Brexit

My first reaction, on Friday morning, was physical, a sick, sinking feeling. And then the sense of a world grown dimmer, colour drained away. After that, exclusion, that UK, and with us aboard, had slipped a barely measurable but significant distance from Europe, that we had excluded ourselves. (An English friend emails from Crete, ‘I feel very small as a Brit abroad in this Brexit debacle.’) I remembered a conversation a month ago with the German proprietor and Austrian guests in a b&b in Apt in the Luberon, about the future of the EU (a conversation in English, of course), and realised it was one I’d never be able to have again. I’ve been a signed-up Europhile since my schooldays. I was living in France during the last referendum. And now …

And then the realisation that not only did the Brexiters (Johnston, Gove) not expect to win – they didn’t want to win. They had been playing internal Tory politics. They had been lying and misleading for party advantage. They didn’t care a jot about the concerns that led 52% to vote for Brexit. Concerns that had begun when the Labour government chose not to apply transitional arrangements when Poland joined the EU in 2004, for the short-term advantage of getting in skills UK lacked because we hadn’t put the money and effort into education and training. Our governments have never taken the EU seriously enough, have been ‘in’, but not ‘of’.

Perhaps UK leaving will enable the EU to reshape itself into a form nearer to what Britons want. But of course we won’t be in it.

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