Brexit Day Blues

Well, here we are then. It’s January 31st 2020. This morning, Facebook reminded me that exactly seven years ago today I left Cardiff University to take up a new job at Sussex University. What a strange 7 years followed! I moved to Sussex, then back to Cardiff, and then here to Maynooth in Ireland. It seems impossible, looking back, that all that happened in just seven years.

Today’s date has a much wider significance, of course. After 11pm (Irish Time) today, the United Kingdom will no longer be a member state of the European Union. Some people seem, for some reason, to think this is a good idea. I don’t, but that’s irrelevant now. It’s happening. And I don’t live in the United Kingdom any more anyway.

It has taken three and a half years since the Brexit referendum for the UK to leave. I’ve heard it said that’s been too long, but historically it usually takes a lot longer to get the British to leave. Just ask Ireland or India, for example.

Anyway, yesterday I planned how to mark the event, and came up with the following.

Dinner will comprise Irish, Spanish, Greek, Dutch, Danish and French ingredients, with Italian wine and afterwards a glass of (Portuguese) port. That’s not all the EU countries, of course, but it’s the best I could do with the available shopping time!

Musical accompaniment will be provided by Beethoven (courtesy of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra live from the National Concert Hall in Dublin on RTÉ Lyric FM). I was hoping to go to the concert, but I left it too late to buy a ticket and it’s sold out!

And at the appointed hour I’ll raise a glass to the EU, to everyone in the UK who is being dragged out of it against their will, to my colleagues in the UK who hate what’s happening as much as I do but haven’t had the opportunity to escape, and to all the EU citizens in the UK who have been treated so shabbily by the British Government.

Living in a country that has chosen to define itself by its contempt for foreigners is not going to be easy, and is certain to get worse when Brexit fails to deliver the `sunlit uplands’ that were promised. There are very good reasons to fear for the future.

I wrote back in 2017, when it seemed that the madness of Brexit might still be halted, but I’d decided to leave Britain anyway:

The damage has already been done. The referendum campaign, followed by the callous and contemptuous attitude of the current UK Government towards EU nationals living in Britain, unleashed a sickening level of xenophobia that has made me feel like a stranger in my own country. Not everyone who voted `Leave’ is a bigot, of course, but every bigot voted for Brexit and the bigots are now calling all the shots. There are many on the far right of UK politics who won’t be satisfied until we have ethnic cleansing. Even if Brexit is stopped the genie of intolerance is out of the bottle and I don’t think it well ever be put back. Brexit will also doom the National Health Service and the UK university system, and clear the way for the destruction of workers’ rights and environmental protection. The poor and the sick will suffer, while only the rich swindlers who bought the referendum result will prosper. The country in which I was born, and in which I have lived for the best part of 54 years, is no longer something of which I want to be a part.

The Me of 2020 thinks the Me of 2017 was absolutely right.

I got this today from a friend. Posted on the front door of an EU resident.

25 Responses to “Brexit Day Blues”

  1. To me, the biggest disappointment is that the Labour Party didn’t unanimously decide that Brexit is a bad idea and come up with a sensible replacement for Corbyn. That might have changed things.

  2. brissioni Says:

    A bogus impeachment trial in America wraps up on the same day as Brexit becomes official. The world has gone mad and I guess we have political lessons to learn, hard political lessons.

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    I prefer to keep silence on blogs of personal friends over subjects about which I disagree with them, and governments and politicians deserve most of what is written about them, but I think it is inaccurate to suggest that the UK “has chosen to define itself by its contempt for foreigners”. I shall be glad to leave the EU for one overwhelming reason: because I believe that the ultimate locus of power in Britain should reside with people who live here and can be removed at a UK General Election. I do not consider this wish to be xenophobic. I love Europe and European culture, but I think as little of European politicians as of ours.

    • By the same token, you must be a strong supporter of Scottish independence, or at least of the right of the Scottish people to choose their own destiny.

      I realize that the law is that Scotland is not free to decide, as the central government must allow a referendum before the result can be binding. (Thus, the situation is similar to that in Catalonia.) However, it is clear that in the Scottish referendum a few years ago, the main reason that there was a majority for remaining in the UK was that it meant remaining in the EU. Now the opposite is the case, and there seems to be a majority for independence, for that reason (though an independent Scotland would not automatically be a member of the EU). Of course, Johnson could let a Scottish referendum take place. That he doesn’t is within the law, but it is rather hypocritical to campaign for Brexit on the grounds of taking back control, but denying that same right to Scotland.

      I predict that within 10 years there will be a united Ireland in the EU, a Scotland independent of the UK and at least on a clear path to EU membership and some sort of closer union with Ireland.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        The analogy isn’t accurate, because the EU isn’t already a State. Catalonia is a closer comparison; what is your view of that? Would people call the Scots xenophobic and defined by hatred of the English if they voted for separatism in a further Referendum?

        With the welcome decline of sectarianism in Ulster, I’d be happy to see a united Ireland. Whether it is in or out of the EU is not my business. I actually wish the EU well – I just don’t want to be part of it, for the reason I gave.

        I tend to agree with your prediction about Ireland but not about Scotland. They’d have to join the Euro and lost all economic self-control, and they’d lose once more the fishing grounds that Boris Johnson HAS to win back in the upcoming negotiations in order to to keep the Scots sweet.

      • telescoper Says:

        By being part of Poundland Scotland doesn’t have economic control anyway.

      • telescoper Says:

        Fishing contributes 0.2 % of the Scottish economy and a similar fraction of its employment.

      • Of course the analogy is not 100% accurate, but the general idea is the same. My view has always been that any region should be able to democratically decide its own destiny. Reasons for doing so might vary from case to case.

        I don’t think that I’ve called the UK xenophobic for leaving the EU, that that certainly is a reason for many who voted for Brexit (certainly not for all). In Scotland, the issue doesn’t seem to be dislike of the English (though there would be a historical basis for that) as much as a desire to remain within the EU, which is not very compatible with xenophobia.

        The rules now are that any new EU country must join the Euro as soon as the criteria are met, and I’m sure that Scotland is aware of that.

    • telescoper Says:

      Brexit supporters in Parliament Square right now are chanting “Off our streets, EU Scum” on live TV.

      Like it or not this is Brexit Britain.

  4. Austria updates Brexit date on commemorative stamp:

  5. At the moment, of the 42 countries in Europe (by my definition), 28 are in the EU and 14 are not. The 14 consist of 5 tiny states (Liechtenstein, San Marino, Vatican, Monaco, Andorra), 6 Balkan states (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Albania), two very rich countries (Switzerland and Norway) and one with a small population and very far away from anywhere else (Iceland). Norway, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland have a close cooperation with the EU, however.

    • jonivar skullerud Says:

      You left out Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. There is also a case for including Turkey given that its biggest city is mostly in Europe.

      In the last sentence i think you meant Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        “You left out Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.”

        As I said, by my definition. Where does one draw the line? Perhaps one could make a case for Belarus and Moldova. But what about Armenia, Georgia, etc.? Of course, it’s a fuzzy border. Russia? By far most of its territory is in Asia, though many or most might live in the “European part”, however that is defined.

        Based on recent historical events, it seems logical to exclude countries of the former USSR.

        “There is also a case for including Turkey given that its biggest city is mostly in Europe.”

        Istanbul is mostly in Europe geographically, but that is also an arbitrary border. Suppose all of Istanbul were on the other side of the strait: what would that change?

        “In the last sentence i think you meant Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.”

        Actually, I did mean Switzerland, as it does have a close cooperation with the EU. Due to its geographic isolation and low population, the cooperation of Iceland with the EU is not as significant.

      • jonivar skullerud Says:

        I would recommend using words in their generally accepted sense rather than inventing your own meanings in order to suit what appears to be your political purposes. There is a long-standing, accepted definition of Europe where the border with Asia runs along the Urals, Caucasus, Black Sea and Bosphorus/Dardanelles. Russia is a a country which has made major contributions to european culture and history, and its core territory and the vast majority of its population is in Europe. I do not see any logic in excluding Russia, Ukraine or for that sake Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as you seem to suggest.

        Until the 1960s, most of the territory of France was in Africa. Does that mean France was not a european country then?

        Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan are on the southern side of the Caucasus and are hence in Asia.

        On the last point, Iceland is in the European Economic Area. Switzerland is not. Both are in Schengen (unlike Ireland).

      • Phillip Helbig Says:

        “I would recommend using words in their generally accepted sense rather than inventing your own meanings in order to suit what appears to be your political purposes. There is a long-standing, accepted definition of Europe where the border with Asia runs along the Urals, Caucasus, Black Sea and Bosphorus/Dardanelles. Russia is a a country which has made major contributions to european culture and history, and its core territory and the vast majority of its population is in Europe. I do not see any logic in excluding Russia, Ukraine or for that sake Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as you seem to suggest.!

        Note that the Baltic countries are in the 42 countries I mentioned, and of course in the 28 (now 27) EU countries. There inclusion in the USSR was somewhat less voluntary than that of the other states.

        I would exclude Russia on the grounds that, at the moment, it seems that it doesn’t want to be a part of Europe. However, if Russia is included, incuding its Asian part, then why exclude other parts of the former USSR which are wholely within Asia? Arguably they are more similar to Asian Russia than Asian Russia is to European Russia.

        I also seriously doubt that Russia, Belarus, or the Ukraine could become EU members within the next couple of decades. It is difficult even with the Balkan countries, though they are smaller and historically have had more contact with EU countries.

        As for Turkey, why should the fact that part of Istanbul is geographically in Europe mean that Turkey as a whole should be included in Europe?

        “Until the 1960s, most of the territory of France was in Africa. Does that mean France was not a european country then?”

        There were French colonies in Africa, but not part of France per se. Of course, in some sense the Asian part of Russia was colonized by the European part.

        “On the last point, Iceland is in the European Economic Area. Switzerland is not. Both are in Schengen (unlike Ireland).”

        Yes, but there are other types of cooperation than just the EEA.

        There are many definitions of Europe:

        Probably out of date. And there is also the EBU, ESO, ESA, etc.

      • jonivar skullerud Says:

        I do not know what the statement “at the moment, it seems that [Russia] doesn’t want to be a part of Europe” is supposed to mean. Even if it were substantiated, i think that momentary opinions are very flimsy grounds for changing long-established geographical categories. For what it is worth, i see little evidence that russian people want to associate themselves with Asia rather than Europe, but plenty of evidence that influential people elsewhere in Europe want to exclude Russia.

        Whether any country would be likely to become an EU member is irrelevant. Europe long predates the EU and will continue to exist long after the EU ceases to be. There is no prospect of Norway, Iceland or Switzerland becoming EU members either.

        “There were French colonies in Africa, but not part of France per se.”

        This is not true. Algeria was absolutely part of France per se, just like French Guyana, Martinique and New Caledonia still are. When Algeria gained its independence, it also became the first country to leave the European Economic Community (as it was then).

  6. Dave Carter Says:

    Britain is this morning a much diminished country, which has shown itself incapable of holding a seat at the top table of Europe. A sad and lonely place. With a government preparing to sell us out to Trump and Putin. A sad, sad day in the history of our once-proud country. The EU countries have behaved in a magnanimous way, and our hope is that some day they will forgive, and will allow us back.

  7. Phillip Helbig Says:

    “I got this today from a friend. Posted on the front door of an EU resident.”

    Somehow I think that his dialect would not be “the Queen’s English”. 😐

  8. […] may not have been able to attend the concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Friday 31st January, but I did listen to it […]

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