In two hundred days, the 29th March 2019, the UK will leave the European Union and go to the “good old days”. I won’t go into the details of everything I have been reading in the news. You can read it all for yourself, listen to videos of speeches in the Commons. I can only be grateful to have lived in France for so long – and I fulfil all the requirements for French citizenship. I have to go and sit an examination with the Alliance Française next month to produce a piece of paper saying that I come up to standard for the Froggie Lingo. It is one of the required conditions. Then I can submit my application to the Prefecture of Rouen in November. The UK will have nothing to say about that and the law allows me to keep my British nationality. I will then be both British and European, able to travel without restriction between the two worlds. I also have to get a French / EU driving licence, which I will be applying for next week. British driving licences will no longer be valid in Europe – and I will need to ask whether it is possible to keep my UK licence for when I go to England.
If Brexit is “no-deal”, then it is going to be chaos. Some journalists are likening the situation of this impotent government to France or Russia just before their revolutions, or Weimar shortly before Hitler took over. It is all very frightening as the British political establishment seems about as corrupt as the Vatican and any number of fly-blown banana republics, though more about money than “chicken leg”. Perhaps they are exaggerating and fear-mongering. Though there are many problems in the EU, I have not been hard to convince into the Remain camp – and I give my voice to the cause of a new Referendum before it is too late, offering three choices: soft Brexit according to the Chequers Agreement, hard Brexit or remain in the EU.
The British establishment seems blithely uninterested even in questions of business and trade, where the money is. The situation of EU nationals in England and UK nationals in Europe like myself is still vague and would become dire after a no-deal Brexit. I remember having to have a residence permit here in France, but then there was no problem in being able to work and be affiliated to the social security, health care and pension system. Without all that, I would be back in England and destitute, told that I can eat cake if I have no bread! Not so with French nationality as many British expats here in France have obtained.
From what I am reading in the mainstream news, Brexit seems to me absurd, an impossible situation. There are problems with the EU, over-regulation, lack of accountability and democracy, but the status quo is better than what might happen with a no-deal Brexit. As Voltaire said, Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien (the best is the enemy of the good).
A friend of mine wrote to his MP: “Current polling shows that a majority of UK voters, (and of your constituents), want to stay in the EU. The best legal advice is that Article 50 can be rescinded unilaterally, even at the very last minute. Staying in the EU would protect this country’s commerce, manufacturing and agriculture, as well as its influence in the world“. My own work as a French to English translator is an epitome of the need for business in different countries to overcome the language barrier and to trade. I do business with translation agents in several European countries, and one in England run by a French director. He will also have difficulties once the fateful day arrives with all the restrictions and red tape.
I know zilch about economics and and international trade (except at my own infinitesimal level) but I can only strike my forehead with the palm of my hand – repeatedly – when I see the people running Westminster living in – – – Cloud Cuckoo Land. The EU was put together painstakingly over some forty years, and it is all about to be ruined. Perhaps the country of my birth is about to go back to the 1930’s!
This plea will have no effect other than ask British readers to reflect and voice their conviction that the Referendum first-time around was obtained by lies and populist jingoism. Our country lost what was left of its Empire from the end of World War II to the 1960’s. Next, it will be the unification of Ireland (an idea with which I sympathise) and the division of the Kingdom. Alarmism? Perhaps, but what I am reading about Theresa May and the Conservative half-wits hardly inspires confidence. I wonder whether all this is going to end up with a General Election over a vote of no-confidence and Labour getting in under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. We will have deserved it!
Some might ask me what I think about mass immigration and the vast sums of money being sucked out of the social security system. It is not a question I know much about. I live in the country, but I do know that some parts of Paris resemble slum dwellings in Africa, South America and the Middle-East. There is a problem when English people cannot afford to buy or rent homes and social housing is being given to people who have just arrived and are living on benefits. The question of survival is at the front of any populist and nationalist agenda. I cannot myself return to England because I don’t have the money and have not contributed to national insurance for years. I wouldn’t even get a measly state pension! The migration policies of the EU are catastrophic, even for the people themselves living in destitution and squalor. I don’t know what to say, but we can’t ruin everything just to stop the immigrants.
I have so little left of my origins: the English language in which I am writing, my red passport, my Church and my family. I go to Synod and Council of Advice meetings in England. I still have my memories from childhood and adolescence before I arrived in France in July 1982 looking for my vocation and life. The journey took me to Italy and Switzerland, an experience of cosmopolitanism – and I cringe when I read about the parochialism of Tory politicians in a completely bigoted and closed paradigm of mind. I was born in England, and I was given values and a world view I would have found nowhere else, except perhaps in Germany two hundred years ago. The present English political establishment is not the England that made me English!
I ask English readers to think these things over and write to their PM’s to show their support for a new Referendum. I am sure that Europe can and will reform the present institutions in Belgium and forge something that is not only money and material, but also lofty inspirations of the soul, the gift of Christianity, the intrinsic goodness and worth of the human person. There must be light at the end of the tunnel. Anyway, we can only do something about it by staying and working for that reform, not by leaving .
In every lawful and peaceful way, let us exorcise this demon of Brexit and avert incalculable harm to us innocent citizens, our families and friends, and all that matters to us.