As a European growing up within more than two cultures, going to school with at least ten different nationalities, I am heart-broken that so many of my beloved neighbors within the former “United” “Kingdom” decided to follow the rhetoric of their own home-grown and hateful British Donald Trumps. Yes, I’m using “The Donald” as a synonym for all the people who thrive on fear, hate and idiocracy.
In the days prior to the referendum, I reluctantly pondered my response to the possible Brexit. Even though I had predicted it would happen in the near future three years back, I still refused to believe in its reality.
Post-result, my immediate thoughts varied – from wanting to sarcastically mock the British for making an idiotic decision, to being saddened, to thinking of starting a campaign to tell the Queen to step in and stop the whole thing, to the extreme of boycotting British products and never traveling via London Heathrow again. I am happy to admit these were merely immature, fleeting and not well-considered ideas, which I shall never act upon.
That would not be true to who I am.
It is not the European I am.
It is not based on our common European values.
The new European benevolence dilemma of carrot-and-stick policyFor our neighbors not to suffer economically and politically, we cannot permit ourselves to speak badly about them; we must actively continue our mutual collaboration and cooperation. We must insist on treating them with the European benevolence we, as progressives in Europe, envision for the rest of the Union. This is the new European dilemma. We want to demonstrate unity, yet an awkwardness now exists between us and our brothers and sisters – those who willingly left us. It is easy to label them as traitors and watch the family dissolve within a hopeless and petty, irresolvable fracture. But being part of a family in the first place means supporting each other in times of need, and also letting all members make their own decisions, even if that actually means packing their stuff leaving, and perhaps eventually coming back.
Even though I believe the majority of the 72% of voters, have made a terrible mistake, it is after all a democratic decision, and has to be respected. And not only that. Respect means sticking to our European values even after the actual ‘Leave’ happens. To be clear: This means that we do not wish to see our English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish friends suffer.
Get the facts right: England & Wales voted out, Rest of UK did not!
To take a more analytical look at our future, let’s assess what has already happened:
- 72% of the voting population (18+ years) voted on whether they would be in favor of leaving or remaining part of the European Union. 51.9% voted to leave. But look at the geographical differences:
- Gibraltar: 95.8% voted to remain
- Scotland: 62.0% voted to remain
- Northern Ireland: 55.8% voted to remain
- Wales: 47.5% voted to remain
- England: 47% voted to remain
- Of the 30 areas with (a) the most aged people, (b) the fewest graduates and (c) the most people identifying as English, 27 of them voted to leave.
- Scotland announced the possibility of an Independence Referendum to leave the former UK and rejoin the EU. Northern Ireland is thinking about reunification with their brothers and sisters from the Republic of Ireland and also to leave the UK and rejoin the EU. Gibraltar is discussing re-entry into the EU and hoping for independence once again.
- The once self-proclaimed “great” union is crumbling, but not only politically. The world saw the pound in a freefall halting at a historic three-decade low. France has officially overtaken the “United” “Kingdom” as 5th strongest economy of the world. In fact according to Guy Verhofstadt in the first 8 hours after the UK referendum as a result of a #Brexit vote, the UK lost $350bn, which is a greater amount than they contributed to the EU budget over last 15 years - including the rebate.
How will the Kingdom of England & Wales cooperate with the EU?Many are joking that the Brexit will be followed by Grexit, Departugal, Italeave, Fruckoff, Czechout, Oustria, Finish, Slovakout, Latervia, Byegium. But let’s look at what actually happens next.
If, and only if, there is a government who actually decides to leave EU officially – I say that, because the referendum is advisory, and not a legally binding policy statement – then there are currently three models of cooperation: The models of Norway, Switzerland or Russia.
There is an official exit plan for countries leaving the EU, which basically says when the government initiatives that process - which has not happened so far and probably won’t happen in the coming weeks - then.
The British may well opt for a special agreement for a Model Kingdom of England & Wales: trying to pay less and get a say in European Economic Area, though it’s very unlikely to happen. The dilemma which the pro-Brexiters have not addressed is obvious, either the people of the Kingdom of England & Wales suffer economically or they will have to deal with EU rules and regulations and pay (more) money for access to the market and the benefits down the line. On top of that the Heads of the IMF, OECD and the WTO agree that to negotiate at least 58 individual trade agreements with countries all around the world will be very costly as well.
Diplomacy and politics is not always fast, but this is good for a variety of reasons. For the next two years, all EU rights, benefits, rules and laws remain in place. While society and the economy prepares for the exit, politicians have two years to negotiate their new terms.
So is it really as dark as it seems? As my favorite author J. R. R. Tolkien, who is by coincidence also from the island, says:
It is in the darkest moments that the eye begins to see!There’s already a resistance. There have been more than two million signatures in favour of repeating the referendum. But there’s more that gives me hope. The youth protest has just begun. Almost 75% of young people voted to remain within the EU and those younger than 18 weren’t even asked about their opinion.
To all of you, I say this:
My dear fellow beloved neighbors, we won't let them who voted against us divide us.
We see you, we hear you and we feel you.
You belong to us. We belong to you.
And we will come back together even stronger.
I believe in a future that is brighter than it might seem right now.
Born in Germany, I know what it means to look back at years of separation between families, friends, brothers and sisters. We were strong. We believed in change. We survived. And we shattered the damn wall. With the reunification of Ireland as our starting point, I have hope. I have faith. I have confidence.
And if we have to take a few years or decades to be reunited with our British neighbors, we will. But we will not wait, we will act. We will support each other. And will never lose faith in our vision of a strong, human, united European Union.
We need unity, but for us to have unity, we need a mutual understanding and common visions – a vision of a joint immigration policy, of how to tackle youth and structural unemployment across our union, of security & taxes – one voice to navigate global politics!
I am willing to step up and be more vocal about our vision.
But I am merely one voice in millions who now must rise.
Be benevolent, be strong, be confident.