I haven’t written for a while, since the big British Brexit drama to be precise. This is partly because of the intervening sunny “holiday” months, but also, if I’m honest, because I’ve been feeling a little lost since we officially voted to jump the EU ship into unknown waters.
Like many, I’d expected the status quo to pull through and quell the storm generated by politicians on both sides. I’d hoped that people would see beyond the end-of-the-world-is-coming scaremongering of the suddenly desperate remainers and the twisted statistics employed by the leavers based on mere shreds of truth. I’d hoped that they’d see the real advantages of staying put: years of peace and stability, cooperation in everything from the environment to fighting terrorism, the freedom to trade and travel.
Alas, when I wake early on 24 June, I glanced sleepily at my phone to discover a knife-edge victory for the flabbergasted Brexiters. Later in the day, the faces of Boris and Michel said it all. They had never expected to win and didn’t know what to do with this sudden divisive victory. 49% of Brits were angry, wanted an independent London, a second referendum or anything to avoid this unwanted divorce. 51% of Brits crowed victory, questioned their choice, wanted to change their vote and defended themselves from accusations of xenophobia.
Politicians were just as divided. Boris came, went and came back (to everyone’s surprise). Gove rose and fell never to be seen again, while Corbyn was declared incompetent by 81% of his MPs announcing the outbreak of a left-wing civil war.
Amidst the chaos Theresa May rose serenely to the top spot, but what will she do now? Officially, she has stated that “Brexit means Brexit” and placed key Brexiters (yes, the very ones who were so liberal with the truth regarding those elusive 32 billion for the NHS) in charge of negotiating an amicable divorce. A tactic to avoid civil war No.2? But, when it comes down to it, the unknown is still unknown and divisions are still bitter.
And, all we’ve got so far is a bunch of questions. The most pressing, which model will we follow? The long and difficult-to-negotiated path outside the single market (like Canada) or the marginally easier Norway or Switzerland model that keeps us in the single market, but at a huge price (contributions and concessions on freedom of movement)? For me, this second option, although preferable, puts in question the very value of leaving at all, especially given the billions needed to break away from the EU, negotiate new agreements and rewrite huge sections of British law.
As a Brit living in Europe, I feel torn and unsettled by events. Yes, I still feel very British, but I have also been living in France for 7 years and don’t want my European identity to be snatched away from me. Aside from administrative issues with visas and working rights (especially given that I am self-employed), the questions is how far how far I’ve integrated into my new home to feel fully French and European.
Am I ready to apply for French nationality after 7 years of irregular verbs, smelly cheese and strikes?