Fans of the TV series West Wing will recognise the catchphrase of President Jed Bartlet. ‘What’s next?’, he’d exclaim as he solved one tricky political conundrum and moved on. Sadly, real life politicians don’t have the option of wrapping everything up nice and tidily before the end credits roll.
Real life is messy, and by God it doesn’t get any messier than the clusterfuck Brexit.
Yesterday we felt shock, sorrow and confusion; by today, as @UncaHeid on Twitter commented, “I see the country has entered the ‘denial’ stage of grief“. A petition to hold another election is gathering signatures rapidly. I haven’t signed it, and I don’t intend to as I believe we must respect the results of the referendum.
With the country reeling from the result of the referendum, and the leaders of our nation conspicuous in their absence*, the mood is turning nasty.
And without leaders, we are left with a vacuum which is being filled with nastiness. On social media today, I’ve seen recriminations, anger, blame, racism, xenophobia, and a whole lot of hate. I found this article on mending the Brexit rift very helpful – please read before you have any discussions with friends that might cause permanent damage.
I’ve also seen people call for unity. That we should put it behind us, British stiff-upper-lip-style, and just get on with it! As much as I admire the British stoicism, it’s bloody hard when you are personally and directly affected by this.
I’ve no idea what Brexit will mean to us personally. I’m British and my husband is German. Until now, we’ve never had to think about issues such as work permits or right to remain. We’ve never needed a visa to visit each other’s home countries. We’ve worked with the assumption that we could retire in the UK or in Germany, and still access pension and health care, regardless where we worked in the previous years.
I understand that people are tired and want it to end but it won’t for us. And the questions continue to rise. Will we be able to come home to the UK as often as we have in the past? Will we need a replacement for our E111? Will we still get cheap direct flights to Scotland? Will I have to take German citizenship and if I do that will I have to give up my British passport? The more I think about it, the more worries crop up.
We are not alone. Across Europe, the ramifications are being felt. Brits who live in Europe are worrying if they will lose their home, their way of life, their friends, and be forced to return to the UK. I’ve heard from friends who would likely find it difficult to sell their house abroad, and may return with no savings and few job prospects. Or EU citizens in Europe, who have built lives, started businesses, raised their families and now are being told they are not welcome.
In the coming months life will go on for 90% of Brits but for some of us, life will change beyond measure. Those saying we have to move on need to have a bit of patience with those of us who can’t go back to business as usual.
So. What’s next?
*notable exceptions are Sadiq Khan and Nicola Sturgeon.
If your kids are wondering ‘What’s Next’, send them here.