Whether Thursday’s Brexit vote will go down in the history books as a comedy or tragedy remains to be seen. One thing for certain, however, it solidifies the sheer brilliance of Yes Minister, the 80s political comedy which continues to prove, once again, that life does imitate art as told by the genius mind palaces of co-creators/writers, Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay.
In the episode “The Writing on the Wall”, Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthorne) does his best to explain to minister Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington) precisely why Britain has such a difficult relationship with the EU. Keep in mind, Yes Minister was written almost four decades ago!
Sir Humphrey begins, “Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe.” In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it’s worked so well?”
“We had to break the whole thing up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing.”
Then, noting that Hacker thinks this practice is appalling, Sir Humphrey offers this final piece of greatness to explain that ‘…it’s called diplomacy’.
Appalling or diplomacy…comedy or tragedy. We’re going to have to see how this plays out.