No one could have imagined a referendum that would incite such intense political division. Nor could anyone have imagined a vote, the so-called ‘victory’ for democracy, that would plunge Britain into this bottomless pit of political antipathy.
Yet in the last year alone, as the relationship between Britain and Europe voyages towards an irreversible impasse, the referendum has done exactly that. And, as the EU Withdrawal Bill kick starts an acrimonious cessation, you wouldn’t be blamed for wallowing in the overwhelming sense of waste as decades of political cooperation are consigned to the dustbin of history.
For Eurosceptics, Brexit supposedly signals the regaining of control; independence from a Europe dominated by Germany and the reassertion of British sovereignty. This is, of course, is naivety at its finest; a subliminal serving of the ‘Little England’ rhetoric that sparked this destructive process.
But, for Europhiles, such as myself, Brexit signals not the success of these lofty democratic ideals, nor rational objections to the EU’s shortcomings, but rather the rejection of what is best about Europe: a common identity, cultural pluralism, and a preference for pooled sovereignty over that of bickering national parliaments.
It is difficult to be anything less than scathing when writing about the whole affair. Being a student, Brexit risks impinging the future of so many of whom have benefited from the European Project. Indeed, the referendum of 2016 has achieved nothing except to divide the nation, forcing our country’s populous into an unbreakable political and economic straitjacket.
Whilst Britain becomes deadlocked in this labyrinthine ‘divorce process’, many people will question the purpose of such a destructive vote in the first place; a vote that, in reality, has sought nothing but the importation of toxic xenophobia and provincialism.
Throughout this process, there has tended to be too much focus on the domestic impacts of such a single-minded withdrawal from the Union: economic downturns, business effects, and immigration. Whilst, of course, these are valid concerns, we must surely worry how Brexit will influence the relationship between us and our European counterparts.
Perhaps the most disappointing outcome of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will be how our experience of Europe will at once change, and be maligned. The greatest appeal of our membership was the seemingly endless opportunities in education and career prospects. Now, this hangs very much in the balance. It seems we are not furthering our own image of a global Britain, but instead embarking on a voyage to inglorious isolationism.
As for Britain’s trajectory after negotiations, well, that remains uncertain. However, what remains clearest of all is that before 2016 our futures were not impeded by a seemingly avoidable saga of duplicity and demagogy, from the politicians whose inalienable task is to represent our best interests.
Indeed, what worries me the most is that, despite an outcry of public opposition, there seems to be no hint of a mea culpa from the Conservatives, who alone have plunged the country further into the storm of discord.
A melancholic image, perhaps, but certainly a reality. We should not be waving goodbye to Europe. Instead, we should be offering a firm kick up the backside of ‘hard Brexit’, whose very existence provides not a ‘brighter future’, but a bleak and murky reminder of our short-term gain, and long-term loss.