It is inevitable the UK will leave the EU in March 2019. There is no hope of our being able to remain in the European Union as full members beyond this date. Talk of Brexit being cancelled or reversed is little more than wishful thinking that completely ignores the political dogma that has become attached to the movement. It ignores too the bad blood that built up even before the referendum and that now has full reign over the relationship between “them” and “us”.
There is a valiant rear guard being fought in some circles by those who believe in good faith it can be stopped. These are outsiders. These are people with no political power because the reality is while May doesn’t have a party majority, the mantra “will of the people” is sufficient to call many to the Brexit cause.
Yet this rear guard is important because it reminds us why the European Project is so important to this country. Every person who has a European friend, colleague or neighbour can thank free movement for their relationship. Every person who works is, in some way, benefiting from being able to trade freely across borders. We cannot understand how leaving will affect us because we have not yet been asked to face it.
Brexit will happen and the country will pay dearly for it too.
Not just in economic terms, but also our standing in the world, the European culture that was spreading out from our cities and the friendships we will lose as individuals. Our country will enter a slow decline, one that has potential to see the home nations split away. We will waste years, decades even, trying to negotiate the same trade deals and freedoms we enjoyed as part of the EU. We will negotiate our way back to where the EU is now, while “they” move ever forward.
This is what is needed though. The UK needs a period of sharp adjustment to teach us a little humility. We need to learn we do not command as once we did over Empire. We need to be reminded that our strength and power in the world came not as Britain on her own, but as Britain as part of a greater good.
Perhaps more importantly we need to see change in a political landscape defined by “first past the post” elections, unrepresentative parliaments and an inability to hold the liars in office to account.
My hope is the United Kingdom will return to the EU in the fullness of time. It may be as one nation, it may not. It may happen within a few years, or we may have to wait a generation to rid ourselves of the dogmatists from both sides of the debate. We will not be able to expect everything to be “as it was” with our rebates and opt-outs and vetoes.
Remaining in the European Union is a noble cause and one I help will prevail. My heart tells me to keep fighting this good fight to preserve the freedoms I’ve enjoyed as a European. My head tells me this battle is lost and it is now time to turn to the next: the battle to return to the European Project.