This column was written for Politico.
We're told that people are bored of Brexit. So you might think there would not be much of market for Brexit-based podcasts.
You’d be wrong.
In fact, a burgeoning podcasting scene has grown up around analyzing and dissecting Britain's leap out of the European Union. The quality is variable, but there is some high-class listening to be had.
Often these shows take an unashamedly partisan slant on Brexit, which can work well. But it's a pity one or two don’t have some proper debate, rather than just reflecting only on one side of the debate and taking the mickey out of the other.
It is also a shame that the pro-Brexit side of the debate haven’t got their act together and hosted their own podcast — the nearest is Briefings for Brexit, but that can be, well, a bit on the serious side.
I’m not going to pretend that I listen regularly to all 14 podcasts reviewed below, but I have listened in to all of them for the purposes of this article — one full episode of each and a dive into some of their back catalogue.
There really is something for everyone.
Weekly, 35-45 mins
Host/s: Chris Mason, Adam Fleming, Laura Kuenssberg and Katya Adler
Said to garner an audience well into six figures, this podcast is about as un-BBC as you’re likely to get. It moves on in a jaunty fashion with all four participants engaging in what young people commonly refer to as "bantz." Brexit bantz. It has a chaotic feel to it at times, but only in so far as its excellent producer Dino Sofos allows. It’s very BBC 5 Live in style but has the ability to appeal both to Brexit aficionados and the casual listener. It enjoys an advantage over its rivals in that it gets constant promotion on BBC TV and radio. Its weakness? None of its presenters — this being the BBC — are allowed to offer an opinion. In fact, they do it so skilfully that I haven’t a clue which way any of them would have voted in the referendum. OK, I could guess, and I suspect it would be like any BBC Brexit panel — 3-1 in favour of Remain.
Beyond Brexit (PwC)
Monthly, 15 mins
Host/s: Emily Khan
As you might imagine from one of Britain’s leading accountancy firms, this podcast concentrates on the implications for business of Brexit. There aren’t a lot of laughs here, and it seems very short for a podcast which is only produced monthly. You get the impression they’re only doing the podcast because they ought to, rather than because there’s any enthusiasm for it. The style is very matter-of-fact, although it’s quite accessible.
Brexit Brits Abroad (UK in a Changing Europe)
Weekly, 20-25 mins
Host/s: Michaela Benson, Karen O’ Reilly, Chantelle Lewis and Catherine Collins
Produced with the aid of funds from the Economic and Social Research Council via think tank UK in a Changing Europe, this podcast is all about what Brexit means for British citizens. The four presenters are all academics with very distinctive voices. They sound about as unacademic as academics can get, and I mean that as a compliment. They have occasional guests and although many of the subjects are quite esoteric and not especially relevant to their supposed audience, it’s a good listen. They’re all clearly Remainers and sometimes have difficulty understanding the other side of the argument. At least they make the effort though.
Brexit: The Final Countdown (Daily Express)
Weekly, 35 mins
Host/s: Rebecca Hutson
This podcast only started in early December 2018. It’s quite newsy and draws on the experience of Express journalists in Westminster and Brussels. It tries to compete with the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Brexit Broadcast but doesn’t quite get there. It lacks pace and there’s no "must listen" element to it. It doesn’t contain anything you couldn’t get elsewhere.
Brexit: A Love Story (BBC Radio 4)
Weekly, 20 mins
Host/s: Mark Mardell
Less a podcast, more of a BBC Radio 4 documentary series. Beautifully produced, it really does shed insight into why the U.K. is divorcing itself from the EU. It’s the sort of program/podcast that only the BBC has the production resources to make. Mark Mardell is the ideal front man for this and uses his background knowledge of Westminster to good effect.
Chopper’s Brexit Podcast (Telegraph)
Weekly, 35 mins
Host/s: Christopher Hope
A nicely produced, pacey podcast led by "Chopper" himself, Christopher Hope, is joined by a multitude of guests ranging from fellow Telegraph hacks to Cabinet ministers. Incredibly well-connected, Hope seems to have little difficulty in persuading all of the leading lights of Brexit to appear with him. It’s a good mixture of meatiness and insight, but all done with a light touch. If you limit yourself to listening to three Brexit podcasts a week, this ought to be one of them.
Irregular, 10-15 mins
Host/s: Alex and Amar
Ultra-Remainery as you might expect from a podcast with this title, and also given that it’s recorded by two 20-somethings who live in Brussels. Slightly predictable chit-chat, but good in that both of them aren’t afraid to offer an opinion — something rarely found in Brexit podcasts. The main weakness of this podcast is its unpredictability. Sometimes you get two episodes on consecutive days, other times there’s a two-week gap. It is also too varied in length — episodes can be anything from six to 20 minutes long. This needs sorting.
Briefings for Brexit (Briefings for Brexit)
Weekly, 20-40 mins
The only unashamedly pro-Brexit podcast on the market, this is very worthy and the style is very BBC Radio 4. Given that Briefings for Brexit is an organization of academics who are pro-Brexit, this should not surprise us. The interviews with key Brexit personalities are well conducted by the anonymous female presenter (try as I might I can’t find out who she is). Don’t expect many laughs here, but if you want info and insight, it’s worth a try. Again, the length needs to be sorted out. The range is too wide.
Weekly, 60 mins
Host/s: Dorian Lynskey, Ros Taylor, Ian Dunt and Peter Collins
This podcast describes itself on its website as the “no bullshit Brexit podcast.” Unashamedly pro-Remain, it can seem a little bit echo-chambery, but even if you’re a Brexit supporter you can enjoy it. Given ultra-Remainers seem to often lack a sense of humor, this podcast can be surprisingly funny. It’s very chatty, with normally three or four people taking part, including outside guests. If you like swearing in a podcast, Dunt will satisfy your every need. They’ve even done live podcasts.
Brexit Republic (RTÉ)
Weekly, 40 mins
Host/s: Tony Connelly and Colm Ó Mongáin
Tony Connelly is RTÉ’s correspondent in Brussels. He has become the go-to person in the U.K. for commentary on Brussels and his recent book became a bestseller. It’s a podcast that brims with insight and interpretation. You might think it’s just obsessed with the Brexit implications for the Republic of Ireland, but it strays way beyond that. If you want to get into the minute details of the EU’s position, that of Ireland, or indeed Britain, you won’t get better than this podcast. I listen every week and it really helps inform my own views.
The Nigel Farage Show (LBC, Global Radio)
Five days a week, 45 mins
Host/s: Nigel Farage
This is the podcast of Nigel Farage’s LBC radio show, which he broadcasts Monday-Thursday and Sunday morning. He does occasionally cover subjects other than Brexit, but at the moment it’s rare. Farage is a very good broadcaster, and although his views might be predictable, his encounters with callers who ring to take him on can surprise the casual listener. He often charms them and usually parts as friends, and he can be much more nuanced than his public image might suggest.
The Business of Brexit (KPMG)
Weekly, 35 mins
Host/s: James Stewart
James Stewart is the head of Brexit at KPMG. I have no idea whether this podcast is playing catchup with the PwC equivalent and it’s only one episode old, but its inaugural show was meaty and held the attention. Stewart is not a natural in front of the microphone and sounds a little scripted but I have quite high hopes for this podcast. It’s about time business started to make its voice heard and a Brexit podcast without a politician being featured is a welcome addition.
Brexit Means … (The Guardian)
Irregular, 40 minutes
Host/s: Jon Henley
What a missed opportunity. The last episode was on January 8 and before then its appearance lacked any regularity at all. So much has happened since January 8, yet this podcast doesn’t seem to think it’s worth any discussion. Jon Henley is an accomplished broadcaster and presenter and his slightly sardonic approach really works. But the Guardian of all publications should understand that you cannot build up a podcast listenership if listeners don’t know when the next podcast is due.
The New European Podcast (Archant)
Weekly, 60 minutes
Host/s: Richard Porritt, Steve Anglesey and Geri Scott
Following the success of the newspaper launch, this podcast from the creators of the New European has really hit the mark. Its pro-Remain editorial stance is out and proud. The style is relaxed, chatty and at times highly amusing. While the three presenters aren’t household names, they have an easy repartee that unlike in some other podcasts, never seems forced. It’s a bit "Brexitcast" in its conversation without the clips and guests. You feel as if you’re eavesdropping on three mates discussing Brexit in a pub on a Friday night. And that’s a compliment.