‘It was Remainers All Along’ – Brexit and Wandavision

9th April 2021





The recent Marvel and Disney-Plus  series Wandavision was a brilliant – almost perfect – piece of television.

In particular it played to the strengths of a story told in periodic instalments, while playing with and exploiting the conventions, techniques and lore of other great television series over seventy years.

But there was part of the story – a misdirection – which makes me think of the current blame games about Brexit.

You may know this misdirection by a merry little song.

That it was ‘Agatha All Along’


At the point of the series we are introduced to this lovely ditty, there is plausibility to it all being down to the rival witch Agatha.

And indeed: for many her theatrical wink is the compelling tell.

It must have been Agatha all along.


Except, of course, it was not Agatha all along.

For although Agatha had a certain impact on the plot and the characters, the real causes of the predicament as set out in Wandavision are elsewhere.

The problems instead flow from deeper dislocations, and from distortions of reality, and from the limits of magical thinking.

A false – and ultimately flimsy – world is created, but it is unsustainable and so it comes crashing down.

Happy nostalgic images of the 1950s – and of other decades – are ultimately mere make-believe constructs.

Sound familiar?


The state of Brexit at the moment is such that it is understandable that those who urged the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union at such speed and with no planning are looking to blame others.

But it is difficult to blame Remainers.

Those blaming Remainers for the shape of Brexit forget that Remainers were not even capable of winning a referendum.

Remainers also had a real opportunity to delay Brexit – or at least have a further referendum – in the the months before the December 2019 general election – and they were not even capable of accomplishing that either.


At each important point of Brexit – and especially in the crucial few months after the referendum result – the government and its political and media supporters prioritised speed and lack of substance over everything else.

Hardly a thought was employed as to the implications of ‘red lines’.

And once there was an agreement text, the race was on to ‘get Brexit done’ as swiftly as possible, with no proper consideration as to what was being agreed.

As I have averred over at Twitter, the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Irish protocol were the result of five distinct political steps taken by the prime minister Boris Johnson.


The shape and manner of Brexit has many causes – but the overriding ones are specific political decisions made by pro-Brexit governments and parliaments when they had majorities in the house of commons – before June 2017 and after December 2019.


One cannot sensibly hold that Remainers can be held primarily responsible for anything to do with Brexit – other than complacency before the June 2016 referendum and ineptitude before the December 2019 general election.

Of course, there will be Remainer ‘leaders’ – professors and lords and QCs – who like Agatha may tweet theatrical winks to the camera.

And this may in turn provoke Brexit supporters into singing that it was ‘Remainers all along’.

But the tune does not make it true.

It was Brexiters all along.


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28 thoughts on “‘It was Remainers All Along’ – Brexit and Wandavision”

  1. I still cannot believe that nobody in the twitter replies has mentioned the Birmingham road junction/area reference in the thread title. Assuming it was deliberate of course…

    1. Well-spotted!

      I once had an awful filing job in an office overlooking that gods-awful interchange, and I loathe it…

      1. In fact the Five Ways were so tangled and messy that it was rather like a Spaghetti Junction – without the prospect of emerging from it any time soon!

  2. Much of the pro-Brexit narrative is that of ‘victimhood’.

    Were it not for the incessant ‘wickedness’ of the ECJ / ECHR / unelected bureaucrats / European Commission / citizens of nowhere / traitorous judiciary / remainiacs / ‘woke’ liberals / metropolitan elite etc., then the UK would be the most ideal and ‘world beating’ place.

    As Timothy Snyder observes, the ‘politics of eternity’ require an external party against whom the righteous can rail, and externalise blame, whether legitimate or not. Mr Johnson specialises in sowing and maintaining discord to serve his advantage.

    1. Whatever the country and context, we should continue to pay heed to Prof. Snyder. Especially now.

    2. Off-topic but I can’t resist, sorry. “Woke liberals” must be a classic oxymoron. “Woke” is fundamentally authoritarian, elitist and ideological, a science-denying belief system lacking evidence for its rhetoric and positions on public policy. The complete opposite of a liberal.

      1. ” “Woke” is fundamentally authoritarian, elitist and ideological ”

        What definition of “woke” are you using here? The OED defines “woke” in figurative contexts as meaning “Originally: well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice” There may be some ideology involved – to the extent that opposing racism and injustice might be a contentious proposition – but what part of being informed, up to date, or alert, implies authoritarianism?

        Is this from the same dictionary in which “liberal” (i.e. generous, free from bias, open-minded, tolerant) “metropolitan” (urbane, sophisticated, cosmopolitan) and “elite” (superior in terms of ability or qualities) are all terms of abuse?

        Would we really prefer people to be more ignorant, out-of-date, dull, illiberal, parochial, and inferior?

        1. No but people claiming to be “Woke” or “Aware” or “Enlightened” are often anything but and are often self-righteous bullies. They place themselves under “Correct” headings and disparage discussion. I don’t think Wokeists are fundamentally those other things either however.

        2. Is this from the same dictionary in which “liberal” (i.e. generous, free from bias, open-minded, tolerant) “metropolitan” (urbane, sophisticated, cosmopolitan) and “elite” (superior in terms of ability or qualities) are all terms of abuse?

          This always makes me laugh: given a choice who wouldn’t want to be blessed with such characteristics?

          How on Earth did we ever get to the point where such inherently good, desirable, aspirational things are “bad”?

      2. “Woke” is fundamentally authoritarian, elitist and ideological, a science-denying belief system lacking evidence for its rhetoric and positions on public policy.

        Are you sure about that? Source?

        The understanding here reflects what – I believe – most of us take the word to mean:


        That aside, what amazes me is that there are specimens of humanity who are so degraded and broken that they think it’s an insult to call someone “woke”.

  3. I do wonder if Brexit was an unavoidable poisoned chalice and that it isn’t so much ‘it was Brexit all along’ but ‘it was the British all along’. As an embittered Remainer/Remoaner I largely washed my hands of my fellow Englishers after the GE. It really did confirm that, for all the complaints that Brexiters are actually a minority, the general British/English public are either complicit or blindly accepting of the whole ethos behind Brexit. My feeling (and yes, already admitted, a bitter one) is that they voted for it – twice – now live with it. I’m not letting BJ et al off the hook with this, but I do think we have to point at us all as a nation and say ‘You did this. You.’

  4. The reasons why people are Brexiters are also complex (as aired by DAG et al many times). Why is our populace so uneducated on EU matters (most googled question on 24.6.16 from the UK was “What is the EU?”)? Our class system is divisive; many supported Brexit because they finally hit Lord Snooty on the nose. Corbyn’s 7 out of 10 support for the EU was a slow-releasing bomb. People (the world over) don’t like being “told what to do” and were encouraged to view the EU in this way. “Humankind cannot bear very much reality” (T S Eliot) or accept responsibility. Thus “If only” pursues most of the people most of the time. Not enough people voted; the result was more or less 50/50 of just 37% of voting population. Binary-ness has become the order of the day – via quiz shows and social media – and we are all in danger of losing sight of the subtleties of life altogether.

  5. Some of the people who should be feeling a bit bad about this barely even know what’s happening in NI. I’ll never forget a conversation I had in 2016 with a former friend in 2016 in which she said something along the lines of ‘yes it will be sad for the Irish if violence returns to NI, but that’s essentially ‘their’ problem.

    Considering the fact that I’m Irish it was not just a really uncaring stupid thing to say but also really tactless.

    This is the attitude displayed to the rest of the Continent by the way. The Brexiters were quite happy in their belief that Europe would fold without GB and pulled away anyway. No sense of loyalty, not even to the younger generation of their own people who were also predicted to suffer economically.

    1. I had similar conversations explaining why brexit could affect NI & after May’s stupid “red line” speech, why leaving the CU & SM would be disastrous for the six counties.
      One long afternoon discussion in Genoa with a well-educated London based professional revealed an astounding lack of understanding of British history nevermind the political aspects of it which still play out on the streets of NI.
      What prompted the conversation was an angry comment following May’s speech from one of his younger NI colleagues that “there can’t be another hard border in Ireland, there just can’t!”
      Nobody understood.

  6. The lyrics to “Agatha all along” are perhaps not known to all (certainly not to myself where we enjoy alternative TV). I thought to share with others after looking them up.

    “Who’s been messing up everything?
    It’s been Agatha all along
    Who’s been pulling every evil string?
    It’s been Agatha all along
    She’s insidious (Ha, ha!)
    So perfidious
    That you haven’t even noticed
    And the pity is (The pity is)
    Pity, pity, pity, pity
    It’s too late to fix anything
    Now that everything has gone wrong
    Thanks to Agatha (Ha!)
    Naughty Agatha
    It’s been Agatha all along”

    Your comparison today with the redirection to the Remainers as the cause of many ills by the spiky haired politician seems rather apt.

  7. I take a different view. I was a remainer largely as didn’t want to rock the boat and waste time and effort for something not important.

    Post referendum was happy TM won the leadership. I mean safe pair of hands, a remainer get a decent compromise.

    I feel the Brexit we got is shared by remainers. Cameron and Osborne stopped all civil service planning. TM did no planning. She activated Art.50 with no planning. Hammond stopped no deal planning.

    Now sequencing of negotiations was conceded to give least bargaining power. The treaty said exit in line with future relationship. Other things were conceded why did protected geographical indicators a trade issue get agreed in WA.

    Once the Withdrawel deal had largely been negotiated it was that or no deal.

    Parliament and remain movement helped polarise the issue. Majority of people probably didn’t care that massively. Legally out but practically in a similiar situation life EFTA could have gone. These compromise positions were only really pushed once it had really been stretched to it’s extreme brexit or second vote. And most peoples innate sense of “fairness” was going to run on the side of Brexit whatever form.

    So while Johnson owns the deal. He doubled down and used it. I agree there is a history there. If you count TM , DC etc as Remainers which they were, the UKs position really was worsened by the complete dereliction of duty to prepare for negotiations build that mandate , shape a end result.

    The general Remainer grouping also didn’t engage or provide an alternative. This left the shitty Brexiteers in the Tories to shape the end result with no CM or single market.

    You can’t ignore that after TM had conceded and drafted her deal, only minor tweaks or further concessions on the UK wide where available. EU were very clear there would not renegotiate the WA.

    You can’t blame the Brexiteers for the poor planning on what Brexit would mean, or negotiating of targets they weren’t leading Gov. until well into the process.

    So in my view it is shared. It a shit deal. I actually would have preferred no deal. Then it would have dispelled the myths got them what they wanted and we could have gone forward after a period with a better relationship. We now have an ongoing betrayal narrative.

    1. The general Remainer grouping also didn’t engage or provide an alternative.

      Didn’t they? How do we know?

      The majority of the print media in the UK was/is so biased against from the Remainer position that they’d have suppressed the Second Coming if he supported Remaining…

      (I’m an atheist, but it makes the point…)

      1. @Kieth
        We saw it in the indicative votes. We saw it in the campaigns. It was a second vote or no deal was the tone.

        We see it now in Scotland. Arguing vote for Tories/SNP because you get a second referendum if you dont/do. You cant argue an election saying if X win it will be Y. Then afterwards say we can compromise on Z.

        Second vote arguments endorsed the extreme styles of Brexit as it bolstered a second vote chance. That lost influence. Same way UK left EU not at the table you don’t have influence.

        The old adage of the the print media most people do not get their news from the print media. https://medium.com/oxford-university/where-do-people-get-their-news-8e850a0dea03

        You had the leaflet, you had leaders of every main political party. You had TV media.

        The campaigning however noble polarised the debate. And note I say shared blame.

        The Government’s and Civil service are where a lot of the blame lies. Because in the vacuum left by no planning the tone was allowed to get that way.

    2. I actually would have preferred no deal. Then it would have dispelled the myths got them what they wanted and we could have gone forward after a period with a better relationship.

      Pretty much the definition of a Pyrrhic victory – and therefore no good to anyone.

      I know that hindsight is a great thing, but – as a staunch Remainer – I really don’t feel much responsibility for the way things played out.

      It goes to the whole “Leavers are ignorant, stupid people…” cliché (which I hold to be largely true, incidentally – much of the available evidence supports the proposition): if I failed to persuade people hard enough of the folly of leaving, it was I simply couldn’t believe that anyone could be so bloody idiotic as to believe the obvious, blatant lies – heaped upon lies – that the Leave fantasists and the Right wing, anti EU media were spouting.

      Then of course we come back to the point that only the Leave side had a real voice, because of the media bias…

      1. I never said anything of the sort about remain failing to convince people.

        I made a very specific point. Remainer led Governments did not appropriately plan.

        At elections the civil service scopes out manifestos of other parties. Yes this even includes putting a single guy on UKIP/Brexit party. As technically is a chance.

        The civil service didnt do that. Why? They were stopped no funds were given. Why? Remainers in charge didn’t want it to happen for a variety of short sighted reasons.

        Outside Gov. Tone was not for compromise but overturn.

        There is an old saying in Japanese law that if you get to court both sides have failed. In my view it’s very much true with this deal. It’s a failure on both sides.

        I won’t get dragged into the insult arguments.

    3. I wouldn’t have preferred no deal but would have ‘enjoyed’ watching the fall-out. Selfish maybe but the ultimate Brexit.

      1. I view the current situation is a slow burn with an ability from EU to put pressure as they want with the ratchet like clauses etc. There is the betrayal narrative ‘if we went no deal its be better!’

        Rather than a slow puncture where we keep tumbling along but getting further behind.

        A full blow out and replacement. Would be in better shape.

        Granted this seems more Cummingseqsue creative destruction. But just feel a full no deal would have dispelled it in the public’s mind. And could then lead to more compromises etc. on Sovereignty in future.

    4. As I pointed out the debate was polarised. That was a joint enterprise.

      We see it in second referendum I Scottish election. Tories are campaigning on a Vote Tory to stop a 2nd referendum. Its endorsing the SNP argument of winning Holyrood equals a referendum. After you concede the point for political gain difficult to compromise.

      Do you view Theresa May, David Cameron, Hammond, Osborne as remainers? They had more to do with the shape and structure of Brexit than the Brexiteers outside Government you reference.

      Remainers in power endorsed the types of Brexit away from single market and customs union for political support from people who didn’t want that.

      It was a joint enterprise.

  8. Mr Powell’s reference to the British – one could quibble around English, perhaps — and poisoned chalices is right, I think. For all our near term analysis of why the referendum went as it did, and all its consequent ills, it’s worth remembering (for thinking about how to handle the future) that the UK could easily have voted in the same way at any time in the post-Maastricht period. Other EU countries, given the chance, rejected treaties etc several times, of course. Hence, until Cameron, no-one was irresponsible enough to offer a vote. Always semi-detached members, clutching our budget rebate and our opt-outs; enthusiasts for enlargement but (is it too cynical to say?) as dilution and constraint (widening or deepening etc); tremendous contributors to the Single Market but wanting to keep sterling and the city unconstrained by the Eurozone. It’s reasonable to doubt whether these tensions were sustainable, even as one is appalled at the decision to leave.

    1. I did wonder if anyone would quibble – in either direction – about my mixing of English and British. My thinking was that at least significant portions of the Welsh and Northern Irish voted leave (and a few Scottish to boot) so that justifies British. But I say English because I maintain that almost no one gave two hoots about economic arguments when it came to the referendum but for the most part it was English colonial xenophobia and separatism which drove the voting. Personally, I heard it in the working class pubs (my own haunts) and among the elite classes too (writing in a rush so forgive the crass stereotyping). This is decades of The Sun and Mail et al drip-feeding the poison to a nation that barely needed convincing to drink it.

  9. @Jay:
    No, Remainers are not responsible for the shape of Brexit after June 2016, because they were never allowed to influence it. The essential shape of Brexit was determined by the Tories’ decision to leave the Single Market and Customs Union i.e. “hard Brexit”, which had become the explicit goal by early 2017.  At no stage thereafter was there any offer or real prospect of an EEA-style “soft Brexit” compromise i.e. with the UK staying in the SM/CU but leaving the EU, because the Brexiters saw no need to compromise with the rest of us.  In deciding to leave the SM/CU, you have to accept customs and regulatory borders between different jurisdictions, while still meeting your obligations under existing treaties such as the GFA. The rest is just detail, albeit vast amounts of incredibly complex detail. The fact that Brexiters still refuse to accept the inevitable consequences of their decisions is yet another reminder of the ignorance, deceit and self-delusion that characterised the Brexit campaign all along, which is precisely why the UK and especially Northern Ireland are in their current mess.

    Chris Grey’s excellent “Brexit and Beyond” blog has covered these questions thoroughly over the last few years, including this week’s post:


    You can drink the Koo-aid if you want, but there’s no reason for anyone else to do so.

  10. With regard to Brexit planning before the referendum, it’s worth remembering that prominent Brexiters had previously agreed the UK should stay in the Single Market. Daniel Hannan said nobody was talking about leaving the SM, Nigel Farage said the UK could be like Norway or Switzerland (effectively in the SM but not in the Customs Union), and Owen Patterson scoffed that “only a madman” would suggest leaving the Single Market. So any reasonable and responsible Brexit plan developed by civil servants before the referendum would have required the UK to stay in the Single Market. But after the referendum, the Brexiters and their appeasers all insisted on leaving the SM, so they would have ditched any plan for a soft Brexit as a betrayal of the Will of the People by the evil Remain Establishment, just as they ditched their own assurances.  Any pre-Brexit planning would not have helped anyway, once the nutters had taken charge, so we do not need to let them gaslight us now with claims otherwise.

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