the first time.
During those long months when my partner was expecting, I would often find myself switching from panic - it's the end of my life, I’ll never see a pub again! - to total rapture - my existence will have new purpose, I will be the best dad possible! And that feeling is just like my thoughts on Brexit.
The similarity in moods, invoked by Brexit and first-time parenthood, is no coincidence. And if you go with the comparison, I think it helps everyone understand Brexit a lot better. So here’s four reasons why Brexit is like having your first baby.
Firstly, the Brexit-as-childbirth analogy explains why so many people are behaving so oddly - especially the diehard Remainers, madly raging against the proles. These people never wanted to be parents in the first place. The referendum was, for Remainers, meant to be a one-night-stand with plebiscitary democracy, quickly forgotten. This may seem scandalous but we need to remember how Liberal Remainers self define: they see themselves as swish europolitans, the sexy singletons of the world, with lots of cool foreign friends, and regular holidays in Umbria. Now – horror! – British democracy, is whining that she’s pregnant, and they're looking at years of soiled nappies. And endless holidays in a Centreparc near Nottingham. They're going to be cardigan-wearing 'dads', against their will.
Understandably, they are not chuffed. Indeed, some have been so crazed by this enforced change, they're planning a dangerous, late-term abortion, even though it imperils the pregnant mother. The most extreme types – for example the entire editorial staff of the Financial Times – are even prepared to smother the Brexit babe in its crib, probably with an IKEA scatter cushion embroidered with the face of Guy Verhofstadt.
Secondly, Brexit isn't any old political change, it's a profound life-change. Trying to predict what the economy will be doing ten years after Brexit, is like trying to guess exactly what furniture you will own, and how happy you might be, ten years after you first become a parent. Brexit is huge, dynamic, scary, turbulent, wholly unique, and inherently unpredictable: it will change our economy and our polity in good and bad ways we cannot, by definition, even begin to predict. This is why the forecasts have already proved to be so rubbish.
Thirdly, there will be blood. Brexit is going to be painful, like childbirth. It just is. The Leave quacks who promised a brisk and blissful delivery don’t have enough diamorphine to dull the nerves. We might need epidurals from the Treasury. We will swear a lot, and not care. It might be rather embarrassing but again, we probably won’t care, because we’ll be concentrating on the pain. Other countries will look at us and think 'I’m never going through that'. Immediately after Brexit, we will likely appear reduced, saggy, wrinkled.
Then comes the depression. It’s unavoidable. Overnight, your horizons have shrunk to a nursery room, some cheap Lidl shiraz, and the sound of a fiendishly annoying plastic toy which sings 'Froggy goes a courting he did ride uh-huh' over and over again. The house is a mess, all the time, in every way. You haven’t slept properly for several economic quarters. And so, at one point you will stare at a bowl of mushed baby food, and then you’ll soulfully ask yourself: Why did I ever do this?
But lastly, cheer up. In the end, no matter how bad the depressions, or how annoying the nappies, very few people regret becoming a parent. It will be the same for Brexit. In ten years’ time we’ll look through the kitchen window of renewed prosperity, watch the laughing Remainers playing football with our smiling Brexit child, and we’ll quietly sip tea from a Union Jack mug, and we’ll think: best thing I ever did.