Brexit – the tragic end of a love story
A (randomly funny) comment about a serious political situation
Have you ever loved someone so much that it has broken your heart when the relationship came to an end? You surely have. Me, too.
When I moved to the UK in my early twenties I decided to do so, because I was in love with Britain. Since I turned 16, my parents forced me to spend my summer holidays in the UK to improve my English. One day I loved it so much that I spend at least two weeks in the country of my choice every single year. And when the option popped up to go and study in my favourite city (in London), I took it.
I was Britain’s biggest fan and started to travel the entire country to figure out differences between Welsh and Scottish people, English people from the south and the north, the British food and traditions, traditions, traditions. I just loved it. And because I loved the UK so much, I worked really hard so the UK would love me back.
I worked on my English and I went to the pub straight after work to listen to the Brits and what they had to say about life, politics, the European Union, the past of their country, the Germans, the French and so on. I learned the national anthem. I studied British history at university. I visited all British counties and spoke to the local people. I also tried to pick up on the British humour. I just loved it.
After five years in the UK I realised that I started to feel more familiar with the British culture than my own. When I relocated to Germany, I felt quite alien within my own society. A society in which nobody says sorry when bumping into you on the street. I missed the British politeness. I missed the good old British humour. When I made a joke about Kim Jong-un or Hitler in England, my British friends joined in and we had a funny discussion. When I made a joke about Kim Jong-un or Hitler in Germany, I was kicked out of the pub and it all ended in a very serious conversation. I missed my British friends. I missed Britain. But I still felt like we were together. We were close friends and whenever a German came up with a dirty joke about crazy British island monkeys, I defended my love.
I still loved the UK and I thought that my destiny would give me the chance to come back one day. After five years I did not feel alien in the UK anymore. I speak English fluently and my appreciation for British oddities had granted me with the love of my fellow British citizen, friends and folks.
I developed the idea to write a PhD dissertation that was supposed to teach the British all about the Germans that they need to know to understand each other. I wanted the British people to understand that cooperation with the German people was an excellent idea and would eventually strengthen their position in the world: I finally understood that this point seemed to be of tremendous importance for the British and their political decision-making. Whereas the Germans (because of their rather intimidating history) were afraid of showing any intentions of hegemonic power, the British would have loved to do so. In fact: like in a relationship that is condemned to fail, we wanted something else from life.
Still, I wrote this thesis and I thought: we would be one of the strongest and dearest couples in the world, if we would only listen to each other and try to understand why we think the way we think. I wanted this relationship to work. History has shown us that strength lies in cooperation and unity. I wished for it so much. But the UK decided to break up with me.
When the Brexit came through I was on a conference in Portugal, where I had just promoted my British-German-military-cooperation plan. I woke up to the news which broke my heart. In the taxi on my way to the airport I asked the driver if he felt European or if Portugal might also drop out of the European Union if there would be a referendum, too. Although, he was much more concerned with Ronaldo and the European Championship (which they won, bless them), he said that he felt quite European and that he liked the EU, because it supported Portugal.
My dream of the European Union is the dream of a union in which, one day, all parties would be equally strong. And the only way of getting to this point, at least in my humble opinion, was to fight bureaucratic difficulties and stupid reforms together. Together. Call me naïve, but I believed and still believe that cooperation is the foundation stone for peace. If all states would cooperate closely, they might not fight each other. So much for the theory.
Like in a real relationship, sometimes (not always) it is easier to break up and to start something new. But many relationships have grown over the years and only because we have Tinder and Co. and it’s so damn easy to find yourself someone new, it might be worth working on a relationship once in a while.
I watched an interview on TV with a couple that has been married for 70 years. He was a very small old man sitting on a bench next to his wife holding her hand and the reporter asked him:
“Wow, 70 years! How did you manage to stay together for so long?”
And the old man said: ”You know, I grew up at a time, in which we fixed something, when it got broken and didn’t go and buy something new.”
The majority in the UK had decided to go and do something new. Of all historical events happening throughout my life, including 9/11, the Brexit - at least felt like - the saddest of all. I was devastated.
I have spent almost four years of my life writing a thesis that compares the British and German army cultures in order to help soldiers and officers for a better understanding of each other in the years to come. Cooperation and unity were at the core of my motivation to conduct this research. Had I wasted four years of my life to someone who doesn’t love me back?
Many British people who were in favour of the Brexit (and that I have spoken to so far) argued that they still like Europe and they hope that the Brexit will solve a couple of the problems that they are facing at the moment. That’s not going to happen. I’m not Nostradamus, but I’m still quite sure that Britain has made a bad, a really, really bad decision.
History has taught us that unity is one of the core strengths of humanity: The soldiers in past wars have fought for this unity and millions gave their life for us to be able to unite as a continent. Britain dropping out of this unity saddens me to an extent that I could not have imagined.
Thinking of the millions who voted against Britain’s decision to leave the union doesn’t help. I am heartbroken, because I have failed to promote my dream of an Anglo-German cooperation. I still hope that we will remain to stand side by side in all the challenges that we will face in the future, but it saddens me that we are not together any more.