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Britain must stay in Europe

“This is a nightmare. We should not have listened to these charlatans…” Hard Brexit, Chequers Deal, No Deal – what does all this mean for the people of the United Kingdom? Travelling Britain, you get a clear picture of the fears of the consequences of leaving the EU, the disillusionment with Brexit and the strong wish to Remain. Especially in Northern Ireland. A personal appeal…

 

The tea is piping hot and strong, the cucumber sandwiches are delicious, the lawn green and rolling. A perfect English late summer afternoon. But the mood is sombre. Like everywhere on my short tour of the UK and Ireland we are talking about: Brexit.
“This is a nightmare. I voted out – but I am beginning to think that was a huge mistake,” muses Bob, a retired policeman. “We were misled. Right now, it does not look like the promises of ‘Leave to Take Control’ will ever come true. Quite the contrary. We should not have listened to these charlatans.”
Claire, who runs the admission department in a private school in Cambridge, makes sure “to get as many international kids in as we can – to keep up the cosmopolitan atmosphere that was always our school’s trade mark.” And indeed that of Britain! Brexit itself Claire deems nothing short of a “disaster. I was born on the ‘continent’ as it is called here,” she says with a smile, “but here in England I found the love of my life. We raised our family here. So far I have always had the best of both worlds.” The smile leaves Claire’s face. “Now, I just feel sad and disoriented.
I can’t believe what is happening.”

JVG

JVG

“To my horror, my parents voted Out,” says Michael, a GP from Manchester. “They thought Brexit won’t affect them and their lifestyle. But for certain it will affect the life of their children and grandchildren very much. I obviously failed to make that clear to them.” Michael’s wife, a nurse working with homeless people, is distraught: “We are already feeling the cuts in social spending. With Brexit, this will get much worse. How on earth are we going to look after our people?”

A rough ride

“To be honest, I didn’t vote at all,” says George, the cab driver. “Perhaps that was not a clever move but there you are.” Is he afraid of Brexit? “Well, the riding will be rough for a bit. Probably very rough. But then things will look up again. And as you know, when push comes to shove, we are a tough lot. We’ll pull through,” explains George as we head through the Belfast morning drizzle.
Not everybody in Northern Ireland shares George’s optimism. Apart from the list of withdrawn financial capital, non-valid driving licenses, a stop to the flow of goods and work, and so on … here we have the issue with the border to the Irish Republic. In Northern Ireland, where 56% voted “Remain”, this makes people uneasy. What will happen to the peace between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which is only two decades young and by no means as stable as it might appear?
The recent assessment of a senior police officer in the Sunday Times that the forces are working 24/7 just to keep a lid on things is less than assuring. Will the old conflict, the old violence and hatred return?
Back to London. As a financial hub, the city is especially dependent on close ties with Europe. Here, the fear of a hard Brexit is especially great. Hence Mayor Sadiq Khan cooked up the idea of a second referendum. He is not the only one. And he is not the only one who says “that this is not a re-run of the referendum but the British people having a say for the first time on the outcome.” Bingo, Mr. Khan. Let’s give the Bobs and grandmas and grandpas and Georges a moment to re-think. And another vote to all those who were against Brexit in the first run: all the Claires and Michaels, the Olivers and Ingrids. All those who want to Remain.
And, above all, we are running out of time. A couple of months are a long time for child on a summer holiday. But a short time for grown ups in difficult negotiations. Hard Brexit, No Deal, Chequers Plan, Soft Brexit, Norway Model … Stop the muscle flexing. Stop drawing up one emergency plan after another. Stop the nightmare. Use common sense. All sides – Deal?

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