It’s been almost 8 months since the referendum and in that time there’s been about a decade’s worth of news. We’ve seen a new President, a new leader of the Conservative Party and several new leaders of UKIP. In that time I’ve also moved to the Netherlands which has given me a chance to view Britain from an outsider’s perspective and sadly, from this vantage point, it’s not looking great. From what I can make out from Dutch headlines we are seen as the petulant child of Europe.
My feelings about the referendum have been well documented. The result hurt. I’ve gone through denial and anger and now I’m on to bargaining. I’ve accepted that we are leaving the EU. I’ve accepted that it probably won’t bankrupt us, other than perhaps morally. I’ve accepted that leaving probably won’t mean WW3 although, I admit, I am a little nervous that our closest political ally is now an adolescent, emotionally unstable bigot who feels the need to retaliate in response to the smallest of grievances.
If Remain had won the referendum I would have expected the Remain “side” to reassure those who had voted to Leave. It would have been our responsibility, as the victors, to listen to the concerns people had about the EU and address them. It would have been our job to make a success of our EU membership. Had the Remain vote won I would not be shouting at Leave voters, “You lost – get over it! Oh and stop moaning because you’re making us look bad.”
Yet nobody seems to think it’s necessary to listen to or reassure the 74% of the population who did not vote for this. I don’t see anyone even taking their views into consideration. I see a Prime Minister so scared of UKIP eating into her majority that she’s willing to copy their campaign slogans and a Labour Party trying to represent both the 48% and the 52% and failing miserably. I’ve received emails, messages and tweets telling me to stop being so “anti-Britain” and to “get on board” with Brexit and “make it work.”
It is not on me to make Brexit work. I never believed this COULD work without making people’s lives worse which is why I didn’t vote for it. At the moment I’ve not been given any assurances leaving the EU will improve the lives of UK citizens and this really worries me. I want to know that once we’re out of the EU, the price of food won’t increase, families won’t be worse off and that workers’ rights will be protected. I want reassurance that my friends who have moved to the UK from France, Italy and Sweden and made it their home will be allowed to stay. I want a guarantee that Theresa May won’t use the NHS as a bargaining chip in a deal with Trump. In an ideal world I’d also like someone to confirm that I won’t have to fill in three forms every time I leave the country. Last year I did an around-the-world trip and, trust me, once you’ve done the paperwork necessary to get into Russia, Mongolia and China you’ll never moan about queues at passport control in EU countries ever again.
I will “get on board” with Brexit if someone, anyone, can show me what it is I’m getting on board with.
Because here’s what I see at the moment. I see our Prime Minister holding hands with the most dangerous head of state my generation has ever seen. I question whether this is the time to be cutting ties with our 27 neighbouring allies. Should we not be taking a stand against Trump and his beliefs that are so at odds with our European interests and values? History will not judge us kindly for appeasing Donald Trump. I watched with admiration when President Hollande, Prime Minister Rutte & Chancellor Merkel condemned Trump’s “extreme vetting.” Statements of solidarity poured in from Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark & Finland. Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn, Tim Farron, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood spoke out. And our Prime Minister? She said it was none of her business and held his hand. I wonder how many times in the years to come will May have to decide between standing with Trump or standing with Europe and I wonder, if she has one, what her red line would be. What would he have to do for her to stand up to him?
I also hear from the Prime Minister the she is quite willing to walk away from the EU with no deal whatsoever. Labour’s proposed amendments to the Article 50 bill are sensible and offer some reassurance to the 47 million people who did not vote to leave the EU but given that the party line seems to be that even if NONE of their amendments make it on to the final bill they’ll still vote it through it all feels quite tokenistic.
So I’m listening. Tell me what the vision is for this brave new world and I’ll try and get behind it. Just don’t you dare tell me that this is anything to do with sovereignty.