I have never been particularly interested in politics. Don’t get me wrong, I dutifully vote at every election, I feel it’s my obligation and right as a citizen to do so and I make sure I cast my vote.
However, I have been following the Brexit saga with the same gusto as my favourite Netflix series.
The day before the referendum I had what can only be described as an ache in the pit of my stomach. I was taking an adult evening course on music (not that it matters what the course was about) and I remember there was another student who was a day trader.
Our music teacher said he had forgotten to change euros into pounds and the trader said “oh well you’ll have to wait now and the pound will jump high so you will probably make a bit of a loss”.
I intervened saying: “unless the UK votes to leave” and he responded confidently: “That will never happen, we will never leave the EU”.
The next day my music teacher made a handsome profit on his exchange rate when the pound jumped… in a downwards direction.
Like I said, I am not particularly interested in politics so the day of the referendum I went to bed around midnight (I know some people stayed up all night).
I remember waking up in sweat at about 4:30am to check my phone, it was almost like my gut had woken me up. When I read the result my heart dropped. I shook my partner’s arm and when he semi-opened his eyes I said: “Leave won. We are out of the EU”. He let out a massive moan, a few expletives and went back to sleep. I closed my eyes, but couldn’t sleep, so I read.
The days that followed the referendum were (from a political entertainment perspective) the most interesting that I have ever witnessed. It was like watching a live episode of House of Cards (hopefully minus the murders) unfolding daily on the BBC.
There were resignations, back stabbings and more twists than I could’ve ever expected. Who knew that politics could be this interesting?
I was following the events so closely that it felt like Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor was now a close personal friend.
In two seconds, it seemed that Cameron was out and Michael Gove and Boris Johnson looked as miserable as if they had lost, except they should’ve been jumping for joy.
Then the race started. The contenders threw their hats in. Michael Gove backstabs first and Boris is out. Andrea Leadsom takes herself out of the race by effectively saying that childbirth makes her a better candidate (I’m paraphrasing here) and May “wins” the job. But really, who wanted that job?
After the initial tears, worries and (for some) celebrations the days that followed Brexit started feeling slightly euphoric. There was a “yes we can do this” feeling. The equivalent of “I don’t need my pesky ex anymore”. I can and will do better!
This euphoric feeling lasted several months. Then came the (disastrous) decision to call for elections… and everything has pretty much gone downhill from there.
We have since then, been confronted with numerous discussions on “Soft Brexit” vs “Hard Brexit”. Had I been the only one paying attention?
In an “in” vs “out” referendum, an “out” result always meant (as much as I hate to admit it) only one thing, a so-called “hard Brexit”.
However, from day one, the UK has maintained it wants the equivalent of a “friends with benefits” relationship with the EU. Something like, I don’t want to be committed to you and I want to play around but can we still shag every now and then and use your flat for parties?
Unsurprisingly, the EU’s response has been the equivalent of “Bros before Hoes” (and in this case Hoes is gender neutral).
It has strength in numbers.
So even though it may have just been dumped by a partner that never really wanted commitment in the first place (cough *refusal to join Schengen*, cough *refusal to join the Eurozone*), it has it’s friends for support and the numerous other partners lining up desperate to show it commitment (regardless of how small their contribution can be to the monthly expenses).
Putting aside the chaotic internal UK politics for a moment, where some politicians, clearly only have their personal ambitions in mind (… yes you know who I’m talking about, I don’t even have to say the name), the UK seems to be pinning all its hopes on the Salzburg meetings taking place over the next few days.
Meetings with exes never quite turn out as expected. Worse, the UK, preoccupied with its internal politics, has so far shown very little empathy for the EU.
Far be it from me to say that the EU was a perfect partner, it certainly wasn’t, but it was the UK that decided to walk away from the relationship. As such it has the most work to do when trying to come back and build a new one.
Some people remain friends with their exes, others need to banish them into oblivion and when it is necessary to maintain some sort of relationship, the “dumpee” generally has the upper hand. Ask any friend that has been in that unfortunate situation.
I don’t claim to be privy to how the negotiations have taken place behind closed doors, but the first step towards rebuilding a relationship starts with empathy.
From the outside, the UK has looked arrogant, as if putting up a façade for its mates back home. Perhaps if the UK had practiced more empathy and treated the EU for what it was, a long standing partner with whom it had a 40-year- long (albeit sometimes imperfect) relationship, we might just be further along the negotiations than we are now.
I love the UK and truly hope that it eventually comes out the other side in better shape. For now, the politicians need to do better, not for themselves and their personal agendas, but for those who will have to live with the consequences of their negotiations (or lack thereof).