To the EU: I'm Sorry

1 February 2020


Growing up, I was told many a time ‘To be born an Englishman is to have won the lottery.’ And frankly, I believed it.

We are a tiny nation. The chances of being born British are minuscule, yet here I am. Born into an Irish/English family just north of London - and there were honestly days, times, where I looked around at the huge diversity of where I lived and of who my friends were, and felt extremely lucky to be English.

For a child in the early noughties, Britain was a great place to be. Every child who read Harry Potter wanted to be British, we won the 2012 Olympics, our country was safe on an international scale AND it was the golden age of David Beckham. Life for ten-year-old me was bloody great. And I was extremely proud to be British.

And why wouldn’t I be? I’d had history lessons which instilled in us how England, this tiny tiny island, discovered the world. The power of the British Empire was unfathomable. And I was impressed.

Except, as I said, I was ten years old.

And as I grew up, I learnt about the racism, the colonialism, the mass genocides of indigenous people. I learnt that winning the World Wars wasn’t because of the powerful British army - it was the result of millions of sacrificed lives from all over the world.

As I wound my way through school, I learnt about globalisation, about peace treaties, I learnt the peak of the British Empire was over a hundred years ago. It peaked during times of restlessness and contention. It thrived off wars and distrust between states.

Even in my 13, 14, 15-year-old mind. I knew Great Britain wasn’t as great as white male history had made it out to be.

I learnt that in 1950, Europe, one of the most war-torn continents in the world, became one of the most peaceful.

And continued to be so because of the European Union.

As I grew older still, I continued to believe I was incredibly lucky to be born English, despite British history. I recognised the privilege of being born into a country with running water and internet access. I knew I could move anywhere in Europe, and as someone who had always wanted to travel, I felt incredibly lucky.

My family holidayed in France, we drove across the border to Spain. We drove with the school to Lake Garda, passing through France, Belgium and Switzerland on the way. When I was 18, I went to live in Italy, when I was 20 I went to live in France.

But it wasn’t being English that gave me those rights and allowed us to seamlessly drive into a foreign country, it was being a member of an EU nation.

Over the last three years, I’ve had all sorts of discussions - and arguments - about Brexit. Largely by people who have never lived overseas. By people who have huge problems with immigration, but no problem with the Polish doctor trying to save their loved one’s life. By people who preach the awfulness of the EU, but hardly knew it existed before 2016.

For many Britons, the mind-numbing word Brexit has given way to a nonchalance of ‘just get it done so we don’t have to hear about it’. And that position is one of immense privilege, because it’s a sentiment of people who won’t be directly affected.

It’s a sentiment by people whose families won’t have the uncertainty about their future, of people who don’t want to live and work abroad in Europe.

It’s a position of selfishness: I have nothing at risk, so why does it matter.

One of the key lessons taught to children and adults alike, is teamwork. It’s working together for a goal. A problem shared, is a problem halved. Two heads are better than one. Sharing is caring. Work together.

And yet somehow, this small country in the middle of the Atlantic rationalised the idea that they shouldn’t work together. They shouldn’t be a part of something bigger. They don’t need anyone else. They don’t need the best trade deals, the best free movement agreement in the world.

They don’t need the EU.

Many people assume that the EU is the only peace agreement of its kind. But they’re wrong. Asia has ASEAN. Australia and New Zealand have CER, America and Canada have NAFTA. These are deals in place with neighbours, because an alliance is internationally renowned as being more stable than independence.

We have proven time and time again in the last three years that we are one of the most selfish countries in the world, with an ingrown nationalism from history that doesn’t translate into today's terms. The world is a different place.

So, to the EU, I am sorry. I am sorry to the people whose lives will be ruined because of this decision. I’m sorry for the children who will not be able to live and work overseas as easily. I’m sorry this decision was built upon lies fed to people who had never given the EU a second thought until 2016. 

Just like a bully removed from the playground, we don’t deserve to join in anymore.

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