Magazine October 28, 2019, Issue

The Brexit Knot

(Fanatic Studio/Gary Waters/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)
Britain now faces a great political and constitutional crisis

Being a classicist, Boris Johnson would be familiar with the Gordian knot. But for anybody whose schoolroom memories need refreshing, the knot in question was put in place by Gordius, king of Phrygia. Reputedly only a ruler of Asia would be able to untie the knot — making it a slightly less glamorous version of King Arthur’s sword in the stone. In any case, when confronted by the knot, Alexander the Great is said to have spotted the fast way to undo the problem and simply whacked at it with his sword, so proving that he should become the king

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