Thursday 8 June 2017

What do we mean by Brexit, actually?

I recently argued with a Remain friend. 

“The problem is,” I said, “it’s all too black and white, not like a general election.” 

“I don’t agree,” she said. “It’s all very complex.”

She’s right, of course. It is all very complex. There is no agreement on what Brexit actually means. This is partly because, I suspect, that no one was expecting it. There is probably as much difference between any two versions of Brexit as there is between any one and Remain.
However, I was right as well and perhaps I should have said “cut and dried”. Unlike with an election a decision like this made at a referendum can’t be reversed in five years’ time or toned down during the five years. In an election we may vote for one party even though we don’t agree with everything but we’ll go with them if we agree on most things. Even if our chosen party doesn’t get in there is still an MP we can talk to and there will be other MPs in parliament representing the party we really wanted. There is something more final about the decision made on 23 June 2016. 

A ray of hope: the EU has said we can change our minds. Maybe in five years’ time the younger electorate will be negotiating to get back in.       

I’m very clear that a lot of British people (not all of “The British People” by any means, so can we talk of the “will of the British people”?) - voted to leave the club and I don’t think we can dictate the terms of our continued relationship with that club. Yes, we can defend ourselves against unfair leaving penalties but actually we had all of that information before we decided to leave, and hmm, our democratically elected Euro MPs were involved in setting it up. We can also negotiate a good working relationship and certainly we all want that in terms of national and international security. 

Can we still live in harmony if not joined institutionally? I’m heartened by my experiences on a recent trip to North Cyprus. We managed to communicate well without a shared language and in a country scarred by partition. Many Britsh ex-pats enjoy living there. I smile when I remember that many Brexiteers were afraid that Turkey would join the EU. I make two points here:
·         It was never on the cards.
·         The Turkish people I met last week were lovely.

What does Brexit mean to me? It’s something I still don’t get, causes me a lot of sadness and worry and fills me with dread. Is this just an emotional reaction, though? It is emotional but not just emotional. I’ve looked as critically as I can at as many verifiable facts I can access and I remain Remain.

What will / can the EU do for the 48% and the ex-pats who live in other EU states? 

Not only do I remain Remain, I still see myself as more European that British. I suspect I'm not alone.