Thursday 31 October 2019 5:53 am

It's Halloween: Beware the horror of an inescapable Brexit deadline

Benedict Spence is a freelance writer. He is on Twitter @BenedictSpence

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. And, though it may not be the devilry and delight of a Halloween Brexit, the new horror of an Advent election should fill us all with dread. 

Of the many spooky things in this world, the deadline is perhaps the most tense, highly-strung genre of all. 

Beaten into us from an early age, from the approach of the first day of school to the first spelling test, the first exam, and ever onwards, it is a suspense-filled timeline that promises stomach-churning, skin-crawling, heart-stopping panic as the countdown to the moment of reckoning draws nearer. 

The two outcomes, you see, are terrifying. The anguish, pain and gore of things going badly is, mysteriously, the lesser of the pair. What is actually worse is the second scenario, the one where everything seems to be okay, and as you venture out of the haunted house/exam hall/boardroom into the sunshine, the true nightmare – the next deadline – suddenly grabs you from the shadows and pulls you, kicking and screaming, back in.

What’s more, you can never escape. We are all of us trapped in a cycle of deadlines, a deadloop if you will, until the final deadline of death gets us all in the end.

That this is the existence of so many people, living day-to-day for the promise of tomorrow (and tomorrow, and tomorrow) only to see all their yesterdays lighting the way to dusty death has, one feels, escaped a great many MPs for some time. 

Deadlines approaching, whooshing by, and nothing improving has been the problem of the office worker, the shop hand, the doctor, the teacher – not the Westminster elite.

Now, MPs have been locked in a horror franchise of perpetual deadlines for the best part of three years. It is a torture chamber of their own making – and how they have howled – that has forced them to grapple with something they don’t want to do, but that will not go away. 

Down every avenue lurk bumps in the night – hard Brexit one way, loss of sovereignty another, and the hot, nervous sense on the nape of the neck that they are being watched by some vengeful, unknown force. (Not that they’d ever say that of the electorate, but there we are.)

For three years, they have huffed and puffed, plotted and schemed. And, for all their toil and trouble, their nights remain sleepless, and the Brexit cauldron continues to bubble.

But it’s not just their horror show. It’s everyone’s. For though we have forced them to live out this drama, we live it with them. Not for no reason are so many – even those who voted for this – thoroughly sick to death of it. 

An election may break the spell, but it is the most nerve-wracking option; the moment when, against better judgement, the protagonists of this sorry tale enter the dark forest to face the unknown. What will they find there? Can we escape? Will the price be bearable? Are we set for a Tory or Labour winter of discontent? Will the Liberal Democrats rise from the dead? And what hand will the Scottish play? 

We haven’t missed the Halloween deadline – it has just grown into the Nightmare Before Christmas. The new deadline – the election – is a knell that summons Boris Johnson to Heaven, or to Hell.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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