LONDON — Christmas is traditionally a time of giving and peace on Earth. But it may not be all that cheery in Britain this year.
Brexit has frayed everyones nerves. If the never-ending political chaos takes a short break over the holidays, its still likely to send sparks flying at Christmas lunch, or give you one more thing to regret the morning after that boozy office party.
And what better way to help things along than a book about Brexit?
Heres your guide to the top books to wrap up for your loved ones, awkward acquaintances and enemies this Brexmas:
“Guilty Men: Brexit Edition”
By Cato the Younger (Biteback, 2017)
Based on the 1940 book of the same name, which placed the blame for appeasing Nazi Germany at the feet of 15 guilty men, this Brexit edition points the finger firmly at the 15 men and women who brought about the U.K.s biggest foreign policy mistake since the days of Neville Chamberlain. Guaranteed to fuel the rage of any angry Remainer.
“Clean Brexit: Why leaving the EU still makes sense”
By Liam Halligan and Gerald Lyons (Biteback, 2017)
If youre looking for something for the Leave voter in your life who is still adamant this will all end in sunlit uplands, then Lyons and Halligan wont disappoint. They deliver well-rehearsed arguments about the EU as an over-zealous regulator strangling a U.K. desperate to embrace new emerging markets.
“How to Stop Brexit (and Make Britain Great Again)”
By Nick Clegg (Bodley Head, 2017)
One for the depressed friend who sits around wondering how this can all be made to go away. Clegg debunks the myths of Brexit, not least that it is inevitable and nothing can be done to stop it. His plan might not persuade everyone or be entirely thought through, but it might offer some hope to those willing to suspend disbelief as the Article 50 clock ticks down the seconds to Brexit day.
“Towards an Imperfect Union: A Conservative Case for the EU”
By Dalibor Rohac (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016)
Rohacs free-market case for the EU is the perfect pick for the businessman or woman scared that Boris Johnson and co are set on a course that will “f**k business.” The book shows how much the EU has done to break down trade barriers in Europe, how far it still has to go, and how much Brexit endangers this. Added bonus: It is guaranteed to raise the hackles of any libertarian Leave voter.
By Robert Peston (Hodder & Stoughton, 2017)
For that budding wannabe journalist keen to write about what this is all about. Britains best known political and business journalist offers a much-lauded account of WTF has happened to Britains politics, economy and society. He also has some ideas on how to fix things, not least that if Brexit is to be a success then its not going to be on the back of the much-obsessed about U.K.-EU trade deal, but the result of politicians having the guts to address the domestic causes of the Leave vote.
“All Out War: The full story of how Brexit sank Britains political class” and “Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem”
By Tim Shipman (William Collins, 2016 and 2018)
For the lover of gossip, intrigue and ruthless back-stabbing, nothing beats Tim Shipmans books on the referendum and the year surrounding the U.K.s 2017 general election. This is political journalism at its finest. Shipman holds nothing back as he shows, warts and all, how Brexit has consumed, confounded and humiliated Britains political class.
“Understanding Brexit: A Concise Introduction”
By Tim Oliver (Bristol University Press, 2018)
Pretty much everyone is struggling to master the complexities of Brexit: students, journalists, ministers of the Crown. If some such person is on your Christmas shopping list then Id recommend my own book (I need the royalties to pay for my own Christmas shopping list). Whether anyone can fully understand Brexit is a moot point. But this is as good a shot as anyone can give the past, present and future of the most controversial issue in British politics.
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
“Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe”
By Uta Staiger and Ben Martill (UCL Press, 2018)
This is the perfect gift for the friend or relative from Europe trying to understand what Brexit has to do with them. Not only does it offer chapters written by some of the best thinkers on European politics, its also available free online, which means you can email it to them and therefore avoid having to face them and their looks of bewilderment about the state of Britain.
“Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain”
By Fintan OToole (Apollo, 2018)
If youre Scottish, Welsh, Irish or a “citizen of nowhere” living in London, you might like to gift your English friends this entertaining polemic about how English nationalism has driven Brexit. Its a nationalism thats confused allies, friends and family in these islands and across Europe, to say nothing of a U.K. political elite left paralyzed in the face of it. As OToole writes, “It is harder to know what to make of England because it is harder to guess what England makes of itself.”
“Brexit and Ireland: The dangers, the opportunities, and the inside story of the Irish response”
By Tony Connelly (Penguin, 2018)
That friend whos recently discovered their Irish ancestry, and therefore their way to hold onto EU citizenship, might appreciate the best book on Brexit by a fellow citizen of their newly adopted nation. Connellys work is an acclaimed analysis of how the Irish have approached the single biggest economic and foreign policy challenge to their country since 1945. It also shows how the Irish grasped the detail of Brexit far quicker than the British.
Damien Meyer/AFP via Getty Images
“Brexit: Why Britain voted to leave the European Union”
By Harold Clarke, Matt Goodwin and Paul Whiteley (Cambridge University Press, 2017)
Arguments are bound to erupt — again — this Christmas about why the British voted for Leave in June 2016. Having Clarke, Goodwin and Whiteleys detailed account to hand will provide some insight into why 52 percent of the people who voted in the June 2016 referendum opted for Leave and — often overlooked — why 48 percent backed Remain. (A hint: Theres no one answer.)
“How Democracy Ends”
By David Runciman (Profile, 2018)
The ideal book for the political activist whos invited you to their Christmas party but never really has anything interesting to say. If the resilience of peaceful, democratic systems and how they could disappear without us noticing isnt a conversational icebreaker, I dont know what is. An unsettling and thought-provoking book.
“Collapse: Europe after the European Union”
By Ian Kearns (Biteback, 2018)
For the soldier in the family, or the armchair general, theres no better gift than Ian Kearns look at the future of Europe. Kearns takes aim at how carelessly we take Europes stability for granted. As he shows, it would not take much for both the EU and NATO to collapse, and the Europe that would emerge from the ruins would be one that has gone back to the future: divided, isolationist, authoritarian and ruled by the maxim that might (especially the military kind) is right.
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
By Ali Smith (2017, Penguin)
For the novel lover in search of stories about Brexit there are now several good books, but Ali Smiths “Autumn” remains the best. It captures the mood of the country in the first line — “It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times” — and will strike a chord with anyone on your Christmas list, whether Remainer or Leaver, old or young voter, Londoner, Scot, English or British, the left-behind or citizen of nowhere.
“Can you Brexit? — Without Breaking Britain?”
By Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson (Spark Furnace, 2018)
If you dont fancy the usual board games this Christmas, gift someone in your family “Choose your own Brexit adventure.” Itll put you in the shoes of the prime minster negotiating the U.K.s withdrawal and is your chance to do a better job than Theresa May. Its 500 pages should give pause to anyone angry at Mays efforts (so, everyone) and a taste of how complex Brexit is.
Tim Oliver is a senior lecturer in the Institute for Diplomacy & International Governance at Loughborough Universitys London campus.