What is Brexit?
The FT's Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne asks what the deep divisions over the UK leaving the EU reveal about Britain
Filmed and edited by Joe Sinclair
What is Brexit? Almost three years into this process, people still aren't really sure exactly what it means.
I'm very clear, Brexit means Brexit.
Straightforward, right? It's just a word. Maybe not so. Sir, can you explain, what is Brexit?
Well, Brexit is ultimately a disaster for our nation. It's leaving the European Union, leaving our friends, partners.
Brexit is simply the UK taking control of being a sovereign country again.
It was as a result of a referendum on the British people decided by a slim majority.
It's a decision made by 17.4m people.
So Brexit, in a nutshell, is the UK's decision to leave the EU. Back in the summer of 2016, 52 per cent of the country decided they wanted to leave the bloc and untangle four decades of legal, economic, and trading ties. It seemed a quite straightforward proposition back then, but implementing the result of that referendum has proved rather complicated and has almost brought down the government several times.
But Brexit is not just about the UK's ties with Europe. It's unveiled a lot of other issues to do with the country, its identity, and what sort of political system we should have.
Well, this referendum has uncovered deep divisions within the nation. Deep divisions within the parties. And it has shown that the two-horse race - Labour/Conservative in the 21st century is not fit for purpose, not fit for Britain.
It's been a pretty divisive thing, both the referendum and what's happened since.
I think it's incredibly divisive. Certainly, entire families have split up. My own family has... is victim to that. We have different views, and we're very much a divided family.
It's the heart of Europe, you see. But the trouble is, the wind's blowing the wrong way. We were up to 12 o'clock last night sewing it on.
So lots of people have different ideas about what Brexit mean or the issues uncovered. But nobody disagrees the whole thing has been so chaotic and has put Britain's whole political system into paralysis. Nothing has been done for almost three years now while MPs continue to try and see Brexit through.
And now, they are still saying it's so difficult. No, it's not. It's not difficult. There's a simple answer. We leave. We leave when we are meant to leave.
Promises were made that were undeliverable. And finally, when it comes to the crunch - haha - they can't do it.
A straightforward result, yes. But they also said the easiest deal in the world, blah, blah, blah. They sold unicorns, pots of gold.
The EU hasn't really needed to do anything except watch the UK parliament tear itself to pieces.
MPs have spent three years trying to do this, and they've still got no closer to figuring out or saying what Brexit actually means.
I mean, I think that flows fundamentally from a referendum that was a binary question. Do you want to leave the EU or not? And I think everybody in the country really is much wiser now as to how complicated that is and actually how far the EU reaches into our lives.
The fact is that when the UK does leave the EU - if indeed that does happen - the issues to do with Brexit of identity, of the country's place in the world, and the deep issues unveiled in society will be debated for years and decades to come. Trying to resolve these deep divisions will go far beyond anything to do with the UK's place in Europe.