Yes, I already know what is coming next, what will inevitably follow from the last post. The Brexiteers will accuse me of being unpatriotic. That I don’t believe in Britain. Well, frankly, I think the Brexiteers are unpatriotic. It is precisely because I am patriotic, because I served this country for most of my career and have seen what good it can do in concert with its European allies that Brexit has left me so heartbroken. Brexit has already diminished this country and weakened its economy. It has become more insular, small-minded, mean, closed, poor and xenophobic.
What happened to the Britain of five years ago, when we welcomed the world to our Olympics, when we showed off our sense of humour and joy and fun, when the world came together in our capital city and we were at its heart? Brexit has shut the door to all this. We have become a laughing stock with Boris at the helm of our diplomatic efforts and with a damaged Prime Minister supposedly at the helm of the rest of government. My sense from my international travels and reading local press is that the rest of the world pities us and cannot understand what we are doing. To boot, France is now the main European power at the United Nations, and the rest of the Eurozone is leaving our economy in the dust.
Ah, but at least we have our freedom and our sovereignty back! No more Brussels bureaucrats telling us what to do! But, hang on, what do we even mean by sovereignty? Does being sovereign mean that you can never strike agreements or join alliances? Because any agreement or alliance will require a certain sacrifice in autonomy in exchange for greater rewards — that is how any club works. You pool your resources for the common good, and in exchange, you abide by certain rules that you all agree upon. That is what the EU is. There aren’t any dictators sitting in a golden palace in Brussels telling us what to do. We sit in conference rooms and office buildings and talk, negotiate, discuss, compromise, agree.
The UK always had a very influential role in setting these agreed rules, because we were a strong European power and people respected our expertise and opinions. And in exchange, we were free to trade, to move, to exchange resources with our closest friends and allies. We shared our intelligence to keep each other safe, we cooperated in higher education and research to find cures for diseases and stretch the boundaries of science. We British had the freedom to learn about new cultures, to fall in love and settle and raise families across Europe, to take that job promotion in Paris, Barcelona or Rome. We were already free and sovereign in the EU! The collective failure of the Brexiteers to see this is just one of the many tragedies of Brexit and one of the many tragedies that is being inflicted upon the UK.
So, yes, it is precisely because I am a patriot that I oppose Brexit with every fibre of my being. I want to see a return to the open, tolerant and joyous country we were in the summer of 2012. When international connections were an asset, and not something to be ashamed of. Where I was free to move and love and travel across the most beautiful continent on earth, Europe.
No matter what happens at a political level, no matter if my government turns my passport blue and rubs out the words “European Union”, in my heart I will always be British and European. Because being both is not incompatible, it does not mean I have “split allegiances”, as Boris would accuse me of. I simply refuse to be a part of this Brexit tragedy and I will never sign up to the values that the Brexiteers espouse — my patriotic liberal metropolitan elite self won’t allow it.