Today – 29th March 2017 – the UK formally began the process of leaving the EU, ending over 40 years of shared Anglo-European history. How shall we look back at this day in 2020?
And so it begins. Today, formally, via a letter delivered on behalf of Prime Minister Theresa May, to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, Brexit began. The letter detailed that the United Kingdom was invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome, beginning the formal process of the nation withdrawing from the European Union which should, theoretically, be finalised and executed on March 29th 2019, exactly two years today.
For some, today has been a day of mourning, marking the end of an era with Britain wrenching itself away from a European family of nations in which it had participated in for decades. For others, today has been a day of a new era for Britain in which Britannia once again becomes sovereign and has a chance to embark on a new era of prosperity and opportunity on a global scale.
Personally, my feelings have been mixed.
At the Referendum, 9 months ago, I campaigned for the Labour In For Britain campaign and felt physically sick at the result when I heard it early on the morning of the 24th June. I didn’t want to lose being part of such a broad family of cultures and peoples, scared of the future and even, worried, perhaps irrationally, about my chances with an EU student in my College. However, since that time, despite a continued and deep-rooted belief that the UK would and is better off in the EU, I have gradually tried to adopt an optimistic outlook. The simple truth to me is that if any country can conquer the challenge of Brexit, it is the country that stood alone and steadfast against the Nazi tyranny in WW2, founded the NHS and created a global empire from a wet, small land of but a few million. Britain has always managed and prospered and this new era were are entering, I hope, will be no different.
I want Brexit to work. I want my country to be the best it can be and after all, I cannot hold a grudge against my own country. The UK is my home, my future and my pride. I am proud to be British and I want Britain to be proud of itself. This is not how I wanted Britain to be great, but if it must happen, then we shall make Brexit work.
To commemorate this day, I wanted, in a break of form, to write something fictional. Imagine on March 29th 2020, the year after Brexit has finally occurred and a people waking up to two very different places – my fear and my hope.
A Broken Britain
The dawn broke on a miserable March morning. On the streets, through the drizzle and the Spring mist, a smattering of people were milling around Parliament, celebrating, in somewhat muted a fashion, the first anniversary of the UK’s leaving the EU.
There was not much to celebrate however.
Since the UK had left the EU, the shift into decline had been slow but nonetheless steady and, seemingly, unstoppable. The Prime Minister gave a statement on the steps of Downing Street, crowing and cawing a mixed bag of platitudes and meaningless words which glossed over the economic turmoil, the explosive crisis in the NHS and, most sickening in the leaked notes of the Cabinet, the coming, unofficial Scottish independence referendum which had the new Leave campaign storming ahead with a double-digit lead.
The United Kingdom was crumbling beneath the feet of the people.
Shoppers passed by shelves which had once been stocked with the produce of a Continent but now seemed more bare and bland. The people shuffled – shuffling around the behemoth of the Brexit burden as well as along their now British pavements which sat under a sovereign Government and a sovereign debt which had lead to cuts which would have made Thatcher blush.
Britain was on the brink, but no matter.
We got our country back after all.
A Global Britain
The Sun rose on the crisp March morning and with it, a quiet optimism which although subdued, was certainly there. It had been a year since the UK had formally left the European Bloc and, despite the wobbles, the final deal had been everything expected. Britain had firmly established control but kept itself in the loop, wherever necessary or needed, in its closest neighbours and friends affairs on the other side of the Channel.
Whereas some were marking the occasion with an off-putting ferocity and pride, the Prime Minister’s address had been discreet yet brimming with confidence. The UK had secured a raft of new trade deals with the Commonwealth, re-establishing, in a manner appropriate for the 21st Century, the old flames of the Empire. The produce of Europe was now supplemented with the fruits of the Anglosphere and the economy was smiling merrily at the result.
The blips were there certainly – the NHS was still wobbling and the hardcore Leavers and Remainers were still jabbering on at each other, engaged in a mighty war of hypothetical deals or votes, but for the average man, things, it seemed, were finally on the up.
The Minister for International Trade, having returned, from what was expected to become an annual event at the UK-EU Friendship Summit in Brussels, surveyed the docks at Southampton and watched as the ships of a hundred British businesses drifted past, the Union Jack flying at the helm of each, with the notes of I Vow to Thee My Country echoing across the waves.
Although he was not an Imperialist and by no means a fan of the old Empire, the Minister smiled.
It seemed as if, perhaps if only a glimmer but still there, Britannia was to rule the waves once more.
I hope you enjoyed my theoretical Brexit scenarios, whatever your view. I shall also add that in the coming 2 weeks there shall be an absence of posts, due to a trip to Russia I will be on. When I get back I plan to examine the UK-EU relationship with a historical eye and ask whether the membership was too good to be true.
I leave you with a choice of music.
If you believe the Broken Britain scenario is the UK’s future click here.
If you believe the Global Britain scenario is to be the future click here.
Thank you and, may I add, have a happy Brexit day.