‘Love in the Time of Brexit’, the third instalment of Brexit Stories, turns to my own reflection. I found an e-mail to my friend Guy* that I must have sent a week or so after the vote. We’ve written to each other for several years now but much more now that I’m in Amsterdam. He’s also moving to Chicago so that will no doubt lead to us e-mail even more in the future.
Reading out the e-mail seems to me to be the best way I can contribute my own story. The e-mail is clearly of the moment and quite intimate. Besides that, I figure it would be strange to talk about myself in the third person.
The romantic aspect of the e-mail really brings home how totally unaware I was. I was completely oblivious to the gravity of the situation before the result came in. Indeed, in the lead up, I predicted the leave result with casual indifference to anyone who asked.
The argument I had was that people were justifiably angry. The anger was partly about the uneven benefits brought to the UK through its membership of the EU. Sure, we may be able to travel, live and work throughout Europe with relative ease. But that counts for little to people living in communities hollowed out by deindustrialisation.
The UK has experienced a decline in welfare support, job security and living standards. It may have a low unemployment rate. But the jobs created in recent years are often underpaid and much less secure. They’re good for someone coming from another EU country to work for an intensive period. These intrepid people can send the money home where the cost of living is cheaper. That same money cannot support a comfortable life in the UK.
There’s a lot of reasons for this. The EU is not responsible for many of them. But if you were willing to look you could see that all was not well. And so, people would look for any excuse to bring attention to this fact.
But buried beneath my casual indifference about the UK voting to leave. Deep down I knew it wouldn’t come to that. Except of course it did. And so the e-mail takes on a different pace about halfway through the second part.
Guy’s response will follow. It features much better analysis. Mind you, there’s still a health dose of romance.
Incidentally, I voted remain, in the interests of my class. I don’t feel particularly good about it. My impression was that I would regret voting leave if the leave vote did win out. I was gaining so much from being in the EU. In a later story I address my younger brother’s story. He voted against his class interests.
Header photo by Sophia Seawell