Right now I am so baffled by the whole process that I have taken a suspicious stance. Anything to do with Brexit makes me do this face.
As I am writing this, there is 414 days until we are officially out. Am I scared? A little. It’s not the prospect of nations reordering themselves. Having frank and difficult discussions about what countries are facing in this modern world is necessary. It’s the fact that no-one seems to know what exactly Brexit means or who should be doing what and what life will be like after ward. I know the last one is hard to predict but, the feeling of “strong and stable leadership” is a little lacking to give any sense of security for the future ahead.
I remember the campaign and all the emotions, fears and promises that it ran on; and of course the man who led it Nigel Farage. His rallying call had basically two points, British Sovereignty and Immigration. The referendum effectively split the country in two and sent a shockwave that was felt by everyone, including countries outside of the UK.
The relationship between the EU and the UK, is a complicated one. But are we any different from any other nation on this earth that has to have some relationship with its neighbours near and far?
What I find particularly interesting is the story that in some respect we are telling ourselves. Of the days gone past and the preservation of British identity. As much as I hate to admit it, Nigel Farage tapped into the vein of national identity and no matter how distorted his version maybe it reflected something like the truth.
I voted remain. I did this not because I had any special feeling toward the EU or out of any belief that we can’t function without the EU. I did because I feared the isolationist thinking of being “a small but proud island.” Yes we are an island, yes if things are not working in the partnership between the UK and the EU it should be addressed, but now, all we are left with is a mess. By leaving completely, I believe we removed any thoughtful and considered ways to move forward without anyone feeling like they have lost face or lost the battle.
Now, I am not all doom and gloom, with change comes opportunity. No matter what we will have to do something great or sink. Those are our options.
However, and this is where I have to be truly honest. I have been using the term “we” but I am not sure, as a black woman, not born but raised here is included in the story of our national identity; and I think that’s what hurts the most.
That’s how I know, it’s not as simple as politics but lives that are touched by this new course of action. One where people, not just me are feeling the sting of identity politics. A lot of people chose to come and make their home here, to contribute and build a life not only for themselves but for people who rely on them in the countries they left behind.
It has left more than a bad taste in my mouth when I hear how the people sitting around the negotiating table are using people as bargaining chip as if their status is so easily up for debate. How there are more and more stories of families being torn apart over their status and while some may argue that it’s the government doing its job, is there not a better way to handle the cases of people who are already living here?
This is my opinion, as a citizen of the United Kingdom but also as an Angolan, in the vast sea of many opinions over Brexit.
To me, it feels like the level of discussion happening should be taking place in the playground and not in the most powerful offices. Especially as every other week there is some new document that has been leaked that exposes some other angle of how we are all essentially muddling through on both sides. I do not envy the jobs of those it means they have to hash out every single detail before we come to the deadline and as for the transition period, will it help or hinder? These are all questions that are being worked out now and we will all have to live in the realities of it long after the deadline.
What happens now with emerging and growing far right voices is another concern for me. They seem emboldened that they no longer have to live in the shadows anymore, they can wear their national pride and in their own eyes, protect what it means to be British at the expense of anyone who is different.
This is not the Britain I know and have grown up in. It does not reflect the true struggle of learning to live together on a small island. Sometimes bad but mostly good. There is, I have always felt the opportunity to know your neighbour instead of fearing them. To grow up in London meant that I had such a wealth of experience of meeting people from all walks of life, however outside of cities the reality I have come to know is not actually the same. I also lived in Cornwall for a long time and I have met a great many people who have never been to London and never met a Black person before, but that did not mean those encounters were negative, in fact, I found them to be great starting points for new friendships and experiences to form.
This place we call home has always had some trouble with accepting change but then once it has, it becomes a bright beacon. Now that we are in the midst of this Brexit storm, we truly need to examine the story we tell ourselves against the reality of what it means to live in Britain. That who are as a nation and who might become is still a battle we are still fighting.
But again that doesn’t mean it’s all negative. There are so many people who have, past and present, become examples of “Britishness,” from all walks of life, skin colours and faiths. I find it depends on who is leading the conversation and I think for too long we have allowed certain people and the media tell us only the negatives. We have forgotten that we are made of many different people who intersect and weave a beautiful tapestry. It is not as easy to deny identity of the many people who have settled here for generations and for those who have been here for a little while. I believe when we go to new place, we take a little piece of that place into who we are, that our struggles in the new place help to highlight what needs to change and evolve. To be quite cheesy, we are all in this together and we going to have to live with each other after the deadline. There has been an overspill of venom, anger and frustration on both sides but that’s only part of it, or rather a sign of how high emotions are running and how important our national identiy is.
The story of the Cheddar man is a prime example of how we must continue to re-examine our collective identity and allow ourselves to be surprised by what we unearth- literally. I am not going to go into the comments sections and how people have reacted, I just find it a beautiful piece of archeology that confirms for me at least, that the story of who we are is still being written.