POLITICS
26/12/2018 07:52 GMT | Updated 27/12/2018 09:58 GMT

Brexit In 2018: A Year In Which Love Island Contestants Made As Much Sense As Our Politicians

WTF was that?

January

Ahh, January. A time for optimism, resolutions and fresh beginnings.

And – to begin with – it seemed like 2018 could be the year Britain cracked negotiations with the EU and would finally be able to look ahead to its glorious post-Brexit future.

Theresa May even snapped a cosy selfie with French President Emmanuel at the end of an upbeat UK-France summit – surely the ultimate sign of ongoing friendship and collaboration in the face of adversity? 

Perhaps the woman to the bottom right of the picture had a sense of what was to come.

Then we reached day 29 of the year and like all the post-Christmas dieters who quit the gym after two weeks, the country’s lofty aspirations for the year crashed around us.

Documents leaked to BuzzFeed revealed that – according to the government’s *own* analysis – the UK would be worse off outside the EU under every mapped scenario. Yikes.

The ‘Cross Whitehall Briefing’ detailed how UK growth would be 5% lower over the next 15 years, even if it secured a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU.

Meanwhile, experts estimated that a no-deal Brexit would cost the country 8% in growth over the same period.

The government held off on publishing the full document for two months, saying it would damage negotiations, before finally relenting in March.

WTF Moment Of The Month

Sir Desmond Swayne was all of us when he was caught snoozing during a key Commons debate on Brexit in January.

The Tory MP was spotted catching 40 winks while his colleague Ken Clarke gave an impassioned speech on EU legislation, slumping over parliament’s famous green benches as he drifted off.

We’ve all been there – Brexit can be pretty dry. But, unlike Swayne, we’re not paid £77,000-a-year to pay attention.

February 

February rolled in and the Brexit wagon continued to wobble on its tracks.

The month had barely begun when Brexit minister Steve Baker was forced to apologise after airing claims that civil servants had attempted to sabotage the UK’s exit from the EU by producing deliberately negative economic models.

He told the Commons that while he found the allegations “extraordinary”, he had indeed heard the claims from Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform think-tank.

Grant’s denial that this had ever happened was later backed up by a video of the exchange. Oops.

WTF Moment Of The Month 

Brexit has been described as the UK’s biggest constitutional change in decade – so it’s understandable that voters want a bit of reassurance from their politicians.

But whether anyone was able to sleep easier after then-Brexit secretary David Davis insisted that post-Brexit Britain would not be plunged into “Mad Max-style” chaos is another question. 

Taking aim at government critics, he dismissed worries that the country would transform into a world “borrowed from dystopian fiction” after leaving the EU.

Well, that’s good to know…

March

PA Wire/PA Images
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie 

March - with 2019 just around the corner, the start of spring could not now feel further away.

Apart from the familiar fact that, having just agreed a deal with the EU (the transition deal in this case), Theresa May was facing serious criticism over an Irish backstop…

But the biggest news of the month by far was the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

A whistleblower from the data analytics firm – which had worked with the winning Brexit campaign – said he had harvested the Facebook profiles of millions of US voters in order to target them with personalised political ads, sparking a story that would roll on for months.

WTF Moment Of The Month 

As politicians go, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg are as ‘WTF’ as they get.

But the Brexit duo exceeded all expectations when they hatched a plan to dump a load of rotting fish into the Thames to protest the European Union’s influence over UK fishing waters.

Things got even more bizarre when it emerged that organisers had actually forgotten to get licence to dock out Embankment Pier, meaning Rees-Mogg was stuck on land.

Never one to be deterred, Farage valiantly carried out the stunt on his own, chucking the four-day-old haddock into the river on his won.

What. A. Man.

April

lenscap67 via Getty Images
Britain's post-Brexit blue passport will be produced by a Franco-Dutch company 

Take back control, Brexiteers said in the run up to the 2016 referendum. Make British business great again.

So it caused *quite* the stir in April when the government revealed that – rather than renewing its contract with British manufacturer De La Rue – Franco-Dutch company Gemalto would be paid to make Britain’s post-Brexit blue passports.

(No self-respecting Brexit Brit would be seen dead with a red passport, of course.)

WTF Moment Of The Month

EMPICS Entertainment
Amber Rudd was left red-faced over app claims 

Then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd put her name to a pretty bold claim when she said that an app that would allow EU nationals apply to stay in the UK post-Brexit would be as user-friendly as “an online account at LK Bennett”.

So it was pretty cringe-worthy when just a day later it emerged that the app would not actually work on iPhones - the brand used by more than half of the UK.

Still, probably not the worst day Rudd had in the office this year…

May

Empics Entertainment
Boris Johnson took a strong stance against May's backstop proposal - but the Cabinet signed off on it 

As May desperately tries to get EU leaders to agree to alter her highly-controversial Brexit backstop agreement, it’s hard to believe it’s been a whole seven months since Cabinet signed off on the ill-fated insurance policy.

But – much like now – the idea of keeping Britain in the customs union to avoid a hard border in Ireland divided the PM’s party.

Despite being May’s foreign secretary at the time, Boris Johnson wasted no time putting the boot in on the proposal, writing an article in the Telegraph to *very publicly* demand that the UK “must come fully out of the customs union”.

It’s almost like BoJo thinks he could do a better job negotiating Brexit...

WTF Moment Of The Month

PA Archive/PA Images
Nigel Lawson - an arch Brexiteer - applied for his French residency permit in May 

Remember Lord Lawson, chair of the pro-Brexit campaign group Vote Leave? (Otherwise known as Nigella Lawson’s dad?)

You might have thought the Tory peer would be rubbing his hands together at the thought of living in the Britain of yesteryear, free from the controlling powers of Brussels now the UK has decided to leave the EU.

But you would be wrong. It came to light in May that the 86-year-old had applied for a carte de sejour - a French residency permit.

As you might expect, it caused a wee bit of drama among pro-EU campaigners. But Lawson told HuffPost UK that he had lived in France for many years and had only applied for the permit because French authorities told him to. 

June

In terms of actual Brexit progress, June was a pretty big month. May and her team managed to get the EU Withdrawal Bill through Parliament, defeating a Commons rebellion on the way.

In fact, assurances from the PM that MPs would be given a ‘meaningful vote’ on her final deal meant that even Tory MP Dominic Grieve, who submitted an amendment demanding the Commons should be able to stop a no-deal Brexit, voted against it. (Okay, so May only won the vote 319 to 303, but a win is a win.)

But it certainly wasn’t a month free from Brexit theatrics. In a move that reminded us all that politicians bloody *love* drama, SNP MPs staged a mass walkout from PMQs after their Westminster leader was kicked out of the chamber.

Ian Blackford was ordered to leave after refusing to sit down when his request for the Commons to sit in private – a protest against the government’s “power grab” in the EU Withdrawal Bill – was rejected.

WTF Moment Of The Month

Danny Dyer is not a man to mince his words and the Eastenders actor gave what might have been the ultimate ‘WTF moment’ of the year when he launched a four-letter Brexit tirade on David Cameron.

In a spectacular rant on Good Evening Britain – a spin-off from ITV’s morning show – Danny let the former PM really have it.

“No-one’s got a fucking clue what Brexit is, yeah? You watch Question Time, it’s comedy,” he said as Jeremy Corbyn looked on.

“So what’s happened to that twat David Cameron who called it on? How come he can scuttle off? He’s called this on,” Dyer raged on.

“Where is he? He’s in Europe. He’s in Nice with his trotters up. He should be held account for it.”

But Dyer’s outburst was far from the only memorable Brexit from June.

We all know Brexit is can be pretty confusing, but Love Island contestant Hayley Hughes took things to the next level when she asked whether leaving the EU would meant “we won’t have any trees”. Maybe she knows something we don’t.

July 

What. A. Month. While most of us were jetting off for a week of fun in the sun (or, if you’re a true Brexit Brit - a caravan park somewhere in the UK) Theresa May was trying desperately to keep her ever-more-divided party together.

At first, it seemed like she had cracked it. After effectively threatening MPs that they would be abandoned in the countryside (i.e. stripped of their ministerial cars) if they quit after a mammoth Brexit meeting at Chequers, it seemed like the PM had managed to drum up support for her deal.

PA Wire/PA Images
Boris Johnson was just one of May's cabinet to resign over her Brexit deal in July 

Three days later and the vibe had changed somewhat… Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spectacularly quit the government, claiming the Brexit “dream” was dying. His resignation came shortly after the *actual Brexit Secretary* David Davis quit, saying he did not “believe” in May’s deal. Yeesh.

But the PM wasn’t the only one under fire. Vote Leave – the official Brexit campaign during the referendum – was fined £61,000 and reported to the police by the Electoral Commission.

According to the watchdog, the group had broken electoral law by exceeding its £7 million spending limit, funnelling money into the youth group BeLeave.

WTF Moment Of The Month

Associated Press
'Sue them.' 

Frankly, it’s amazing that Donald Trump – the absolute king of bizarre news – hasn’t been mentioned yet. But, unbelievably, it took until July for the President to offer a truly WTF moment relating to Brexit.

But when he did… wow. Calling on May to be “brutal” with the EU, he told the Prime Minister not to bother negotiating with Brussels - but to sue them instead. Well, that’s one way to go about it…

August

The House of Commons wasn’t even sitting in August, but that didn’t stop Brexit hitting the headlines – mostly dire warnings about the chaos a no-deal Brexit would unleash.

While Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called on the capital’s planners to start prepping for the UK crashing out of the EU, police bosses warned that forces could take a massive hit if they lost access to EU security powers and databases.

The government also published its first batch of ‘technical notices’ in case of no-deal, and it didn’t make for easy reading for Brexiteers.

Not only could there be more red tape for businesses, but shoppers could see increased costs to use their credit cards and Brits abroad could be unable to access their pensions, the documents read. Ahh, summer.  

WTF Moment Of The Month

It was the video that broke the internet - THE ACTUAL PRIME MINISTER DOING THE ROBOT.

Theresa May decided to throw some shapes while visiting some schoolchildren in Cape Town during a trip about post-Brexit trade and it was EVERYTHING.

September

Having got her Brexit deal past cabinet (well, what was left of it, anyway), it was time for the Prime Minister to be bold – and bold she was.

Despite dire warnings about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit – including from her own Home Secretary, who refused to rule out the possibility of civil unrest –  Theresa May effectively told MPs: ‘It’s my deal or no deal’.

Ahh well, at least we will have the post-Brexit ‘Festival of Britain’, as announced by the government in September, to look forward to when we’re all living on rations.

WTF Moment Of The Month

Instagram
Donald Tusk took Theresa to task on Instagram 

It was the ultimate sub-tweet (sub-Insta?). With the EU having already told Theresa her Chequers plan would not work, European Council president Donald Tusk took to Instagram to accuse the PM of cherry-picking the best bits of EU membership while leaving the bloc.

Posting a photo to his story of him offering May a tray of cakes, he wrote: “A piece of cake, perhaps? Sorry, no cherries.” Absolutely brutal.

October

Autumn rolled around and that pesky backstop continued to bother the PM.

This time, it was the EU’s dithering over the back-up plan, with European leaders worrying that it could leave its internal market unprotected and seeking assurances that regulatory checks could still be carried out.

Meanwhile the DUP - who May relies on to prop up her minority government - warned May they would oppose any extra checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland.

But the most striking news story of the month was the fact that almost 700,000 protestors took to the streets all over the UK to demand a ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit. It was thought to be the biggest show of public opposition to government policy since the anti-Iraq war protest of 2003.

WTF Moment Of The Month

BOMBUSCREATIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES
Don't mess with our Netflix. 

People having pretty-strongly held views on Brexit (understatement of the century). But if there was one piece of news that could leave even the most arch Brexiteer waving the EU flag, it was that Brits could be locked of Netflix when travelling in Europe.

THERESA, GIVE THE PEOPLE A SECOND REFERENDUM NOW.

November

Well, November was a big old month for Brexit. With the date for the UK to leave the EU approaching at an alarming speed, things seriously started to heat up.

First up was a serious row over whether the government should publish legal advice on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with Brexiteers and the DUP kicking up a *major* fuss. However, with the government arguing it would set a dangerous precedent, the PM was able to hold off sharing the details… for the time being anyway.

Bloomberg via Getty Images
November was a tough old month for Theresa

But that was just the start of the drama for May. The day after the cabinet agreed to the Prime Minister’s draft withdrawal agreement in a marathon five-hour meeting, two of her frontbench upped sticks and left.

While Dominic Raab quit the government over “fatal flaws” in the plan (May’s second Brexit secretary to resign in five months, if you’re counting), Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said it did not “honour the result of the referendum”.

The pair’s resignations brought the number of ministers who had quit in November to five. Yikes.

But at least May got to finish the month off on a high, with EU leaders endorsing her Brexit deal at an emergency weekend summit in Brussels. (Always look on the bright side, eh Theresa?)

WTF Moment Of The Month

Who among us can honestly say they haven’t found themselves in a bit over their head when they’ve started a new job?

But a piece of advice for Dominic Raab – never admit to it on camera.

Then-Brexit Secretary Raab – who had been in the job for four months at that point – admitted with toe-curling confidence that he hadn’t quite understood just how important the Dover-Calais crossing was for the UK.

The actual Brexit secretary. *Sigh*. 

December

December. A time for Christmas cheer, office parties and drinking too much sherry… unless you happen to be an MP. The Pogues might have been blasting from every available speaker in the UK, but the feeling was far from festive in the Commons.

To kick things off, May’s government became the first in history to be found in contempt of parliament after it continued to refuse to publish legal advice on Brexit. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox’s reaction to news says it all.

But surely that means things could only get better, right? Wrong. Despite MPs having already sat through three mammoth days of Brexit debate, May decided to pull parliament’s ‘meaningful vote’ on her Brexit deal just 48-hours before after it became clear she would be heavily defeated. Safe to say, it did not go down well.

So much so that the PM found herself facing a no-confidence vote *from her own MPs*. Ouch. May managed to see off the attempt to oust her 200 votes to 117, but it can’t have done much for her festive cheer.

Ahh well, there’s always 2019 Theresa. 

WTF Moment Of The Month

What moment could possibly top off what has been one of the most bizarre years in British politics in decades. What could possibly match up to the likes of Danny Dyer, the Maybot and Nigel Farage chucking haddock around?

Enter Lloyd Russell-Moyle, stage left. 

The Labour MP gave one of the best ‘WTF’ performances of 2018 when he grabbed the House of Commons’ ceremonial mace to protest the Brexit vote being shelved. (Surely a contender for *the* most Westminster protest of all time?)

Russell-Moyle was chucked out of the Commons for the rest of the day, but was later seen enjoying a drink in a pub just outside Parliament. Which begs the question – who was the real winner here?