'Get Brexit Done' - The irritating catchphrase that is driving the country to despair

PUBLISHED: 14:42 11 October 2019

Boris Johnson in front of a 'get Brexit done' screen. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

Boris Johnson in front of a 'get Brexit done' screen. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

Get Brexit done, get Brexit done, get Brexit done... STEVE ANGLESEY on the unnerving effect that the prime minister's catchphrase is having on Britain.

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Boris Johnson delivers his speech during the recent Conservative Party Conference. Photograph: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PABoris Johnson delivers his speech during the recent Conservative Party Conference. Photograph: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA

When did Dominic Cummings make the cabinet his Stepford Wives? At what stage were a group of walking, talking, sentient human beings - plus Dominic Raab - replaced by a bunch of life-size, anatomically-correct Teddy Ruxpin dolls?

These thoughts occurred the other morning as I dipped into political Twitter, seeking enlightenment. Here was Nicky Morgan, advising us to "get Brexit done, so we can bring the country back together". There was Steve Barclay, telling us "the area which will enable us to have national unity is to get Brexit done". Ever erudite, Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeted: "Factum adepto Brexit" (he didn't really - it was "get Brexit done" instead).

Next, I flicked on the television. Here was the steadfast and principled health secretary Matt Hancock, in conversation with Sky's Sophy Ridge. What follows is an unedited transcript of what Hancock said…

HANCOCK: We've got to get Brexit done. I think absolutely no-deal may well happen and…

Prime Minister Boris Johnson enters the hall to do morning interviews at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.Prime Minister Boris Johnson enters the hall to do morning interviews at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

RIDGE: So have you changed your mind then?

HANCOCK: Yes, I have and I said that a few weeks ago. I absolutely think that we have got to get Brexit done, that's the other argument I was making when I was running. We've got to get Brexit done so that we can then go on with the other things. The public is deeply frustrated with all these [lies] about Brexit, all the noise in politics, all the noise in politics at the moment and all of the language. Let's get Brexit done so that we can get onto things like the NHS which unite people rather than divide them.

RIDGE: You mentioned the Benn Act… do you think there are loopholes on that or do you think the prime minister will have to obey the Benn Act if he can't get a deal?

HANCOCK: Well clearly the prime minister and the government will obey the law but we've also got to get Brexit done.

In a panic, I tried to calm myself by replaying Boris Johnson's strange and soporific speech at the Tory party conference, made under a huge projection reading "Get Brexit Done". I counted him saying "Get Brexit done" seven times before I had to switch off.

Frenzied now, and feeling a little like Shelley Duvall in The Shining, I scrolled through the prime minister's Twitter account. Get Brexit Done, Get Brexit Done, Get Brexit Done came back the message, suggesting he has managed to somehow hook up Jack Torrance's typewriter to social media. Since September 9 Johnson has posted some variant of "Get Brexit done" a worrying 27 times, including variants both whole - ("We need to get Brexit done so we can move this country forward & focus on our priorities", September 26) and decidedly half-hearted ("It's time to get Brexit done #CPC19 #GetBrexitDone", September 28).

This sort of inanity/insanity is troubling for all kinds of reasons. For Leave voters, because even leaving without a deal on October 31 will not "get Brexit done", but rather lock us into years more negotiations with the EU in which Britain will again be asked to fix the Irish border and pay its bills before any deals can be made.

For Dominic Cummings, because recent polls show a plurality of voters don't want no-deal, don't trust Boris Johnson in the first place, don't believe he will "get Brexit done" by October 31 and intend to shun the Conservatives if he fails to deliver on that timetable.

And for all of us, who deserve careful deliberation and explanation from our public servants rather than mindless repetition of a meaningless but focus-group approved phrase.

It is troubling too for Boris himself. How will Dilyn the dog learn anything when the only command he hears is not "fetch" or "sit" but "get Brexit done"? What happens when one of the PM's unspecified number of children asks dad for help with their history homework and subsequently repeats to their delighted classmates that Churchill's greatest achievement was to get Brexit done?

And just imagine the damage caused to Johnson's newly-discovered enthusiasm for technology lessons when his attractive young teacher whispers "tell me what you want" and he replies, weakly: "Get Brexit done"?

Look years into the future. Winter has come to the former United Kingdom, now in a permanent state of turmoil as dynasties and tribes battle either to seize power or to secure their own independence.

Folklore speaks of a mysterious hulking figure who roams the land. Some claim he was once a nobleman of great influence who quoted philosophers and poets; others say he has always been a complete f**king idiot.

Whatever the truth, this shambling, blond-haired loner is capable of uttering only a single word to anyone he encounters. Whether replying to friend or foe, to sunny greeting or dark warning, he answers only: "GEBREDO!"

And it could all have been so different if he'd decided to stop mouthing idiotic slogans and hold the door open to the EU instead...

BREXITEERS OF THE WEEK

4. STEVE BAKER

The prominent Brexiteer posted a selfie (below) at the Tory party conference together with a quote reading: "I give not Heaven for lost: from this descent celestial virtues rising will appear more glorious and more dread than from no fall, and trust themselves to fear no second fate."

A stirring call-to-arms, to be sure, but unfortunately one that comes from John Milton's Paradise Lost, where it is said by Satan. Even better, it is preceded by "Satan exalted sat, by merit raised/To that bad eminence; and, from despair/Thus high uplifted beyond hope, aspires/Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue/Vain war with Heaven."

Next week: Steve Baker asks a friend, "are we the baddies?"

3. PAUL DACRE

The former Daily Mail editor has broken his welcome silence with an attack on the "Eurosceptic-hating BBC" and a defence of his infamous "Enemies Of The People" front page.

Dacre claimed of his judiciary-baiting headline "if that front page helped raise consciousness about this vital debate, then I can face my maker with equanimity." In fact all it raised were 1,000 complaints to IPSO about the Mail and the chances of Dacre being replaced as editor, which happened 18 months later.

He added that the post-referendum BBC "daily pumps out hysterical anti-Brexit propaganda… its coverage is a disgrace". Nonsense, of course, but can any readers think of another British media giant which might have been accused of pumping out disgraceful daily propaganda about Brexit?

2. AMANDA HUNTER

The Brexit Party's candidate in North East Bedfordshire was revealed to have only just returned to the UK to gear up for a possible general election after spending the last 20 years in Italy.

Hunter, a teacher, has also lived in Spain and Greece and as recently as last week was answering media queries from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the northeast region whose most famous city is Trieste.

But she insisted that even after a no-deal Brexit young Britons would be able to live and work in Europe without restrictions. She said: "As far as I know, there's an agreement between Italy and the UK."

Hunter also told her local paper she was "sure" the UK would swiftly negotiate a range of better deals with the EU after quitting the union. Good luck with all that.

1. NIGEL FARAGE

When we last met the nicotine-stained man-frog, he was bravely boycotting the BBC after being "treated like a war criminal" on the Andrew Marr Show during the European election campaign. So, since that September 13 embargo, what's been happening?

September 25: Appears on BBC Breakfast and BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

September 26: Appears on the BBC's South East Today to discuss his intention to stand in a general election, even if he remains an MEP at the time.

October 4: Appears on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions.

As protests go, it's not so much "they shall not pass" as "they shall not take my BBC pass"!

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