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Don’t Ask Me About Brexit


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Once upon a time, in a land bobbing serenely in the Pacific far, far away from home and, let’s be honest, just about anything, an Englishwoman pondered the fate of her politically turbulent homeland. I don’t often think about Brexit these days, mostly because it isn’t shoved obnoxiously in my face by unrelenting media outlets on a daily basis here in New Zealand as it is in the UK and also because I’ve adopted a bury my head in the sand approach to worldly affairs, which, if history has taught us anything, is a terrible way to deal with political unrest.

In my defence, it is utterly exasperating having to listen to politicians argue amongst themselves, blame each other and achieve nothing like a mob of unsupervised four-year-olds, and after more than three years of this circus spectacle it’s really hard to care. The people who voted against Brexit are fed up of it, the people who voted for Brexit are fed up of it, and the people who didn’t vote didn’t care enough to amble down to the polling station on referendum day so even if, in a sudden act of self-centred regret, they did care now, they would also be fed up of it. Though, might I add, they would have no right to be fed up, the lazy, non-voting, indifferent bastards.

As a nation of grumblers, when pushed to the far edge of our patience – somewhere between ‘miffed’ and ‘cross’ – we English usually complain a bit or tut loudly and then get on with life much in the same fashion as before. But we haven’t found ourselves in such a bewilderingly perplexing mess as this since, well, I don’t know – have we ever been in such administrative chaos? It may not be the tense, apocalyptic stalemate of Cold War politics, or the terrifying immanence of violent fascists literally trying to invade our country like World War II, but the fact is no one really knows how this major shift in our international relations will affect the country in the long term. Professors of political science could sit around their stuffy universities debating and theorising until they’re blue in the face, the cows come home and Chesney Hawkes comes up with another hit single, but there’s no way to know for sure, which people seem to forget. The doomsday forecasts annoy me. The over-confident, jeering bravado also annoys me. We’re not going to self-destruct or fizzle into economic insignificance, and neither will leaving the EU solve all of our problems, and I shouldn’t have to point out that it’s unwise to taunt the party we’re trying to make a deal with.

As the pre-referendum frantic clamour for votes and then the nation-wide shock of the result gradually faded, the insurmountable task of untangling this Everest of divorce papers slowly sunk in to the collective consciousness. It’s a really, really difficult task, I think demonstrated by the way we’re going through Prime Ministers quicker than I go through boxes of underwhelming non-English tea. No one’s managed to finish a term since 2015. Brexit ruined David Cameron’s career. It’s also ruined Theresa May. Because I’m an edgy, lone wolf, radical anti-maverick, I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio, so, as has been the case for a few years now, limited social media and the odd bit of self-motivated research is pretty much my only contact with the outside world. I abstained completely from social media for a few days recently, which is not an unusual pastime of mine, and somewhat of a guilty pleasure to be honest, until my Kiwi friend casually mentioned that Boris Johnson was suddenly our Prime Minister. I wasn’t even aware the last Prime Minister was planning to resign. Boris Johnson! I mean, who’s going to have a crack at it next? Mr Blobby? Barry Scott from the Cillit Bang adverts?

Nonetheless, happily for me the Aussies and Kiwis have been conscientious enough not to broach the subject, perhaps sensing the emotive nature of the issue and the level of embarrassment it causes ex-pats. The only times Brexit has been discussed is when I’ve brought it up as a contributing factor to my vacating my homeland, at which point people ask, “yeah, so, what exactly is happening with that?”
“I don’t know,” I reply, “no one does.”
People laugh, because the way I deliver this line sounds like a joke, except I’m actually being serious. Journalists don’t know, politicians don’t know, the bureaucrats in Europe don’t know, and I’m not convinced the lawmakers involved know either. We’d be better off asking Paul the octopus who predicted World Cup results. He got 85% of the scores correct, which is remarkable. I’m telling you, the world needs more octopi with answers. Studious marine life aside, I’d be lying if I said that Brexit was a large contributing factor to me leaving the UK. It was more convenient timing; an opportunity for me to throw up my hands and edge slowly out the door, absolving myself of any involvement and mumbling something about returning when the dust has settled. A lot of things bothered me about my life in the UK at that time, and had I been drunkenly rambling about them at two in the morning Brexit would probably have been about number six on the ‘and another thing…’ list of complaints.

Someone blissfully ignorant of geography and world events asked me earlier in the year if the UK is in Europe. The question completely threw me. I tried to explain that such a query was a deeply emotional and contentious issue for my people. Yes technically the UK is in Europe, but historically we’ve always been the eccentric island away from the mainland doing things a bit differently. Yes we’re currently in the EU – Europe’s communal economic bloc – and we have been for some 45 years, but we won’t be for much longer. Yes we had a referendum back in 2016 and the ‘leave’ campaign won, but only just, and the whole saga descended into the political equivalent of a hair-pulling, petty name-calling squabble, which is why a lot of people are upset. I think I confused the guy even more. Apparently I need to learn when to tone down the honesty; a simple ‘yes’ would have sufficed for goodness’ sakes Bella.

Anyway, I may have just spent 1,000 words talking about Brexit, but I must clarify that I really don’t want to talk about Brexit. I want to ignore it, like a niggling ailment or a phone call from a private number. But, annoyingly, I can only ignore global affairs for so long until the curiosity kicks in and my desire for a better world gets the better of me. I’ll keep popping my head out from my burrow every so often to have a look around, then remember why I live with my head in the sand and disappear back to the comfortable depths of having my fingers in my ears, and thus the cycle continues. As far as Brexit is concerned, we voted, a decision was made, and that’s it. Whether we like it or not, we all just have to hang on tight to our inflatable crocodiles and ride that bumpy, perplexing, tumultuous wave all the way to the beach, regardless of political affiliation, economic status or geographic location.

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