This is not my Brexit day

It is 31st January 2020 and as of 11 pm tonight the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union. We have arrived at Brexit day.

U2 and the EU

But this is not my Brexit. I did not want it. I did not vote for it. I argued against it with as much reason and reasonableness as I could muster. Throughout the referendum campaign, I never heard a political, economic or democratic argument sufficiently rooted in reality to mount a credible case for leaving the EU. I’ve still not heard one. Brexit will not satisfy those who voted Leave because of political and economic neglect. The solution to those problems lies elsewhere.

This is not my Brexit. In the immediate aftermath of the vote on 23rd June 2016, I was angry and upset. I had thought that even if the vote went the wrong way, an enormous dose of British pragmatism would be brought to bear to smooth the transition, but I soon learned how badly I had mis-judged the situation. Theresa May’s premiership will be remembered, if at all, for the vacuous phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’, the cold hardening of her anti-immigrant instincts, and her blindness to the fissures that have opened up across the UK, which left her incapable of learning the political lessons of the Brexit vote.

This is not my Brexit. The arrival at No. 10 of Boris Johnson – mendacity made flesh – is a depressing confirmation that Leave campaign’s “dishonesty on an industrial scale”, in Michael Dougan’s famous phrase, has become the new normal in British politics. Johnson may have secured a parliamentary majority sufficient to deliver Brexit, but did so with a minority of the votes cast. So far he has offered little but his trademark bluster to paper over the divisions within the country. Brexit remains a largely English ‘victory’ and a hollow one at that. Somehow we have to find a way to re-unite as a country but also as a people that looks out to the world with generosity, honesty and humility. I see none of these qualities in our current prime minister.

This is not my Brexit. Johnson has played recklessly with nationalist sentiment, inflated the fantasy of British exceptionalism, and stood by while some of his fellow-travellers stirred xenophobic bile into the national discourse. The result has been chilling for millions of Europeans who made Britain a home where they hoped to build a future. The country’s humanity has been diminished alongside its international standing.

This is not my Brexit and this is not my Brexit day. I cling to hope but will mourn the severance. If I have learned one thing in the past three and a half years, it is that nationalism is a cancer that humanity may not survive. It is the root of racism. It thrives on separation when the world desperately needs to find its common humanity. By the happy accident of being born in Ireland, I have been able to apply for an Irish passport. I will not revel in my Irishness, but in the fact that I remain a citizen of something greater – the EU. Even then, I am no longer satisfied. I look forward to the day when my documentation proclaims me what I truly wish to be: a citizen of the world.


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9 Responses to This is not my Brexit day

  1. You have expressed my feelings perfectly.

  2. Margaret Colquhoun says:

    I echo the words of my husband.

  3. Steve Moss says:

    I agree with every word, this is an unimaginably sad day for this country. But although Boris Johnson can take the UK out of the EU, he cannot take Europe out of me. European is what I am, and European is what I feel. I’m lucky in that through having a French wife I was able to obtain French nationality, and France now feels more like home. The two of us will soon be relocating there.

  4. Tom Johnstone says:

    Perfectly said. My sentiments are very much the same. I am now an EU citizen in exile. As a scientist, I have spent more than half my working life contributing to and embedded within EU institutions and EU science and culture. When you devote your efforts like that, and when you immerse yourself in those institutions with your scientific and cultural family in the EU, it becomes very much a part of who you are. It is gut wrenching to have it ripped away. I am very sad and angry. Legally, I have had my EU citizenship ripped from me against my will. But my identity has not, and will not change. I am an EU Australian, and having lived half my life in Europe, two thirds of my adult life, that will not change. I am an EU citizen in exile, and the fight to regain my legal EU citizenship starts today.

  5. Erika Cule says:

    Thank you, Stephen, for sharing and for writing.

  6. Caroline Kovacs says:

    Thank you for expressing my sentiments so coherently. I am fearful of what will happen when people realise what Brexit really means for them.
    I wonder whether the Russia report will ever be published… I can’t believe what has happened here – seems to come from the pages of a paperback holiday read!

  7. Mrs Damaris M Lee says:

    Thank you, Stephen, for your wise words.

  8. Anthony Cruz says:

    Writing solely as an unbiased Political Scientist, without a
    “A dog in the fight” I have a few observations. PM Cameron promised a Referendum on Brexit, then he campaigned vociferously against it, as did most of his administration including Home Secretary May. When Brexit garnered the most votes, he did the Honorable thing and resigned. But, Theresa May ran to take his seat, and promised to implement the will of the Majority, despite having campaigned against Brexit. Is it any wonder that the 3 years that followed were an utter embarrassment? She never wanted it in the first place, so she was negotiating from a position of weakness, and all the votes in Parliament calling for this Amendment and that Amendment, all those protesters asking for another vote, further weakened her hand. Defections from her camp, attacks in the media. What did you think was going to happen?
    History will determine what the legacy of Prime Minister Theresa May will be. I hope that whatever happens with Brexit will in the end suit the majority of the English people. No outcome will ever please all, that’s always been an impossibility. But it is now here, assess, understand it, and improve what you can of it, rather than to curse it and hold your breath till you get another Referendum. When life serves you lemons make, lemonade, lemon cake, whatever just don’t spend your remaining days crying in your beer!!! You are all better than that!!!

  9. Pingback: It’s Not My Brexit Either | Athene Donald's Blog

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