By Sarah Pridgeon
I hate to say I told you so, but Brexit is still causing problems. At the root of the issue is the fact that, five months later, we have absolutely no idea how the vote is going to change things because Britain still hasn’t left the European Union.
I’ve been waxing lyrical recently about how eerily the Brexit vote mirrors the results of the presidential election but, on further examination, I’m not so sure it does. There are plenty of similarities in terms of hurt feelings and the whiff of fundamental change on the breeze, but there’s also one key difference.
What’s troubling my homeland now, you see, is uncertainty. Though on both sides of the ocean the populace was split in two over a decision, we’re know for sure that over here we will have four years of President Donald Trump and we are relatively certain what kinds of policy he intends to enact. Britain, on the other hand, has absolutely no idea what Brexit will bring.
Because it’s such a complicated process, we won’t even get started on the negotiations as to how and when we will exit the EU until March – and some question whether we’ll do it even then. Once we trigger the process, it could take years to complete.
We don’t know what the eventual decision will mean for our trade agreements with the rest of Europe; we don’t know how it will affect British companies with an international presence; we don’t know what it will mean for those who are living in Britain on a visa or for Brits who are living elsewhere on the continent. In terms of how the country will interact with its continental neighbors, right now we are working in the dark.
Consequently, every prediction of how Britain will look in a decade’s time is nothing more than a guess.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped anyone from giving it the old college try.
Last week, for instance, an independent report was released by Credit Suisse that put a figure on how much cash has been lost by households in the UK since the vote in June, when half the country decided it didn’t want to be European any more. That figure is a heart-stopping $1.5 trillion – in just five short months, the report claims that families across Britain have lost a combined fortune even Scrooge McDuck would have trouble fitting inside his vault.
But is the report accurate? It doesn’t seem to agree with the thoughts of Chancellor Philip Hammond, whose fall statement last week predicted a cost to the exchequer of £68 billion over the next five years.
That’s a lump sum I could definitely buy my gold-plated helicopter with but, on the grand scheme of things, it’s not as bad as some people expected.
Without firm answers, those who were against the idea of leaving the EU are still vocal in their distress and seeking loopholes that might prevent it from happening. Not too long ago, a court ruling decided that we cannot trigger Article 50, the process of leaving the EU, without a parliamentary vote.
To go ahead with the process without a vote, it was argued, would be to remove Parliament’s sovereignty and consequently the rights of the people who elected them. Some thought this might be a last ditch attempt to circumvent the vote, particularly as there has always been a distinct lack of support for the idea in the House of Lords.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also made waves, at various times suggesting that her part of the union could use its powers to block Brexit from happening and threatening another referendum on Scotland’s independence. Again, those who are still clinging to the hope that Brexit doesn’t need to happen saw their hopes rekindled.
As with most things in life, what the future holds is unlikely to be as horrifying as we imagine. The fact so many Brits are worrying right now comes down to the toxic nature of uncertainty.
The results of the election felt familiar because I once again saw a nation I hold dear begin to tear itself apart. I saw the “losers” mourn the result and some of the “winners” complain that it was time to move on and quit making a fuss.
I worried for the first couple of weeks that things would descend into the kind of name-calling and flat out nastiness that followed the Brexit vote. Again, for every individual, the result was both an affirmation or condemnation of our personal values and a glimpse at whether the path to our future will be the one we would have chosen.
Fortunately, because America is not suffering from the same uncertainty, things are already settling down. We have a chance to come back together now and begin to shape that future as it unfolds.
I’m particularly happy to be living in a part of the nation where my friends and neighbors already understand the importance of a tight-knit community and largely avoided the turmoil I saw elsewhere. And so I will leave you with the words of a very special person.
You may have heard about Jo Cox, the politician who was assassinated just days before the referendum by a man who disliked her support for refugees – one of the biggest issues during the Brexit campaign. Jo was the kind of person who cared deeply about people and embodies the thinking that I hope will eventually prevail on both sides of the ocean.
During her first speech in parliament, she summed up my own feelings about our best and only path through all these game-changing moments. Together, I believe, is the only way to prevail. In Jo’s words, “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”