This is of course an utterly stupid, irrelevant and facile article but I just felt the need to get some thoughts down and in one place, rather than just howling into the void and boring everyone as per usual.
The vote on the 23rd was a momentous event and it is one that will always be a reference point for any future historians concerning themselves about the history and politics of the people living on the British Isles. At the very least the decision to leave the EU has the capacity to change the UK, for good or ill, as much as it did when the Republic of Ireland was created in 1922.
I mention Ireland because I was Dublin earlier this year and you cannot help but notice the Easter Rising commemorations around the city center. That Easter Rising set in process a series of events that eventually lead to the creation of the Irish Free State whilst the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I don’t believe that it is foolish to suggest that there are parallels to be drawn with the creation of the Irish Free State and with the vote of the UK to leave the European Union.
Once Ireland left the UK it did not mean an end to division, rancor and conflict though and it is this lesson that needs to be headed the most I feel. Ireland experienced civil war directly after leaving the UK, which resulted in more people being killed than in the whole independence campaign prior to 1922. One of the causes of the civil war was the battle over the terms by which Ireland would leave the union and become a separate entity. Hardline nationalists were not placated with a settlement agreed with the former union and rebelled against the government, leading to 10 months of civil war that killed thousands, weakened the nascent republic and lead to decades of bitterness and resentment.
It is clear that we must look to the example of Ireland in a bid to understand their mistakes and lead the UK on a path to leaving the EU that does not create the same levels of division. The stakes are incredibly high, higher than many people seem to realise. Leaving the EU will not be a straightforward process, if it was a country probably would have done it already. It is going to take patience and a great deal of effort to achieve a settlement that works for as many people in all parties as possible.
So we come to the real reason I am writing this. Today there was a vote in the House of Commons over a resolution on the status of EU nationals living in the UK. It was division 69 and the Noes won by 43 votes.
This vote angered me because it is counter to everything that the UK should be doing right now with regards to our EU partners. Brexit means Brexit but Brexit doesn’t mean suddenly having a mid-life crisis, leaving your kids so that you can “find yourself” and start up a disco in your house with people coming and going at all hours of the day and night.
Brexit should mean becoming as indispensable a partner to the EU as possible. The UK should be offering to help as many EU countries as possible in such a way that the UK’s popularity rises with both governments and societies as a whole. If the UK goes down the road of being as obnoxious as possible to suit various domestic agendas then you only have to read Duncan Wheldon’s article about Greece last year to realise that there is only going to be one winner in that regard and it won’t necessarily be the UK.
The UK should be offering fast-tracked citizenship for all EU nationals currently resident in the UK. 3 million people right now are worried about their futures and it is callous beyond measure to try and use people who are contributing to the Exchequer as bargaining chips with other EU governments. Furthermore the UK should be actively selling the UK as a place to live to the rest of the EU. Like it or not if a Brexit deal contains limitations on the freedom of movement then there is going to be shortfall in finances available for public services. This will mean more taxes, massive spending cuts, a huge increase in borrowing and probably all three. The UK needs more people now to pay for the public services that people expect to continue to have, so why not prove that Brexit wasn’t about immigration and was about loftier ideals about sovereignty and accountability by saying that the UK is open for business?
The UK needs to show the EU that Brexit will mean gaining a friend, not an enemy. Theresa May is this week at a meeting of EU heads of government and she could do far worse than to end her speech to those assembled with the words of Abraham Lincoln:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature