So this is what a revolution feels like. This is how a geopolitical rupture plays out. This is how history is made - not written - made.

This year of Brexit has been all of those things, and more.

Yet we always think of revolution as being a bloody affair - tanks, bayonets, flames. 

None of that applies in the case of Brexit. 

Visually everything is normal in Britain.Yet the politics of the country has a revolutionary feel to it.

Nobody died in the geo-strategic rupture either, no property destroyed, no displaced persons or lines at the frontier. No armies were mobilised, no trenches were dug.

Yet the geopolitical certainties of half a century and more have been upended in Europe.

And yes, this has been an historic moment - it is a big turning point in the story of the United Kingdom and the story of the European Union.

And in the story of Ireland.

And Scotland.

And the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

And Russia.

And China.

And India.

This is Big History being made. Made every day by citizens, voters, the people they elect, their civil servants and diplomats, the businesses and banks, and farmers and fishermen. 

Hundreds of millions of people are involved in making this history, in a billion quotidian ways.

That multiplicity of actors and actions, along with the glacial pace of the geopolitical rupture in real time - slow but inexorable and decisive - can make it hard to describe.

Those of us in the first-rough-draft-of-history trade struggle to keep up with events, let alone make sense of them. 

In this era of mobile phones, instagram and movie length resolution of plots, we have become accustomed to a shorter timescale than Big History needs to play out in. 

Rome wasn't built in a day: Brexit won't be done with a Parliamentary vote.

The convulsions of the politics of Brexit have been painful for this country, and painful to watch. 
Brexit has sundered the polity, dividing the population like a civil war - but mercifully without the bloodshed. Hopefully the animosity will start to evaporate as rapidly as it was conjured into being by this mysterious virus called Brexit.


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But maybe it won't be. I met a woman in a jazz club the other night. She was originally from Berlin. Met an English guy as a student in Paris, married and moved to London. She was out alone. 

Her husband had voted to leave the EU, and it had become a source of tension at home. He couldn't understand why she was having so much trouble with the Home Office over registering to stay in the country.

(They told her they couldn’t accept her National Insurance number as identity proof, as there were data protection rules and she was peeved at having to pay £45 for a doctor's letter - but at least they had dropped the initial £70 processing fee).

She told her husband "this is what you voted for". She likes jazz clubs as she meets people from all over Europe, some of whom speak German, unlike her husband, who decided not to learn as they were living in England. He has had a long time to learn, as the couple moved here the year I was born.  

The fevered politics of Brexit reached its zenith last month in the long, long march towards a Commons majority in support of the Withdrawal Agreement - the terms of Britain's departure from the EU. 

A country split 52-48 on a decision of such magnitude - it was never going to be easy. But I suspect few of us imagined we would witness the scenes of near hysteria played out in the House of Commons in Westminster this past year. This issue has finished off two prime ministers and sundry ministers, opposition leaders and leading backbenchers, produced ugly political shaftings, mobilised mass protest marches and seething minor mobs, and utterly dominated the national debate in radio television, newspapers, and the internet.

Even the freshly minted Supreme Court weighed in, reprimanding the Prime Minster for suspending Parliament without proper reason – a decision that may lead to the court having its wings clipped, or even ripped off. 

New types of political communication and campaigning have been spawned, and deep down there is a feeling that something unpleasant has happened in the political discourse of the nation, something that needs to be put right - regardless of what side you were on in the Brexit divide.

My colleague Fiona Mitchell (former London Correspondent) and I have spent more time than is healthy standing outside the Houses of Parliament trying to report on the Brexit crisis over the past year. 
It's been exhausting and exhilarating, frustrating and fantastic. Cold and wet, hot and parched. This last year of Brexit has been crazier than all the others. And all the crazy has been in the House of Commons.

The grinding down of Theresa May was unpleasant to watch, even from Dublin. The Tory leadership race, yet another time-out in the process, like the 2017 general election and government building aftermath – valuable months lost.

The Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK was signed in November 2018. Thirteen months later it has still not been ratified because the British could not do so. Not until the Parliament finally broke on the issue, and a general election had to be called to settle the matter. A majority was needed, and was delivered – a "stonking great majority", as Boris Johnson himself said. It will be used to ratify the agreement this month.

But look at all that wasted time. Fully half of the time provided for in the agreement for a transition period, in which a new future relationship was to be negotiated has been frittered away. Maybe it had to be that way. Revolutions are rarely elegant affairs, even ones that happen inside the national parliament.

These changes in Britain have been of a revolutionary character. There are more to come, I suspect. 

Some of those now in - or close to - power would like some revolutionary change in lots of areas of political life. They have a taste for it now. And a leader who might deliver them votes for it.

Like many a revolution, a bogus foreign enemy -or an enemy within linked to the foreigner - is being denounced.  In the current revolution, the big claim is Britain has been stopped from doing the things it wants to do by being in the EU (and its domestic supporters). Everything from trade to the health service to the lack of house building is blamed on the EU.

Nobody has ever provided, to my knowledge, a detailed and precise list of all the facets of EU membership that have held Britain back. Or prevented it doing things. Or stopped it in investing in things.

A by-product of Brexit has been the whipping up of a near-obsession with signing trade deals in this country - something incompatible with EU membership, as there is a common commercial policy.

But signing a trade deal is not the same thing as doing more trade. Like leading a horse to water, you can’t force other people to buy your stuff, just because you have signed a trade agreement with them. 

Yes, it can be easier and cheaper, but you still have to have stuff to trade. One of the big unanswered questions in Brexit Britain is: What exactly is it that you have to sell other countries, at a price they are willing to pay for it, that EU membership has prevented you from selling?

After all, the EU is a trade superpower - it likes its member states to export stuff, more than import stuff. Just because you have a trade deal doesn’t mean you will sell more and get richer. And not having a trade deal doesn’t prevent trade taking place: The EU doesn’t have comprehensive trade deals with the US and China, but it hasn’t stopped them becoming its two biggest trade partners. What is Britain’s special offer to the world? 

But the trade deal obsession continues, meaning more valuable "bandwidth" in the Civil Service will be used up trying to negotiate new trade agreements - in the first instance likely to be just continuity deals to keep the current trading conditions - with main trade partners. All of them. All at once. And the biggest of them will be with the EU, the biggest single destination UK exports.

The stated intention of the new government is to finish trade negotiations by the end of the year, and not seek an extension. There is great imprecision (to say the least) about what constitutes a trade deal in the eyes of the government - meaning it has plenty of leeway in deciding when to declare victory.  

That may be on the basis of the thinnest, most "bare bones" deal to exempt goods trade with the EU from Tariffs and Quotas. Fine, but 80%of the UK economy is in services, and there is no off the shelf deal on services. And the provision of services is linked to the free movement of EU citizens - the ending of which has been another obsession of those in favour of Brexit.

Britain will leave the EU on 31 January. Then nothing much will happen. The agreement provides for a transition period, or "standstill" phase, in which everything remains essentially the same. That’s when the future relationship talks will take place with the EU. The hard cut off point is the end of the year. And in effect it’s the end of June, when the UK government has to ask for an extension to the transition period, if it wants one. Which it has said many times over, it doesn’t. It was even a manifesto commitment. 

The details and difficulties of the path ahead have been superbly set out by the former UK ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, in a lecture that RTÉ’s Brexit Republic podcast is carrying. If you want just one Brexit briefing to start the year, I recommend this one. 

The other revolution playing out in Britain is the one happening in Scotland. Brexit has both overshadowed it and been a catalyst to it. December’s general election has left Labour and the Liberal Democrats leaderless and directionless. With a stunning result in the UK election, and holding power in the Scottish Assembly (albeit as a minority government) Nicola Sturgeon now looks like the real leader of the opposition - even without a seat of her own in Westminster.  

The benefits of exercising executive power as a government head (even in a devolved administration) really showed in the leaders debates in the election campaign, with Sturgeon able to talk about what she has actually done in government, not what she promises to do (even if there have been plenty of complaints in Scotland itself, notably about the health service - but even that sharpens and toughens her as a performer in debates). 

The SNP enjoys the information and systems benefits of incumbency in Scotland , and can strike an oppositional, outsider pose in Westminster. It’s a formidable political combination, one that the Conservative Party itself is also attempting.

The coming clash between the Brexiter government in London and the Nationalist government in Scotland will be fascinating: it's not all about London v Brussels.