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Remain of the Days - Why Brexit Broke My Heart

27/06/2016 16:30 | Updated 27 June 2016

My remaining days as a European are sadly numbered. I have just spent the last week away on business in Italy and Germany as a guilt-free Europhile. I was still in Germany when the EU Referendum results were announced and at breakfast in my hotel I felt like I had to apologise on behalf of Great Britain for the ghastly reality of Brexit.

The previous night I had had the great privilege of speaking at TEDxBonn which took place in the spectacular high rise UN building 23 floors up overlooking the great sweep of the mighty Rhine and sweltering in the unexpected heatwave across Europe. I should have seen the storm clouds coming.

The topics covered by TEDxBonn included climate change, paying back, upcycling rubbish into art, protecting the next generation and, in my case, why comedy should be on prescription. We were a happy crew encompassing several European nations and delighting in our cultural diversity and common belief that we need to work together to save our world. We joked about the referendum and people wished me luck before I headed off to bed. None of us believed that Brexit could prevail.

Next day, in the cold light of the new separatist dawn, I didn't feel much like laughing despite the enthusiastic response I had had to my talk about how comedy unites and transcends culture, gender, age and ability. I know that my sense of humour will return but I'm not going to laugh at the 'comedians' lining themselves up to take over the leadership from a cowardly Cameron who doesn't have to guts to see his cunning plan through to its bitter conclusion.

I have spent all my adult life as a proud European and now my world is changed forever. The apologist in me even foretold the result when I said in my TEDx talk that it might be my last as a European - I am finding it hard to smile knowing that pretty much every other fellow Brit voted us out of the union.

The harsh reality is that over half of us in the United Kingdom wanted Brexit. They live in my street, work with me, share buses, planes and trains, and their children have been educated alongside mine. What tipped them into an avalanche of patriotism at the last moment?

I believe that it was ultimately lack of information about the implications of staying or leaving the union, along with a seriously large dollop of complacency, which led the leavers to vote with their feet to kiss goodbye to a political regime that doesn't listen to the populous and no longer represents what any of us really think.

There is a big price to pay now. The pound plummeted to an all-time low on results day and the only thing that mildly compensated was that I paid for my duty free in Euros. Small recompense for a Europe I hold so dear. I even got the evil eye from German passport control on my way out of Bonn - I most likely imagined this but the longer linger was maybe a portent of things to come.

I am concerned for those of us who run small businesses, and work in the arts or academia, all of which have been built on relationships spanning the last 40 years of borderless trading and cultural exchange. We will inevitably have to rethink about how we work and communicate with customers, clients and students.

What will happen to Eurovision? Will Scotland have another referendum and become part of the Europe that half of us hold so dear? What of my kids' generation who have never thought of themselves as anything but European? Life is tough enough without an overlay of misplaced British patriotism and even a bearded lady singing cannot save us now.

What makes Brexit particularly poignant is that Jo Cox MP died for her belief in remaining part of the European Union at the hands of some mad extremist. I know her murderer doesn't represent the moderate view of good people who see leaving Europe as a positive step for Britain. Yet, he was incited to kill the petite, lively and talented Jo Cox by stabbing and then shooting her at close range because of what he believed is bad about open borders. This really is a world gone mad.

Most of us across Europe descend from a common ancestry and having been in both Italy and Germany over the last week there is so much that binds us together historically and geographically. Surely the horrors of two world wars and more recent terrorist atrocities have shown us the benefits of solidarity and compassion?

We have lived and worked with our European neighbours as a common entity for 40 years so I would urge you to take heed of this moving tribute that Jo Cox's husband Brendan put on Twitter on Friday 24th June when Brexit was announced.

"Today Jo would have remained optimistic and focused on what she could do to bring our country back together around our best values #MoreInCommon."

Regardless of the divide in public opinion that has led us to Brexit, it must be these 'best values' that we take forward with us into our new relationship with Europe to show that even though nearly half of us didn't get what we voted for, we can still work together and build on the many things we still have in common with our European neighbours. Hearts do mend given time.

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