Letter to a British friend

Published

Credit: George Hodan

Alix Aureau
Writer

UofG alumni, Alix Aureau, bids Britain farewell from her home in Paris as the Brexit deadline comes and goes and another delay is upon us.

So here we are, sitting on what should have been the Brexit deadline with another delay pushing it further away. Many of my fellow citizens in France think that Brexit might be a good thing. They see it as an opportunity to “get rid of the Brits” who never really knew if they wanted to be in the European Union, or out, or maybe both? “They chose Brexit, let them out!” Bon débarras, good riddance!

Well, I don’t share this point of view. To be honest, Brexit feels like losing a friend. I am not a federalist and I don’t secretly dream of dancing on the graves of the old European States. I am not an expert and I won’t discuss the consequences of Brexit for firms, expats, or travellers; nor do I care about your money, or about the £350m a week you would rather invest in the NHS than give to French or Polish farmers. But I do care about all these things that come to mind when I hear the word “Britain”…

I care about the Calais-to-Dover ferry, the Channel, the Crunch, and the Bayeux tapestry; the Battle of the Somme, the pensioners in Dordogne, Mary Queen of Scots, Honni soit qui mal y pense, the Entente Cordiale, and all the things we share.

I care about your wonderful culture: Penguin Books, Wuthering Heights and Oliver Twist; The Beatles and Mr. Darcy; Billy Elliot, James Bond, Monty Python, Mr. Bean and Trainspotting.

I care about sweet memories; raindrops on my face in Brighton, Christmas in London and sunset on Glasgow tenements; teatime, scones, haggis, neeps and tatties, and the tender sadness that seizes me when the Eurostar leaves St. Pancras station.

There was a time after the vote when one could reasonably believe that nothing would change much after all. But, like a coin, Brexit has two sides. There is the legal side: the type of Brexit we ultimately get does matter, because it will affect many people’s everyday lives. Drug and food shortages, residency permits, border checks in Ireland or Calais – those sorts of things. Then there is the symbolic side. And at that point, the shape of Brexit doesn’t really matter. Brexit, even the softest Brexit we’re no longer hoping for, is a symbol of Britain turning its back to Europe. And after Brexit, all these things I care about will seem a bit further away.

So, it might not be over yet but when that sad day eventually comes, I’ll miss you, dear British friend.