Controversial Brexit drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch to air on Channel 4 before its US broadcast on HBO

Brexit: the Uncivil War attempts to tell the story of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign led by Dominic Cummings – but the trailer has already proved divisive

benedict cumberbatch in Brexit

Channel 4 has confirmed that political drama Brexit: the Uncivil War starring Benedict Cumberbatch will air in the UK on 7th January 2019.


The release date means the drama about the 2016 Vote Leave campaign will air before its US broadcast on 19th January.

American broadcaster HBO released a first full trailer for the film on 14th December, showing Sherlock star Cumberbatch as Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings.

The trailer shows Cumberbatch’s character seeming to encourage voters to explain their motivations for leaving the European Union, with Cummings asking, “Is it immigration? You can be honest. Is it race? Which countries don’t you like?”

The first look has already proved divisive, with some questioning the decision to dramatise the story of campaign that has been referred to police over potential electoral law breaches.

Investigate journalist Carole Cadwalladr wrote after HBO released the trailer that “fiction [is] difficult in absence of basic facts”.

Others challenged the US broadcaster over the timing of the drama, with the United Kingdom set to leave the EU in March 2019.

However, screenwriter James Graham responded to the initial reaction to the trailer, writing online, “A lot have seen the trailer for our Brexit film and I can’t wait to engage reasonably to curious questions once it’s actually been seen. Until then, abusive language and misinformation should never intimidate writers/artists working on politically sensitive themes.”

The two-hour film is said to explore the data-driven campaigns behind the Brexit political campaigns and the behind-the-scenes decisions that led to Britain’s historic decision to leave the EU.

“At a time when explosive revelations about the mining of personal data and the corrosive effect of fake news and micro-targeted advertising through social media feeds are at the forefront of the news agenda, Brexit explores how modern data-driven campaigning techniques contributed to one of the most unexpected, highly-charged and controversial decisions in modern political history,” Channel 4 said in a statement.

Brexit: the Uncivil War is written by playwright James Graham and directed by Black Mirror and Sherlock’s Toby Haynes. It is a co-production with BBC Studios, Channel 4 and independent UK producer House Productions.


Brexit: the Uncivil War will air on Channel 4 in the UK at 9pm on Monday 7th January 2019. It will be released in the US on HBO at 9pm on 19th January