Puppets of UK politicians Barcroft Media/Getty Images

The Brexit Tragicomedy

With the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union looming on the horizon, party politics has become increasingly dysfunctional and divisive. But while Brexit will be bad for the EU, and even more so for the UK, it could also serve as a cautionary tale for other countries in need of a domestic political realignment.

PRINCETON – As the rest of the world looks on with a mixture of amusement and pity, British politics in the age of Brexit has come to resemble a soap opera. Can the chaos that is descending on the United Kingdom be good for Europe, or even for Britain? Perhaps, but only in the sense that train wrecks yield lessons about what to avoid.

British political actors know they are putting on a performance, and they speak candidly about life imitating art. Their model is the backstabbing drama of Game of Thrones or the dark comedy of House of Cards (the British version, not the long-winded American imitation that has been canceled in the wake of sexual-assault allegations against its star, Kevin Spacey).

Unlike in Hamlet, where everyone ends up dead, and an outsider (Fortinbras) shows up to reestablish normality, modern fictionalized political dramas never have a satisfying resolution. The Brexit drama, then, is faithfully imitating art: it cannot have anything but a messy conclusion.

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