Image by Foto-Rabe from Pixabay

Attending a conference organised by the good people from Leeds for Europe on Saturday, I was introduced to a new word: Brexiternity. It just about sums up the situation in circumstances where we haven't even reached the beginning of what will, of course, be a process lasting years rather than a single event in time. It's a 21st Century version of purgatory; a living hell of lies and unicorns. Not much comfort to be drawn for all those whose only contribution to the debate is now to demand that politicians "just get on with it."

It was interesting and indeed stimulating to hear from those at the centre of the political shenanigans , whether in the European or Westminster Parliaments or even as campaigners. Indeed Hazel Jones, the graffiti grandma from Wakefield, was there and was greeted by rapturous applause for her chalked messages of "Brexit is based on lies. Reject it," which have of course gone viral.

Sadly, we have been witness to so many falsehoods that we accept lying as normality. In the words of Gavin Esler, the former BBC reporter, who gave the initial talk: "normal human beings are now swallowing absolute nonsense." We know we are being told untruths but we accept them thinking that we are capable of deciphering the facts from the fiction, but ultimately fall for the subliminal message. 

Take the "£350 million a week for the NHS," which the protagonists have since admitted was untrue; nobody admits to being taken in by it but we were all caught by the emotion of the powerful call to fund the NHS and for some, it secured their vote.

Make no mistake a healthy democracy rests on many things of which honesty is one. We have to demand that all public figures tell the truth and that they are robustly called out when they do not. One of the prime messages of the conference was that telling the truth has to be fundamental.

We also have to steel ourselves against the language of battle and betrayal. The other member states in the EU are our friends and allies; to convey images of the last World War and talk in terms of "surrendering to the enemy" is designed again to play with our emotions. It is total gibberish and ought to play no part in the Brexit process.

The EU is a project for democracy, peace, values and standards. As we leave, we must demand our own economic, political and social renewal. We have a divided country torn apart by lies and undeliverable promises. From an electorate of 52 million, 17.4 million voted to leave; they are the ones we keep being told  we must respect but respect is mutual and the other 35 million cannot be ignored. There can be no healing or unity by pressing on with a harmful cliff-edge no deal Brexit, disregarding the majority of our elected MPs and intentionally disregarding the majority of people who never voted for such an outcome.

We need our leadership to tell the truth and spell out the realities. We demand to be told the consequences of exiting without a deal rather than the posturing that goes with preparing for an imminent election. Are we so anxious for a trade deal with the USA that European food standards are going to go out of the window? What is the likely impact on jobs, inflation, goods, health care, to name a few? We cannot dismiss scaremongering as simply Project Fear or, as in the last 24 hours, have the Operation Yellowhammer documentation allegedly altered from a base to a worst case scenario. We want to know what the experts say and, if the documentation sets out the worst case, then we want to know what the base case is.

We want our country back. That tolerant country that we all recognise, where Parliament is sovereign and the rule of law is sacrosanct.

It is our families, friends and communities that are going to be affected. Our young people feel anxious and let down by policies that have worked for older generations but not for them; we have the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world after only the USA; the North/South divide is widening; peace in Northern Ireland is threatened and the Union with Scotland is at risk. If Brexit is the answer, remind me what was the question?

As Hilary Benn MP, who received a standing ovation for his work on the European Withdrawal (No 2) Act, intimated, "Viewing your sovereignty as more important than the economy is being very free with other people's jobs and livelihoods."

Climate change is now described as the biggest issue facing the planet and whilst the UK throws all its might at seeking Brexit, the Amazon burns. Natalie Bennett (Green Party and this week awarded a peerage and a seat in the House of Lords) described how the two are entangled in circumstances where the EU plays an enormous role in using its soft powers to be an influence of good in the world whether it be in relation to water shortages, air pollution or deforestation not to mention its major role in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Who can remember how proud we were at the transformation of our beaches when they gained EU Blue Flag status? What about the benefits of the regulations regarding vehicle emissions and the environmental protections and clean air policies that have been introduced, many because of the hard work of our own elected representatives in the European Parliament? To what extent are we going to maintain future European standards? We need our Executive to tell the truth and to make longstanding binding commitments to ensure the promotion of the welfare of the populace.

Lord Heseltine in the keynote speech did not mince his words. I am sure that you will have seen extracts across the media: "A pattern of events deliberately planned and contrived to force a future on the British people for which there is no mandate...Civilisation is built on regulations and without those there will always be more dangerous, more toxic products..Freedom for the few can very easily become the tyranny of the many.."

"Never confuse patriotism with populism and English nationalism," he warned and concluded by impressing how the UK's place in the world today at the centre of Europe and the Commonwealth as well as in our special relationship with the USA was crafted by statesmen over the decades that followed the Second World War.

If we are going to tear up the foundations of our society then we must unite in demanding reality and the truth. There's nothing wrong with seeking a better world for everyone rather than for a few with fingers in pies. Covering up our ears and just wishing Brexit would go away is not going to help. Unless in an election or referendum we alter the decision that has been taken, Brexit is going to be around for a long time yet. Brexiternity. It will be significantly less painful if we are at least given the true facts at every stage by a press acting responsibly and politicians speaking honestly.


  1. As a Brit living in France for the past 30 years and caught in the God-awful legal limbo all expat Brits in the EU are caught in, I found your post very well thought out. There are 1.3 million expat Brits living in the EU who did not get to vote and now we have to re-apply for the right to remain in our country of choice - except the goalposts have now been moved. As a citizen of what will become a "third country" (i.e. non-EU), under current rules I will have to prove that I have an income of more than €16,000/year plus private medical insurance. I can do both even though I'm now retired, but some won't be able to so if there is no reciprocal agreement between the UK and France (in my case) there will, indeed, be some who have to sell up and move back! Same goes for Spain, where I think the minimum income requirements are even steeper. My ex-husband is American and had we had to return to the UK as a couple, he/we might no longer fulfil the requirements for him to gain residency even though we were married 26 years. People spout all the time about "oh, of course he will, you're married". Sorry but it doesn't work that way, so if I had to chose between staying with my foreign husband and returning to England to take care of my elderly parents I would be split! My sister married (and divorced) a Dane and has lived in Denmark for more than 40 years. BUT Denmark doesn't allow dual citizenship so she never became Danish because she wouldn't give up her British citizenship. And sadly the people who do all the yelling about "oh, you'll be all right" are exactly the people who do NOT know what they are talking about because they are not affected by it. I know someone who is a wedding caterer based in Luxembourg and routinely caters weddings in France, Belgium and Germany. Without free movement as an EU citizen that business will go up in smoke! But at this point, I say just get on with it. If it all goes down in flames so be it. It's quite telling though, that an arch-Brexiteer such as Nigel Lawson has now requested a resident's permit for France! You see, it never affects the rich, just the "little" people. I just feel sad for the younger people whose future just shrank on the backs of a VERY ill-informed vote!

    1. Yes, living in a country which appears to have lost both its senses and moral compass is seriously disturbing. Despite the benefits of distance and perspective, watching it happen from the sidelines is equally as bad.


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