What the New HBO Brexit Film Gets Wrong: New at Reason

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There’s a bizarre moment in Brexit: The Uncivil War, the HBO drama about Britain’s 2016 E.U. referendum. Robert Mercer, the Trump-supporting American billionaire, is shown offering his services to Arron Banks, a Leave-supporting British businessman. It’s an incongruous scene, and feels as if it has been spliced in from a cheap spy thriller. “Data is power,” whispers Mercer from the shadows like some cartoon supervillain.

That meeting never happened. And in any case, much to his annoyance, the puerile Banks was not allowed anywhere near the official Leave campaign. I should know. I was the man who hired Vote Leave’s excellent Chief Executive, Matthew Elliot, and thus set up the campaign. A subsequent investigation by Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office—which has been doing its damndest to find some wrongdoing on behalf of Leave—found “no evidence” that Mercer’s company, Cambridge Analytica, was “involved in any data analytics work with the E.U. Referendum campaigns.”

The meeting, in other words, would have been irrelevant even it had happened; but it didn’t. Now a certain amount of dramatic license is to be expected in a play, but the fictitious Mercer meeting serves no dramatic purpose whatever. It is a glitch, an odd anomaly that interrupts the narrative. Its sole purpose is to leave the viewer with a vague sense that Brexit and Trump are somehow connected, two sides of the same populist coin, writes Daniel Hannan in his latest at Reason.

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