Andrew Adonis on the death throes of Brexit

Theresa May reacts to accusations she is stifling debate on Brexit. Photograph: Parliament Live.

Theresa May reacts to accusations she is stifling debate on Brexit. Photograph: Parliament Live. - Credit: Archant

Andrew Adonis argues Brexit has all the morbid symptoms of being in its death throes

I don't have direct experience, but from my increasingly frequent observation as a 55-year-old, there is no such thing as a 'good death'. Just death, which is always horrible and sometimes horrendous in its final stages. Brexit is no exception.

We are clearly in the death throes. Morbid symptoms are overwhelming. The 'last chance' operation had to be cancelled before Christmas because the patient wasn't well enough.

There were hopes that Dr Merkel would offer a more favourable second opinion after the country GP, Jean-Claude, and the in-house surgeon, Barnier, pronounced the case hopeless. A big attempt was made to persuade Theresa, the adoptive parent with power of attorney, to transfer poor Brexit to a hospice with the attractive name 'People's Hope'.

But it came to nothing. Like her mentor Margaret Thatcher during the long agonising demise of her favourite child, Poll Tax, Theresa simply can't let go of Brexit. She continues to dream that a new cure will appear from Germany, so the operation has been rescheduled for January 15. But Dr Merkel is so busy trying to resuscitate her close friend Emmanuel that she has no time or inclination to help.

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Anyway, the cause is hopeless. Brexit's vital organs are ceasing to function. The original prescriptions on the side of a bus – notably '£350m a week for the NHS' – were long ago abandoned. An experimental treatment tried last autumn – 'Irish backstop' – has had appalling side effects, including delusions of an invasion of orange men with VASSAL and MOGG emblazoned on front and back.

The question now is what to do after January 15, assuming the patient does not die immediately. There is some chance that Theresa will transfer Brexit to the People's Hope hospice after all, which would be best for all concerned. The hospice's two living rooms, called 'second referendum' and 'extend Article 50', are loud and boisterous. No one pretends that the end will come peacefully. But at least there will be no more operations and Theresa and her family can soon get on with their lives, including the increasingly urgent task of earning money and paying bills after so long on compassionate leave.

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The problem is what happens if Theresa still refuses the hospice. There is much debate about whether the nurses, led by Hammond and Lidington, will use morphine, while everyone turns a blind eye.

But the whole issue might end up again in the High Court of Parliament, where eminent lawyers like Dominic Grieve and Sir Keir Starmer are likely to press the case for Brexit's transfer to People's Hope being taken out of Theresa's hands because of diminished responsibility.

Uncle Jeremy is a problem here. He is curiously fond of his adoptive niece Brexit, having played a large part in her childhood, although historically the two branches of the family were estranged. But another uncle, John Mac, is increasingly forthright on the need to end the suffering. He has started holding secret consultations with Sir Keir and others, and is likely to present Jeremy with a fait accompli, supported by the wider Labour part of the Britannia family which can't see any point in delaying the inevitable.

The problem for Theresa isn't only the handling of Brexit's final days but also her obituaries and funeral. Usually these ease the pain at the end, on the principle de mortuis nil nisi bonum ('of the dead nothing but good').

But of Brexit, who went so badly astray in her last two years in particular, almost no one has a good word to say. Theresa, like Scrooge at Marley's funeral, may be the sole mourner. And even she may be too ill to attend.

However, all is not lost. I have seen a copy of Brexit's will. It gives explicit instructions that there are to be no funeral or eulogies. 'I realise I have been a cause of much pain and grief,' it reads. 'But I am part of a proud and prosperous European family. I know I was a rebel but the truth is that through this severe illness we all came to realise that, after all, Europeans are a good and wise people. I want my friends and relations to be reconciled to them and make the best of their lives.'

Amen. Hallelujah.

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