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As I understand it from reading Fox, the game has three basic rules: the importance of not being earnest; a one-upmanship that presents itself as a joke but that has a hard edge of self-assertion; and the lack of interest in reaching a conclusion. The approach of British prime minister Boris Johnson's regime to the Brexit negotiations meets all three tests.

The dominant linguistic mode of MBTY, says Fox, is "fake lightheartedness". This, along with mock anger and pretend outrage, is Johnson's USP. His mastery of phoney nonchalance is what so many of his compatriots love about him and what makes him the Maradona of Mine's Better Than Yours. Hence Johnson singing Waltzing Matilda to his officials last Thursday evening as the talks broke down, to show he was ready for the "Australia-style" arrangement that is his empty euphemism for no deal at all.


This irritated insouciance is mirrored in the breathtaking refusal to prepare for the bureaucratic deluge: the 215 million additional customs declarations, the data systems needed to keep 220 million tonnes of freight flowing across the UK's borders. Yawn.

Jokey-but-serious one-upmanship so permeates Brexit discourse that it has crossed species into pandemic-speak: "world-beating" Britain "leading humanity's charge".  


This is why the trade talks have been dogged by mutual incomprehension. Instead of seriously mapping out a realistic future, the British side has been playing MBTY. But the EU neither understood nor cared about this game. It has been playing a different match, with entirely different objectives.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 9th, 2020 at 12:20:35 AM EST
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