A EUlogy: Parting Words as Britain Votes to Leave

28/06/2016 10:52

You know those mornings where you wake up so hungover that, in the space between lifting your head off the pillow and clambering upright, it's totally necessary to spend three to ten minutes perched on the side of the bed, shoulders limp and frowning at the skirting boards? I'm pretty sure that's what a lot of us felt at dawn on Friday.

What the fuck just happened? Genuinely. One minute we're all pointing and laughing at a troupe of pantomime villains bobbing along the Thames on their Brexit flotilla, perhaps quietly confident that all this stupidity will be over in a few weeks; the next, we are vociferously mourning the country's single greatest loss since I don't know when.

In a foolish, irrational bid to regain her sovereignty (whatever that means in 2016) and the glory of her past (again, wtf???), Britain in her haste, confusion and fear threw so many of her riches onto one great big funeral pyre, incinerated them and floated the ashes into the Channel. And although the raft carrying those ashes has well and truly sailed, it seems, despite people's best efforts to reverse the damage, I'd like to say a few parting words - my own, selfish little eulogy, if you will, to an entity that gave me and continues to give me and others so, so much. This is a democracy after all, as has been proved to us so brutally.

Education and culture. As a modern languages student, my peers and I had opportunities to live and study for next to nothing in neighbouring countries as part of the Erasmus Programme, which no doubt young Brits will struggle for access to. This is a desperate shame, as is the fact that EU students will be put off studying in the UK given the consequent hike in fees. Learning languages was really a convenient guise for me to try and see and understand as much of what was out there as possible. And don't even get me started on the languages that kids aren't motivated to learn nowadays. Apparently they're 'irrelevant' day to day. How tragically ironic it is, that while our own language conquers the world with imperialist force, the nation that birthed it slinks ignominiously back into isolation.

Friendships. Some of the people I care about most in the world came to the UK to study or work or have a pop at living in big, bad London, just like many of us did and do after university. I've seen the toll that staying in the UK can take on friends from outside the EU and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. The effect this referendum has had on many people is likely irreversible, and it's more than just paperwork: Can you imagine what it must feel like to be settled, happy, paying tax, then denied a vote and in an instant have just over half the voting electorate of your host country actively choose to complicate your living and working rights there? Welcoming lot, us Brits. And from people's reactions it seems the voters have got what they wanted, as many of our European friends have already said 'fuck this, I'm out'. Britain has become infinitely poorer, and it has nothing to do with the plummeting value of the pound.

Happiness. The EU has given me the life I am currently enjoying, living and working and learning in Denmark (arguably the happiest country on the planet and EU member since the beginning). Until now, my passport was a source of freedom - truly a privilege, and by virtue of my being here, wallowing in the fruits of international mobility, I'd like to believe it's a privilege I never took for granted. And that's why Friday's news feels like such a senseless death. It quite honestly feels like a crime has been committed - an injustice to so many people at a personal level, and to almost half a nation who were not only ok with the way things were, but have been fucked inside out by this result. This is not to mention the fallout that will be felt across the whole Union. I am embarrassed to be British, and this weekend I've actively hidden it. Thankfully I know enough Danish to order a large, stiff drink. Such shame.

It's embarrassing because from the point of view of many friends here, Britain was given a choice as simple as 'cooperate, negotiate and ameliorate together' or literally 'melt it to the shitting floor'. An unfamiliar British populace picked the latter, but it doesn't matter, does it? Britain did this, as far as international headlines are concerned.

Perhaps this is all a bit overwrought, because of course we'll live. Europe will live. Democracy is well and truly alive, as we've seen. What dies, though, is Britain, for me anyway. It's happening already as incidents of racial abuse and hateful, Leave campaign-sanctioned rhetoric appear to be on the rise following the result. Neither Scotland nor Northern Ireland wants in anymore. Her own capital wants nothing to do with her either. I don't blame any of them because neither do I. The UK is not the home I left nine months ago, and truthfully, sadly, I've little desire to return. I voted remain, and now I just want out, too.

So my heartfelt commiserations, Little England. And congratulations to those who have deceived and lead you into these fevered times. This is what your separatism and arrogance does. "We don't want you. We can do it better without you. We're stronger on our own".

It's the plot of an unlikely story, and one with a tragic ending at that.