Brexit Post-Mortem

I don’t even know what to say anymore! I’m laughing right now at how ludicrous the political shenanigans are becoming, but I suspect I will wake up with the doom and gloom again tomorrow, and I despair of ever feeling confident in the British government again. Never mind the Leave voters, who were the cause of my anguish earlier in the week; I think we’ve got bigger fish to fry when the entire political establishment is in combustion in a public spectacle of self-immolation amidst backstabbing, posturing, and the worst display of ‘non-leadership’ I’ve ever seen. It’s like Game of Thrones, British style. All in the interests of the British public of course. Of course.

I dare say this is the biggest problem we have got on our hands right now. Not the EU, although it could do with being reformed from the bottom up, and I’ll go to my grave wishing Britain had led the way rather than left it to the other 27 countries to do so. Not even the awful rise of racism and xenophobia expression that we’ve all liked to pretend wasn’t so widespread before the Brexit vote threw that can of worms wide open. No, we’ve got to live with the fact that all of us on both sides are completely screwed because the whole debacle is being led by a bunch of egomaniacs who construed the entire thing as a means to push their own self-interests, their career goals and their sense of self-importance, and never worked in the interest of the people for a single minute. And really, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Gosh, I had a whole other post on Brexit I was working on, a disjointed tumble of thoughts about my feelings, which is a bit embarrassing and I don’t even know if it’s worth talking about anymore considering the circus happening out there as we speak. Ah, darn it, I’ll share it anyway. I really really want the Leave camp to come up with a plan. Anything, ANYTHING, that will give any semblance that someone, somewhere, is capable of leading us out of this mud pit and to set aside their own agenda, build a bloody coalition and proper proportional representation and away we go. But anyway, here’s how I was feeling before today, and I will probably feel it again tomorrow, once I’ve recovered from the loss of Boris Johnson (the horror!) and the terrifying prospect of a May/Gove contest. Oh, and Labour free falling. Bring it on, how much worse can it get?

after Brexit post-mortem

It will come as no surprise after my last post on Brexit that when the news broke that the Leave campaign had won, I felt shock and horror in equal measure. And disbelief. Heartbreak. Grief. Fear. And after a day or two, anger.

The enormity of what has happened is still sinking in. And now to start processing, reflecting, responding, honouring, denouncing, and over all, supporting each other, casting aside our preferences and leanings and together limp towards the future (well, if I’m allowed anyway, who knows?), over the next turbulent months and years.

Doctor, I need to talk about my Brexit feelings

All the stages of grief can be experienced in one moment, did you know that? It takes quite a while to sift through what you’re experiencing, and to unpick what is valid and what is, well, your personal demons reacting to the news in their own individual ways. So I have a lot of personal vulnerabilities coming to the surface. Like the feeling of rejection, alienation and ‘otherness’ that tried to choke me last Friday as I digested the news. That the last 18 years of growing, learning, paying my taxes, participating in British life, had been for nothing, can be discarded and negated in a moment; that the shaping of my adult life had been dismissed as of no importance by many people I used to know and call friends. My logical mind tells me that my heart is spouting utter rubbish right now and that you can’t erase the past, but you sure can erase other people’s future, and my unskilled 18 year old self would not have been given a chance in a Britain without the free movement of people; I would never had met my husband, never had my children, never had the work opportunities I have had, or the life experience. So I’m grieving this, in an irrational bit of psychological anguish.

I saw messages as early as the day after the vote calling for everyone to get along and for people to ‘move on and accept what’s happened’, as if it was the same as coping with the rise of Freddo frog chocolate prices. Should we really all pretend it’s just another day at the office and switch off our emotions for the sake of, what, making everybody else feel better? I’m not going to pretend it hasn’t grated to see people so easily dismiss the genuine grief of 48% of the population over what we see as the devastation of our economy and of Europe, the destruction of 43 years of hard work after 6 weeks of a shambolic campaign of self-serving lies on both sides. We will learn to accept it, but please, give us some time.

And then of course, there’s the anger that the whole thing shouldn’t have happened in the first place, at least not in the way that it did, led by self-serving politicians who fed us half-truths and forgot to mention a whole load of other things (hello, Northern Ireland and your peace process that is entirely reliant on being part of the EU and the free movement of people) for their own ends.

There’s anger towards the Remain campaign, for failing to make a compelling case for the EU, despite having quite a lot of positive facts at their disposal.

There’s anger, in some of us, towards the Leave campaign, who manipulated people’s emotions and blatantly lied and goaded them to gain levity, whilst utterly failing to prepare a forward plan of action. There’s anger, also, towards the small proportion of Leave voters who used their vote to protest against the establishment, to spite them without regard for the consequences. Why mistrust everything that comes out from politicians’ mouths, apart from on this issue?

I am angry towards past and present governments, Tory and Labour, who so utterly failed to show people, over years, all the good that the EU did for their communities. That the benefits were at least worth some of the cost. Governments who never celebrated the great opportunities afforded Britain by EU funding, choosing instead to communicate their petty disagreements and focusing on the precious precious preciousssss things they lost.

Follow the man with the Brexit plan! Oh, hang on….

I’m also maybe less angry than dumbfounded that, despite the fact that the referendum in itself should be seen as advisory rather than legally binding, people seem to be in a hurry to rush towards the breakdown of everything we have ever known, when what’s become clear out of all of this is that neither side have a single clue how to handle the fallout, neither side have a plan of action. And yet, we’re told we should be excited about this adventure in uncharted territory, as if history doesn’t teach us that going into uncharted territory without a plan, paddle and provisions usually leads to being mauled by a bear or dying of frostbite in the North Pole.

I’ve been struck by the lack of leadership we’ve seen over the last few days from our party leaders and their governments (bar that of Nicola Sturgeon, shame I can’t vote for her and that she’s really backed into a corner she is going to struggle to get out of). To me, this is the key issue in the next few weeks and months. I’m a realist. It does look like we’re going to leave the EU, and I need to make my peace with it (I will still think it’s stupid but I will actively work at embracing the present). But I’m also a logical person, so someone give me logic. In this vacuum, I am looking for someone on the Leave side to give me figures and a realistic view of the future, and I haven’t seen one yet. This is the bit that scares me most of all.

I am astonished (and maybe a bit jealous) at seeing the optimism, the faith, that the Leave voters put in the British government through their vote. Do people really think that, if given more sovereign power, our government will use it more ably and successfully to tackle the issues the country faces than it has had until now whilst attached to the EU? I personally think it is a misplaced faith, and that both parties have a lot to answer for in the wake of this debacle, in how they have successfully ignored the gradual disenfranchisement and increasing poverty of the North and West of England that has always been in their power to address, EU notwithstanding, and created much of the issues being debated today.

I know I need to acknowledge my own privilege as well. I do live in the South East after all and it will do no one any good to pretend that the Leave side in general didn’t have any good reason to vote as they did, against the perceived threat of the EU, and out of a place of deep anger themselves, against poverty, against a lack of job opportunities and a ridiculous housing market, and they were given an excellent scapegoat in the EU. Which is a shame, when I think it should mostly be directed towards the current and past UK governments, who are not, in fact, so shackled by Brussels that they’ve not had plenty of opportunities to care for the most disadvantaged places in the UK, like, say, Cornwall, who voted leave and is now hoping that the UK will somehow be able to dig £500 million out of a magician’s hat to replace EU subsidies without a cost to the country and themselves, like, I don’t know, higher taxes. Yeah, I know, I’m repeating myself a bit. I do wonder how it will pan out though, once we can make a decent comparison from a cost/benefit point of view before and after the EU. I want the facts.

And another thing: every time I hear someone talk about ‘sovereignty’, I literally want to stab my ears with sharp sticks. It’s the most elusive, mythical bollocks to think that more control will mean more money and more compassion for the fringes from politicians whose nearest experience of the fringes is their fortnightly barber appointment. As I said before, they’ve had plenty of time to give it a try before and it’s never materialised. And now everybody’s double backing and Farage is let loose in the EU chambers like a jack-in-the-box (ironically, it’s called a ‘diable en boite’, a boxed devil in French) popping out with a maniacal laugh, sticking his middle finger out to 27 other nations and caring not a jot about the British people who will need every single one of those nations feeling pity enough for us to get even a modicum of a decent trade deal after the dust has settled.

When people go on about ‘making Britain great again’ and that Britain was so much better before the EU, I think they forgot the two World Wars caused by the demands alliances between sovereign states placed on them in the first place. What a dream to want to go back to.

Anyways… I digress, because really, I have no power over any of these things. What I do have, is control over my actions, and I cannot let them be dictated by the feelings Brexit has engendered in me. There is no getting rid of the feelings, and I’m gonna be honest, I suspect it will be a daily fight for me to challenge the contempt, disgust and anger I feel about what’s just happened. But I can’t let it be directed at people. I know I’m fairly protected, living where I do. We’re not well-off, we live on a month-to-month basis and haven’t saved a penny in five years but we’re not poor and we’ve got a house we partly own. We may have to start eating more plain pasta but even as an EU national, it might be years before my status changes in any significant way. I need to be able to put myself in the shoes of the Leave voters, not those who protest-voted, not the racist ones, not the ‘make Britain Great again’ ones, not them. But those British people who have no jobs and no prospects, who have suffered immensely under the austerity measures the government has put in place, who haven’t seen the EU money make much of a difference, I know I can’t blame them for voting the way they did, instead, I need to do what I can to help.

No doubt the EU is in dire need of reform, and I don’t think anyone who supported Remain feels any different from me in this regard, and I sorely wish the UK had been involved in leading the process. But that would have required the setting aside of personal motives for the sake of the good of the many, which is not a quality the British government has displayed at any point in recent years.

In the meantime, the pound is worth nothing and our first visit to my French parents in two years is going to make us dig into our meager savings, so onwards!