Well here we are: Wednesday March 29th 2017, a day which may well go down in history! One way or another, this day, along with June 23rd 2016, will be a day to remember. If we believe the government, or most of the politicians on both sides of the chamber, it will be a glorious day, as they voted for Article 50 to be “triggered”. This means that today is the official day when this country, the so far United Kingdom, officially declared its intention to leave the European Union.
So what do I feel today? Strangely my emotions are mixed. I have always felt more European than British. By that, I mean that I have always felt connected to that continent. This may well be because from a very young age, 18 months or so, I was raised by my German nanny. I guess she would be called an “aupair” today. Lotte was mine. My sister had a Polish aupair, Afra, who married a man from our village and stayed in the UK. Lotte, however, did not stay. She returned to Germany when I was about 5 when I started school. Luckily, I did get to meet her again before she died at the far too young age of 50. I visited her home in Stuttgart, when I was 21. When I was in my forties, I had a breakdown. I suffered from depression for quite a while, although I managed to keep working, I struggled. Fortunately I met a really great counsellor, who helped me to understand my depression. She led me to understand how Lotte’s departure from my life had impacted on my mental well being. It was a wrench and one from which I have never really recovered. Through this I was able to see how much these emotional bonds in very young children can have a continuing impact on their adult lives! I guess I had read about this in theory but this “personal awakening” made me fully understand what this meant.
The connection with another European country continues. My second marriage is to Monika, a German national, who has lived and worked here for over 50 years. We met when we were both teaching in the same school, over 40 years ago. We became friends and later married. My sister is also married to a European citizen! Not sure what any of this signifies but there is a definite connection with Europe!
Now for the EU itself: There is much wrong with the EU. It is too bureaucratic and it is far too supportive of big businesses to the dteriment of workers but it has sustained peace and bonded countries as diverse as Germany and France! Looking at the history of Europe this fact alone seems remarkable. The UK has never really engaged fully in the EU or indeed in the EEC before. The mainstream media has always painted a picture of “us and them” and has constantly referred back to World War 1 and 2. Our football supporters, all of whom were born after the second of those wars actually sang war songs in Germany the other day at a so called “friendly” football match, makes one proud to be British!!? So our daily papers and, indeed our TV news media has always been neutral about Europe, at best, and, downright anti, at worst! So the vote to leave was, perhaps, surprising in its closeness, given the hostility to Europe and the EU over the years as portrayed in the media. But close it was.
Those if us who voted to remain a part of the EU and those of us who still feel citizens of Europe, as I do, are branded as traitors and “remoaners”! Today our Prime Minister has asked the Britons to unite. Well let those Britons unite. As a European citizen, which so far my passport declares that I am, I feel betrayed and sad. It feels that today I have lost something special. Another wrench in my life!