29 March 2017

Today the hammer falls and I feel sick. The decision to pull the UK out of the EU, and also the way in which the UK government has gone about it, leave me in a state of constant grief and anger. I am very bitter. I find myself with many of the symptoms of depression, but I’m aware of it and trying to tackle it. Writing this blog post is one of the ways.

I’m sure some people find it hard to comprehend how a political event like this could have such a profound effect on me personally. I’m quite sure that very many of the people who voted to leave last June took the decision very lightly without really giving it any much thought at all, or acting on the spur of the moment. Well, let me try to explain.

I’m both British and German, and I grew up in 1970s England. TV, comics, books, everything still seemed obsessed with the war. My parents and grandparents all had war stories, from opposing sides. At the same time, we thought we’d die in a nuclear holocaust when the Cold War went hot. (We really did.) My holidays were spent driving down to southern Germany and spending time with my family there. Europe, and Europe’s divisions, meant something very concrete and real to me, with heavy emotional significance. As I grew up and became politically aware, so European integration became an issue, the issue, that meant most to me. And, as a student, I watched Thatcher’s reign disintegrate over the issue. I joined the Young European Movement, I went to federalist conferences, I idolised Jacques Delors and dreamed of working for the EU one day. And I did it. I passed the famous ‘concours’. In 1995, I realised my dream and came to work for the European Commission in Brussels.

Like all dreams, it didn’t live up to its billing. It’s a job. I could rant for a week on ways in which things could be improved. But this is also, still, a vocation, and I believe in it as much as I ever did. I have no doubt at all that the people of Europe need to come together if they want to be more secure, and have a better quality of life. Effective government at the European level seems to me to be more important than ever, as I look around the world. So this monstrous idiocy on the part of the country where I grew up leaves me reeling. I still can’t really believe it, I don’t want to believe it. All this energy which should and could have been spent on making things better and instead it’s being used to destroy.

So here comes the uplifting closing section of this post. Here is what I’m telling myself. I know it’s true, and so it ought to help me deal with it.

The UK is leaving, but the EU is still here. This isn’t the end. Life for most of my colleagues continues more or less without interruption – I’m struck by how, for most people around me, Brexit is just another issue which is happening to other people, like Syria, or drought. Yes, there are implications for the EU, and we need to work up policy solutions, but already the UK is seen as something outside which is in big trouble of its own making but it’s not our problem any more, we just need to find ways to defend our interests. I don’t think they are being complacent, but they are being realistic, and they have a sense of perspective which I don’t. Brexit carries considerable risk for the EU but it also brings opportunities. We have a job to do to minimise the risk and maximise the opportunities. Meanwhile I have a cause that will occupy me in my home country for the rest of my political life. Theresa May wants the country to unite behind her as she rips the UK out of the EU. Not as I live and breathe will she ever get that wish. Never. No way.

2 thoughts on “29 March 2017

  1. Bob

    I grew up through the 50s and 60s in Old Lundun Tahn, when the prevailing ‘phobia was of the xeno variety (German, French, Darkie and Jewish in that order) and most of my toys and much of my reading was centred on fighting the Hun.
    Took up drumming instead of uni after school, so further education has been life-guided, resulting in my stock answer to the educated-but-stupid: you may think you know everything, but I know everything else.
    The point being: there is NO excuse for narrow-minded and willful stupidity, whatever your upbringing, background or education (e.g. Johnson, Farage, Banks etc).
    I now reside in Brussels, as a trailing spouse to my brilliant E European missus, feeling physically sick as my country has been hijacked by a gobshite pub-bore… which would be just fine by him.
    But you’re right: we need to do more, think better and strive to make Europe a finer place to live.
    Now… I just need to sort a forrin passport…

  2. Owen Smith

    Immediately after the referendum vote in June, I was suggesting that MPs enact all European legislation into UK law. This would automatically have enshrined all the social and economic arrangements. Each of them could then be discussed at leisure by our “own Parliament” at a later date. At the time there would probably have been enough Tory MPs to support the idea, assuming that Labour Mps woul want to retain the social stuff.

    Is it now too late ?

    Perhaps Mrs May could offer to enshrine all these things for Scotland in return for putting Indie 2 on the back burner.


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