Friday, 6 April 2018

What I am Losing by Leaving the EU 3

I am not in any position to consider the economic repercussions though I should say I feel none too assured by those who would assure me in the heartiest tones. Good. I hope it works. I hope there is no growth in unemployment, no great rise in prices (er, there already is), no jobs that can't be filled for lack of those willing to do them, no hospitals denuded of EU citizen staff (85% of those tending to me at Papworth were EU agency staff). I hope that the atmosphere of hostility to foreigners does not intensify towards non-Europeans, that there will be no rise in hostility to Commonwealth, African and Asian citizens. I hope for all the good those promising good hope for, bar of course the extensive privatisations some have in mind.

I feel pretty sure I am losing the confidence of European friends who live here and European friends elsewhere. Those who are leaving are disappointed. Some are wrecked. Some are having to break up families. This is not some calamitous vision of the future. It is happening now. And when I go there, with my brand new patriotic all-singing all-dancing blue-black passport (and possibly my visa) I will come as a member of the divorced side of the family. We sued for divorce, we got it, we weakened you, where is my warm welcome and big hug? We told them we would be so much better off without them. They are civilised people of course and will be polite enough but something a little awkward will follow our progress.

And what sort of England will be left? I say England because that is where I am, not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. A little smugger, a little more on the defensive, a little more likely to be hostile, to be living out the tail-days of its imperial history with an uneasy mixture of guilt and pomp.

I will continue to love it for all it has been to me. I will be counted among those who will defend it against wilder accusations. I will be prepared to perform the foreign anglophile role because, in many respects, that is exactly what I am.

But it will be more work and a little hollower because what I loved was the England I have grown up in. I never loved it because it was the seat of all virtue. I loved it because it seemed - and was - accommodating, slow to anger, not prey to demagoguery, and actually rather humane and kindly in its personal dealings whatever its offices or corporations did. Those seemed worthwhile qualities. I am curious to see what will happen to them.

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