The Brexit quadratic was originally presented as one that could easily be factorised to yield simple, real, positive value solutions. It soon turned out that all the solutions were actually negative. Worse still, it’s now become clear that there’s an extra term to the equation that was overlooked at the time of the referendum: the Irish border problem. It changes everything.

Once that term is introduced, even if we ignore a number of other dubious constants, the actual Brexit equation cannot be factorised. It has only complex number solutions. They’re not real – which is a very different thing to saying that they’re wrong. That would be making a category mistake, exactly the same kind of category mistake that people on both sides of the argument continue to make. Right and wrong do not map to real and imaginary.

The referendum result left our politicians with the problem of fitting complex numbers and their imaginary components into real-world spreadsheets and negotiations. Any solution to Brexit involves *i* – the square root of minus one. This is why we never get a straight answer to any question. There isn’t one that can be couched in real terms that make any common sense. That, unfortunately, is the whole deal with complex algebra.

Hot damn. I think I’ve come up with a good way of understanding the mess we’re in and only mathematicians are going to be able to understand it.

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