The developments of the past few days reconfirm the general situation afflicting British political life. Premier Boris Johnson had promised Brexit would happen on October 31, at all costs. But on Saturday, 19 October, an unprecedented cross-party majority in the House of Commons, ranging from Conservatives to Labour, from Northern Ireland to the Scots, blocked his plans. The idea of a new delay to the “divorce” – with a likely deadline of January 31 – is taking shape. However, the last words have not been spoken. The matter is currently being discussed both in London – where thousands of Brexit protestors descended the past weekend – and in the EU institutions, convened today in Strasbourg for the plenary session of the European Parliament. COREPER – the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union – is on the alert in Brussels. European Council President Donald Tusk has started consulting EU leaders. An emergency summit may well be held this week or, most probably, next week.
What do the English people think about this? SIR collected the views of three British citizens. Three different opinions on Brexit. Three identities that reflect Great Britain today against the backdrop of a divided public opinion, as was the case in the referendum of June 2016, when Remainers were outnumbered by Leavers with a 48:52 vote. We spoke with Joanna Helcke, former University Professor of French, now at the helm of a pregnancy and postnatal fitness company; Patrick Webb, Professor of Business Engineering at the University of Loughborough, England; Hillary Doherty, General Practitioner.
They are all following with great attention and anticipation the latest developments involving Westminster and Brussels.
Their words spell out the differences between those who have the stars of the European flag in their hearts and those who never identified with them.
“I have always felt European.” “The 2016 referendum, through which Great Britain decided to leave the EU, took away my identity”, remarked Joanna Helcke. “I’ve always felt I was a European citizen. I was born in Great Britain and moved to Reno, a small town on Lake Maggiore, Italy, when I was three months old because my father, a physicist, worked at the Euratom Centre in Ispra. I attended the European School in Varese. Our generation was the first to receive a truly European education. In fact, once a week we attended a class in ‘European Studies’.’”
“I returned to Great Britain when I was fifteen to study at St. Margaret’s school, in Bushey, north of London
There, I grew acquainted with another form of multi-nationalism. My classmates came from world Countries – West Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia.” “I married a Frenchman and my three children have dual nationality, but today I can no longer claim to be European, and this makes me feel sad and embittered. I am also disappointed by my country, which I had always imagined as welcoming to foreigners. At the bottom of my heart I still hope that a second referendum will be possible. That the people’s choice of Brexit can be changed.”
“We risk growing poor.” Born in Tripoli and raised in Kingston, south of London, where he lived until he was twelve, frequently travelling throughout the world, unlike Joanna Professor Patrick Webb feels fully “British”. Also for him the result of the referendum of June 23 came as a shock. “I turned on the radio to find out the results, and I felt terrible”, he recalls.
“I always enjoyed considering myself a European citizen that can freely travel across EU Countries.”
“I think that Brexit will cut us out from international trade and make us poorer. The world today is controlled by powerful trading blocs and if we should choose the United States over the EU, we will ultimately find ourselves in a subordinate position with respect to Trump.” For Webb – who, having married an Italian woman, applied for Italian citizenship “to make sure I will remain in the EU” – Brexit is the result of a fear of the stranger, caused by thousands of migrants knocking at the doors of the EU, “although I don’t consider this to be a real problem because our unemployment rate has never been so low.”
In charge of our own Home. Born and raised in Newcastle, Northern England, Hillary Doherty, physician, has never lived abroad. A Catholic reader of the “Daily Telegraph”, Tory’s daily newspaper campaigning for Brexit, she expressed all the reasons of those wishing to leave the EU. “The European Union is not a democratic institution”, she remarked, “because the members of the Commission, who have great influence, are not directly elected by European citizens.”
“It’s important for the UK to recover national sovereignty in order to set its own rules,” she pointed out.
“I dislike the fact that the EU is hampering the production of some local products that are important to our economy, as well as the fact that it is turning into a political union. When we joined Europe”, in 1973, “it was for purely economic reasons, because it was convenient for us, and not in order to be members of a political union. I also believe that we should do business with the rest of the world and that we should be allowed to control our borders, without giving priority to European citizens, and limit the number of people entering the Country. I am in favour of a system similar to the Australian one, that would allow us to choose who to admit on the basis of their skills.” Dr. Doherty is convinced that in 2004 Tony Blair made a mistake when he opened the borders to migrants from Eastern Europe – as many as 700,000 emigrated into the Country. “Many of them weren’t looking for a job, all they wanted was our welfare benefits.”