Fintan O’Toole on Brexit satire: It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious

Books by @BorderIrish and Led By Donkeys are among the best satires of the Brexit era

A Led By Donkeys billboard promoting Michael Gove’s no-deal Brexit comments. Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty

A Led By Donkeys billboard promoting Michael Gove’s no-deal Brexit comments. Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty

In Chris Cook’s often jaw-dropping account of the Brexit negotiations, Defeated by Brexit, there is a moment when a Whitehall official is telling him about the rather frantic search for credible “alternative arrangements” – the elusive technological miracle that would save the Border from having any physical infrastructure even if there were different trading regimes on both sides.

“One official, referring to a private sector idea, asked me: ‘Has someone told you about facial recognition for pigs?’” Here, of course, is the problem of Brexit and satire in a nutshell. Is this a joke or a serious proposal? How could we possibly tell? And what would it matter anyway? It is a distinction without a difference.

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