Fintan O’Toole: Jokey-but-serious one-upmanship behind Britain's Brexit talks approach

Brexit talks dragged on because Johnson’s regime has been playing its own game

In her classic study, Watching the English, first published in 2004, the anthropologist Kate Fox analysed the bonding rituals of her compatriots. She found that English men (though not English women), bond through what she called “the Mine’s Better Than Yours game”. 

“‘Mine’, in this context, can be anything: a make of car, a football team, a political party, a holiday destination, a type of beer, a philosophical theory – the subject is of little importance. English men can turn almost any conversation, on any topic, into a Mine’s Better Than Yours game. I once listened to a 48-minute Mine’s Better Than Yours conversation (yes, I timed it) on the merits of wet-shaving versus electric razors.”

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