The Brexit Redemption

The Brexit Redemption

Most of you would have seen the film The Shawshank Redemption; in fact it is probably on many peoples’ top ten movies of all time. We all know the story. A man is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit; he is forced into working with the corrupt governor; then, when a friend and fellow prisoner is murdered, he steels himself to make an escape. From the outside, he is able to bring down the whole corrupt system – with the crooked governor committing suicide.

When you think about it, the plot of Shawshank is analogous to the story of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union. The British people had signed up for something completely different and had never asked to be there, found itself having to make all sorts of compromises in order to stay alive, and eventually decided to make its escape when it had had enough of it all.

This country made the decision to start chipping at the wall of what was an ever-enclosing cell over forty years ago; the desire to leave the EU is nothing new. When the Prime Minister promised a referendum ahead of the general election last year, he was taking a calculated gamble. He was hoping that the country would draw a line under things and, like Andy, simply return to working for governor Samuel Norton after spending a month in the hole.

For me, the clincher was European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s firm declaration that, in or out, there would be no room for negotiation – effectively smashing the hopes of vote-waverers who might have believed in the idea that the EU could have been reformed from inside.

Was Juncker calling a last-minute bluff, or was he just being obtuse?

It was a gamble that failed. In Shawshank, we see Andy finally flip after his friend Tommy is murdered by the corrupt Captain Hadley, with Norton remaining as obtuse and as inflexible as ever. Rather like the odious Mr. Juncker, a man who has been implicated in a financial scandal in his native Luxembourg.

With that last hopeful vestige of light at the end of the tunnel being extinguished, Andy decided to make his escape. Having chipped and chiselled away to create the tunnel, the last that thing that would separate him from freedom was a long and seemingly endless river of human waste.

Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine, or maybe I just don’t want to. Five hundred yards… that’s the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile… Andy Dufresne – who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.

In voting to leave the EU, Britain has built its tunnel. The people have had their say, and the decision has been made.
There will be uncertainly. There will be, I have no doubt, a bit of pain and plenty of soul-searching. Like Andy Dufresne, we now have to be prepared to crawl through that river of shit. But I am sure that we will come out clean on the other side.
It is at this point where we can make the ending even better. The way is now open for others to follow us out. They just need to be brave enough to take that first chip at the wall.

Europe can return to being a Europe of nation states, a Europe that fosters a genuine and natural feeling of mutual respect between countries that are now friends and neighbours. The vote to leave the European Union should not change our view of Europe, and for me nothing has changed.

I have a French partner, I drive a German car, support a German football team, and will continue to visit and spend my money in Europe. I will always prefer boeuf bourguignon to a Lancashire hot pot and a Bratwurst to a British banger containing thirty percent meat; you won’t find any Little Englander here. Far from it.

Yes, I will admit to feeling a little bit grubby in knowing that the direction of my vote was also shared by people who voted leave for other more suspect reasons; people who last week probably thought that Brexit was the name of a cheap breakfast cereal.

This was my Andy Dufresne shit-wading moment, I suppose. Sometimes, you cannot pick and choose your fellow travellers.
For me, Europe is a continent rich in history and culture, whose wonderful people make it what it is. Europe is not the United States of America, and never can be. What makes Europe great are these differences, differences that cannot be destroyed by a faceless bureaucratic machine with an agenda increasingly at odds with the concept of national government and, by extension, ordinary people.

If you truly love Europe, its history, its culture and all it stands for, then you will always be sceptical of the aims and agenda of a faceless, supranational monolith like the European Union. If you truly love Europe, you will be now hoping that every European country can do the same thing.

While I cannot speak for some, the result of this referendum has not changed how the vast majority of British people feel about Europe. We are all friends now, and we do not need some external force with an unwanted internationalist, geopolitical agenda to make us work together. We work together because we are happy to do so, because we want to.
The many peoples of Europe, who have nothing to do with the European Union, will continue to be warm and welcoming, as much as we will continue to do so here. Nobody is going to be shown the door; the Britain I believe in has always welcomed the brightest and best, and will continue to do so.

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