I am actually the patriot

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.

I want my country back

I want my country back. And I also want to take back control. I’m not asking for complete control, just an iota would be nice at this point. Because right now, I feel like an alien in my own country and like I have no voice at all. Yes, I am a Remainer, a Remoaner, a certified member of the liberal metropolitan elite. I speak four languages, have lived in five countries and have been fortunate enough to travel to many more, and on top of it all, I live in Islington, that north London liberal stronghold. So despite my burgundy British passport, I am officially a citizen of nowhere, at least according to our current Prime Minister.

In another universe, the one that existed prior to 23 June 2016, being liberal and metropolitan and understanding other cultures and countries was actually seen as an asset. I felt that I could build links with other people, that I could advance British interests in other parts of the globe and that I could bring the best of what other places had to offer back home. Win-win, right?

Brexit is an attack on everything I stand for and my entire way of life. I can only begin to imagine how unwelcome EU citizens here must feel, but I can assure you, there are plenty of British citizens like me who feel similarly unwelcome and despairing, even if we do not face the threat of having to leave the UK.

It is difficult to accurately convey what Brexit feels like. How it has ripped me apart, torn up my identity, made me less proud to be British, made me feel sorry for my European friends and sad for my fellow British citizens, many of whom will end up bearing the brunt of our nation’s inevitable decline towards second-rate status. I do not understand how to even begin choosing between my Britishness and my Europeanness — the two are just elements of what makes up my varied identity, elements that have melded together to form who I am. Brexit is forcing me to choose, but I cannot, it’s completely impossible. It feels like being asked to split the blue and yellow colours out from a green bucket of paint: you know there is blue and yellow in there, but they are forever fused.

As a result, since the morning of 24 June 2016, I have been in a state of some confusion, constantly torn in different directions and trying to make sense of the steady stream of incomprehensible madness coming out of Westminster and much of the press. Sometimes I feel like I must be living in a parallel universe. For how can our politicians, who are supposed to know better, be taking us down this path of destruction and be condemning us to a future of struggle and irrelevance?

Everything feels out of control. Whether you voted Remain or Leave, surely we can all agree that the government has no plan. No plan at all. And seen from here, Brexit has already inflicted irreparable damage to our country’s reputation, the fabric of our society and the pillars of our democracy. We need to come together to stop any further damage and to reunite this deeply divided nation. We need to fight to get our country back.