Brexit (and Brexitcast) Nail Art
Brexit and nail art? They’re not two phrases you frequently hear used together. What can I say, my interests run niche! As you may have gathered from previous designs, when I feel passionately about something, I like to demonstrate that interest through nail art. In the past five years I’ve created designs on topics as wide ranging as Winnie the Pooh and Eleanor of Aquitaine, taking inspiration from books, TV shows, films, radio shows, historical figures and real life events.
In the past year and a half, I have found myself returning to the same subject time and time again: Brexit. It’s a subject that I find compelling, baffling and infuriating. A self-confessed politics nerd, I like to stay up to date on the latest developments either side of the Channel, following the seemingly never-ending twists and turns of negotiations, internal party divisions and Parliamentary process. However, it’s all too easy to get lost and bogged down in complex terminology and a parade of different politicians and factions. Thankfully, back in September 2017 when negotiations were really getting underway after Theresa May’s disastrous election, I stumbled across Brexitcast.
On the surface, Brexitcast is a BBC podcast which follows the ins and outs of the Brexit process. In reality, it is much more than that. Presented by some of the BBC’s top talent; Laura Kuennsberg, Katya Adler, Chris Mason and Adam Fleming, it often feels like you’re eavesdropping on a group of mates in the pub who just happen to be discussing all the latest developments and gossip out of the EU and UK. Under the watchful eyes of producer Dino Sofos, the team are allowed to explore and debate the finer details of the Brexit process, delving further than they’re typically able to on the 6 ‘o’ clock news. Initially Brexitcast was only released once a week on a Thursday, but the relentless barrage of Brexit developments in recent weeks and months has increased that frequency to several times a week, as and when the situation calls for it.
Given the presenters’ numerous other commitments, recordings are often done late at night or the early hours of the morning. Amazingly, the quality of their analysis remains high, even if there might be a few more moments of delirious laughter than before! That’s no bad thing however, as it’s the human feel of this podcast that keeps me coming back for more. You really get the sense that these journalists love their jobs, enjoy working together and are thrilled to be reporting on such a rich, complex and historic process as Brexit. Brexitcast offers the perfect combination of keen political insight, the famous BBC impartiality and a more relaxed and often humorous tone.
Speaking of insider jokes, back to the nail art.
The First Episode
Unlike more recent designs, these first Brexitcast nails don’t require much additional explanation. There’s the requisite EU and UK flags as well as the name of the podcast itself. The hardest element was definitely the map of the UK on my thumbnail. Trying to get the whole thing on there whilst retaining the right sort of proportions was something of a nightmare. Even now I’m not entirely happy with how truncated Scotland appears (sorry Laura and Adam!). In retrospect, I would also choose a darker blue background to help the white truly pop.
I re-created a version of these nails when I was fortunate enough to be an audience member on the first Brexitcast Live, way back in December 2017. It was a brilliant experience and I loved seeing how shows like this are put together behind the scenes.
I’m not sure who looks happier in this photo, me or Chris!
Chequers Round 1
Fast forward to February 2018 and Theresa May invited colleagues to Chequers to try and hammer out a compromise position on Brexit, not for the last time. The checkered pattern on my ring finger is a punny reference to the location of these talks. With the politicians sequestered inside the Prime Minister’s country residence without phone signal, a passing sheepdog soon captured everyone’s attention with videos doing the rounds on Twitter. A fervent dog lover, I couldn’t resist the chance to get this canine scene-stealer onto my nails.
Going into that Chequers meeting a lot of discussion had focused on the possibility of a three baskets solution. The term isn’t used much anymore, but this was a concept that certainly took me a while to wrap my head around. Simply put, the three baskets represent the degree to which different UK and EU sectors would wish to diverge from each other. In the first basket you have those industries who would prefer everything to stay as close as possible to the current position in terms of both regulation and outcome. Aviation is the most obvious example here. The second basket represents those industries who would like both sides to have the same shared goals but with different ways of getting there. For instance, maintaining the same high standards of animal welfare in agriculture but with the UK introducing its own inspections. In the final basket are those UK industries which want to see complete change.
Over on my middle finger is a depiction of the famous Rock of Gibraltar. A lot of discussion up until this point had focused on the issue of the Northern Ireland border but there were still concerns over how the Spain/Gibraltar land border would be dealt with. 96% of Gibraltarians voted in favour of Remain and there was a keen desire there to avoid a hard border situation.
The 23rd March date that features on my little finger is a reference to the upcoming summit at which EU leaders would agree to a transition period that would maintain the existing UK and EU trading arrangements whilst a future relationship is still being hammered out.
Laura with the infamous Chequers sheepdog later on in the year. Two very happy faces.
One Year To Go (We Thought)
An upgrade from that very first Brexitcast nail art design, this set is far brighter and bolder in colour. Painted on the 29th March 2018, we all believed at that point that the UK would be leaving the EU in exactly one year. Obviously that date has now been and gone, along with other suggested exit dates, but more on those later. To mark the occasion there was another Brexitcast Live!, this time recorded in the BBC Radio Theatre. Once again, I was lucky enough to attend and even ask a question this time, along with a lovely shoutout to my Brexitcast nails from Laura.
I’ve chosen not to include that particular nail art design in this list on the basis that they were utterly terrible. For a reason that no escapes me, I hadn’t had chance to paint them in the preceding days and so attempted to pull something together on the train down to London with supplies bought from the local Boots. It was not my finest artistic moment. I actually painted these nails the very next day as a way to make up for that botched attempt.
Given its prominent position in Brexit negotiations, I gave Northern Ireland a bigger focus in this design. Apologies once again to the people of Northern Ireland, I know the proportions are off. I need larger nails!
Why the cupcake? It’s a running joke on Brexitcast that the presenters like to battle through the endless late night meetings, summits and discussions with the aid of some scrumptious cake. Who can blame them? I’d turn to cake to. Strudel seems to be a favourite choice from the EU team.
More Of The Same
We’ve now reached the point at which Laura Kuenssberg had to resort to sound effects borrowed from Charlie Sloth in order to get across the full magnitude of just how unusual British politics was becoming. BOOM. With fears growing about the possibility of a No Deal Brexit and the UK’s preparedness for it, as well as mass ministerial walkouts, she was certainly justified.
Those walkouts occurred following another big meeting at Chequers, hence the return of the punny little nail. The result of that meeting was the Chequers Compromise which quickly came under attack from both Remain and Brexiteer Tories.
You’ll notice that a lot of this nail art design borrows from previous ones, which I believe is an accurate representation of that repetitious ‘Nothing Has Changed’ nature of the entire Brexit process. It certainly isn’t the case that I’d just temporarily run out of ideas at this point.
I promise that no stick men were harmed in the making of this nail art. It is simply a representation of the increasing sense back in October 208 that a deal might never be reached between Theresa May and the EU. As my ring finger demonstrates, there were hopes that something might finally be agreed in November or December. In the end it was November, a moment that felt like a real milestone on the road to Brexit. My following Brexitcast nail art designs will demonstrate just how well that deal went down in Parliament.
Back to October 2018 however, and everyone was talking about the Irish backstop. This is another one of those terms that gets bandied around a lot in discussion about Brexit but few people fully understand what it means. I’m certainly not claiming to be one of them. As I understand it, the Irish backstop is a measure agreed by Theresa May and the EU to guard against the creation of a hard border in Northern Ireland and the implications that would have the Good Friday Agreement. Should the UK and EU fail to come to agreement about the type and level of checks on the Irish border during the transition period, the backstop acts as a sort of insurance policy. The whole of the UK would remain inside of the EU customs union despite having left the union. Northern Ireland would have to follow additional EU regulations and complete checks on goods but the order would remain open.
The whole idea is anathema to Brexiteers and the DUP. The latter are firmly opposed to any policy which would see Northern Ireland treated to the rest of the UK and so risk the union, whilst the form dislike the idea of still being anyway tied to the EU customs union post-Brexit.
But that’s enough on the backstop. It’s time to move onto the never-ending woes of Theresa May.
Sound The Klaxon
In the land of Brexitcast, a klaxon signals the arrival of an Emergency Brexitcast. This is just the name given to any episode that airs outside of the normal Thursday schedule, normally because something major has happened. Towards the end of 2018 this was starting to happen with increasing regularity.
25th November marked the summit at which EU leaders formally signed off both the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration. Described as the “only deal possible” by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, it was now up to Theresa May to convince Parliament to back it. Spoiler alert, they are yet to do so.
As part of the backlash, the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs tried to force a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. Under Conservative Party rules, a total of 48 letters must be submitted by MPs to the 1922 committee in order to force the vote. The number of letters sat in Graham Brady’s in-tray at any time is kept secret, and there was no guarantee to those MPs who said they’d submitted a letter a letter actually had. In this instance, the plan didn’t come off for the ERG but they’d have another go in 2019.
In a moment of honesty on BBC Breakfast, Brexitcast’s Chris Mason truly reflected the mood of the nation when he stated that he didn’t have the “foggiest idea what is going to happen” and that “you might as well get Mr Blobby back on to offer his analysis”. Needless to say, the video went viral and even got a mention on ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’. Mr Blobby looks even more sinister and creepy than normal when he’s just a head on your nail so this Brexitcast nail art design did not stay on long.
Brexitcast Hits Primetime
Brexitcast had already made it’s BBC Two debut back in September 2018 when the team took over Politics Live for the day following a crucial summit in Salzburg. Again, I was very lucky to be invited onto the show to provide my views as a general member of the public. It was a complete thrill to be sat in the BBC 5Live studios with headphones on, listening as the whole show came together. Everything seemed incredibly maniac right up until the show began to air, with producers trying to coordinate cameras and microphones in multiple different locations.
There was a wonderful moment where they caught Laura Kuenssberg unawares outside the airport when she was still putting on her make-up having literally just got off a flight. I’d been incredibly nervous going into the whole thing but after that I began to relax a bit more as it was such a reassurance to see that sometimes even the professionals make mistakes! I have to admit that I haven’t listened back to my section of the episode as I remember hating and questioning everything that came out of my mouth as soon as I said it. I’m pretty sure trains got a mention.
Fast forward to December 2018 and the Brexitcast was hitting the big time with a special Brexit edition of The One Show. The full ‘Brexit ABBA’ were on the famous red sofa to answer audience questions about Brexit and promote the podcast. My Brexitcast nail art made its TV debut, I expect to the bemusement of most viewers. I’m fully aware of just weird and niche my hobby is! As well as showing off the nails, I also got to ask another question, this time querying the viability of Labour’s position.
At this point in the Brexit process, everybody was gearing up for the first Meaningful Vote on the 11 December. There was a lot of speculation as to whether Theresa May would actually bring her deal to Parliament at that point given that the numbers were firmly stacked against her. In the end, she did pull the vote. In response to the sudden cancellation, the leaders of the opposition parties signed a joint letter to accuse her of contempt of Parliament. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister was heading back to Brussels to try and wrangle more concessions out of the EU.
With many of the objections to Theresa May’s deal centering on the Irish backstop, it got another mention in this particular Brexitcast nail art design.
After weeks of political debate and frantic searching for additional support, Theresa May finally set a date of the 15th January 2019 for the House of Commons vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. To say that it did not go her way would be an understatement. With only 202 MPs voting in favour as opposed to 432 against, May suffered the largest defeat for a sitting government in UK history. It was a higher number than many had expected. Corbyn quickly tabled a vote of no confidence in the government but this failed to pass without the support of Conservative MPs. In response to the defeat, the Prime Minister stuck to her well-known mantra of ‘Nothing Has Changed’. I seriously considered painting an image of someone with their head in the sand.
At the heart of May’s problem is the difficulty in passing such a divisive piece of legislation without a government majority. The Conservative Party itself is incredibly divided with MPs who voted both Leave and Remain opposing her deal. Each faction has its own ideal outcome but getting them to unite around anything is proving impossible. As this fact became evermore evident, question marks began to be raised around the feasibility of the UK leaving the EU on the 29th March with a deal. No Deal was still a distinct possibility and the Brexitcast team began to regularly discuss the idea of an Article 50 extension. The idea of having cross party talks to break the House of Commons impasse also began to gain momentum, hence its inclusion in this nail art design.
Some suggestions being put forward as potential solutions were so unrealistic that the word ‘unicorn’ quickly entered the political lexicon. There’s creative thinking and then there’s just pure fantasy.
Not Suitable For Children
Apologies for the language, blame Attorney General Geoffrey Cox. “Bollocks” was his succinct response to reports that he said disagreed that the EU’s legal assurances about the Withdrawal Agreement went far enough for him to change the all-important legal advice. Those assurances had been sought by Theresa May when she yet again hopped on a plane to Brussels. If nothing else, she’s certainly getting her air miles out of the Brexit process.
Such measures were necessary as the 29th of March loomed ever closer. There’s only so many times you can kick a can down the road before you run out of tarmac. It was a smaller defeat for Theresa May in Meaningful Vote: The Sequel, but not by much. 242 MPs voted in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration with 391 against.
As British politics continued to descend into chaos and uncertainty, a certain fiery meme became increasingly accurate. From a nail art perspective, that was one of the hardest designs I’ve ever done. I was straining my eyes trying to get the writing that small!
Vote, Vote, Vote
Congratulations on making it this far! This blog almost feels as long as the Brexit process itself.
This latest Brexitcast nail art design focuses on two developments: indicative votes and Theresa May’s possible departure. The former came into play as the House of Commons sought to take control of the Brexit process from the government. MPs were invited to put forward their own proposals for how the UK could move forward at this stage, with the Speaker John Bercow then whittling down the numbers.
The results weren’t legally binding but it was hoped that if a clear winner emerged, the government could have something more concrete to work with. Unfortunately, that did not occur and no proposal was able to commend a majority. The results for the top three options are outlined on my thumbnail: a People’s Vote, a form of customs union and Labour’s position.
In an attempt to focus minds, Theresa May indicated that she would resign as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party should her deal be agreed by Parliament. However, this statement was quickly undermined by the DUP’s assertion that were still implacably opposed to the Irish backstop. Theresa May is reliant on the DUP for her majority in the House of Commons. For now, it looks like Trexit is on hold.
And there we are! 10 designs for a year and a half of the crazy world of Brexit.
I will continue to update this blog with my latest Brexitcast nail art designs as and when something of significance happens. The way this process has been unfolding, that could be at any moment.