Confessions of an expat – what the Brexit vote tells us

So the British public has had its say – or has it? The voting took place and a result was reached. Britain wants to leave the EU – but for what reasons?

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It is not so much about real issues and whether Britain will be better off financially and security-wise in or out. It’s all about the principle of being open to outside influences. The Remain people don’t just see strength in numbers but think that other people’s ideas are probably better than our own, while the Leave faction just don’t want anyone else telling them what to do.

Unfortunately, on social media (or what I see of it on Facebook, at least), it’s the lefties who are always shouting. Sometimes it seems that the default FB attitude is to support any underdog just because they’re the underdog. But is that necessarily a good thing? It is good to support the needy and underprivileged. It might be said that that is the Christian way, but of course many of the social media shouters object to organised religion for the same reason: they don’t want anyone else (in this case God) telling them what to do.

But to understand why the British are like they are, first we need to understand what Britain is. It is, for a start, not Great Britain. That is just the name of the island containing England, Scotland and Wales. Add Northern Ireland to that and you have the United Kingdom.

But what about British communities  all over the world? What about the Channel Islands – only half an hour away by plane but closer to France than to England? That’s where I come from and although I am proud to be a Guernseyman, I have  a British passport. And I’m glad to have that, because it opens a lot of doors.

The Channel Islands are not and have never been part of the EU. They have a “special relationship” with it under Protocol 3 to the UK’s Treaty of Accession to the European Economic Community, but they are not members.

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The Channel Islands are British Crown Dependencies. In the event of a war, they will be defended by Britain (although in the Second World War Sir Winston Churchill chose not to do that for tactical reasons) and will fight alongside other British troops. If a Channel Islander is going to play football for a country, although many of us have French names, we are likely to play for England. Guernsey’s Matt Le Tissier and Jersey’s Graeme Le Saux did just that.

As someone who has lived abroad for several years now, I have become accustomed to being assumed to be English, rather than British. That is because to most people it’s the same thing, just as we talk about Holland when we mean the Netherlands, which is Holland plus others.

A friend who was born in Guyana and is now established in the Turks and Caicos Islands (a British Crown Dependency just south of the Bahamas) told recently of how her young daughter, becoming aware of her passport for the first time, complained “I’m British?”

Well, it’s not a bad thing to be, as long as you don’t mind the rest of the world regarding you as a privileged former colonialist who looks down their nose at the rest of the world and should therefore be treated with suspicion and called to account for any failure of personal behaviour or professional competence.

You should have seen the dentist’s face in Tobago when my UK-fitted tooth crown fell off. She could hardly contain her glee at such a clear example of British unprofessionalism.

It’s called inverted snobbery: looking down on someone because you think they are looking down on you.

But getting back to Brexit, no sooner had the result been declared and the regional breakdown studied than Scotland was jumping up and down, shouting “It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me! It was them!” Scottish First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, is already planning a new referendum aimed at leaving the UK and joining Europe.

That is because, just as Brits abroad are still regarded as arrogant, whether we are or not, within the UK it is the English who are seen as the bad guys who have claimed the entire country rather than just their own part of it.

Scotland was jumping up and down, shouting “It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me! It was them!”

So, is leaving the EU a good thing or a bad one for the UK? We don’t know yet, but that wasn’t the point of the question for the Remain people in the first place. Maybe it should be rephrased and asked again.

 

 

 

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