Today, minutes after waking up, James showed me an image on Twitter depicting a red-dress-clad Marianne-like figure striding out of a Union-Jacked United Kingdom (including the Republic of Ireland, let it be said), a gruff lion by her side, captioned “Remainers will keep trying to reverse Brexit, keep talking the UK down. Brexiteers no different. The UK can succeed and flourish after Brexit.”
Though the post and the comments were intended to be uplifting and/or entertaining, its mere publishing put me into such a state of raging despair that even I was surprised. And I know I’m an emotional person! Almost one year on day for day, having experienced pangs of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance of varying intensity, I am taking this opportunity to try to take stock of where we are.
I remember the sense of duty I had going to vote last June, along with a feeling of disbelief: “Why am I even here? This is ludicrous! Surely I am not qualified to make this decision.” Indeed, I didn’t feel qualified to decide something of such immeasurable importance. And I’m a Warwick alumni who studied European Law for four years, looking at the EU, its history, its institutions, its laws, its place in our society. This was not our decision to make.
When the referendum was first announced, I arrogantly thought that of course, we, as a country, would vote in. Then, as various polls were published, doubt started to take grip. Fear. And then the results. Heartbreak. I cried. From sadness and fear and a lost sense of identity.
Looking back, I think many probably went through a similar pattern of emotions. The Remain campaign was weak. Arrogant. It was in the bag. Anything that was said was dismissed as fear-mongering by the nauseating likes of Nigel Farrage. Experts were discredited. The referendum itself was called by an out-of-touch politician who presumed to know his electorate. It was an arrogant decision and a self-serving one. This has all been established.
Now, nearly a year on, Article 50 has been triggered and negotiations have started, quite poorly one might add. No surprises there. In between these two events, our so-called leader, yet another arrogant politician, whose hard and non-sensical stance on Brexit is reckless and dangerous, called a snap election, expecting a landslide and receiving in fact a rather nasty surprise. Despite some initial mirth at this turn of events, I can’t help but feel anger, frustration and despair.
In an age where facts no longer seem to matter, my rational and logical brain cannot quite compute. Said anger, frustration and despair billow as I am struck over and over again by unfounded, nostalgic, persistent, small-minded claims, despite the growing evidence that leaving the EU is nothing more than shooting ourselves in the foot. The pound has dropped in value, inflation has risen, interest rates are about to go up. These are facts. Oh, and many Brexiteer Brits are not so pleased with the sovereignty of British judges in British courts examining the British constitution. Reading comments by the Chancellor or the Bank of England Governor, all I feel like saying is, “Duhhhh,” which I’m sure you’ll agree is not exactly eloquent. I am outraged and furious at the extreme right-wing rags (media is too good a word for them) for sowing the seeds of insular patriotism, superiority and self-sufficiency.
In light of recent political developments, I am losing the faith I had finally come to just about regain. Indeed, after my initial anger and hurt at the referendum outcome, after playing ostrich during my time away, after finally convincing myself that, “OK, surely it won’t be that bad” even if it is incredibly frustrating that a huge amount of money and time will be wasted to end up in a position not that different to what we have today, the current government, with its U-turns, hard Brexit rhetoric, and attempted coalition with a despicable and scary extremist party, is simply not trustworthy. I thought, foolishly, that perhaps they did want what was best for the country. Now, I struggle to believe that. Where are we going, what’s the plan? No one knows. What the hell is this place I’m living in? I no longer know.
Though at times a necessary source of relief, and some of it very good, I can’t help but somewhat resent the traditional gallows humour regarding Brexit. This is no laughing matter. Lighten up, you might say. I try. But this is so goddamn important and who is going to take us seriously if we just make light of it all?
At a time, in my privileged life, where I am struggling with the idea of calling my country of birth my home, struggling in my relationship to find a compromise between staying together and moving away from what I can’t help but feel is a close-minded, insular, little Britain, I can only hope things will improve. I am desperately trying to cling to the good things, the overwhelming support shown in the wake of a number of terrible events affecting this city and this country, the humour when I’m not so angry, and the surge of hope that came with Jeremy Corbyn coming so close to overthrowing Theresa May.
Let us continue to hope that this country’s leaders will eventually place the welfare of its citizens, British-born and other, at the heart of both its policies and plans for the future.