I sit on a train out from Victoria to Gatwick airport. The guy next to me, maybe in his 70ies, starts a conversation. We talk about all kind of things for example how London has changed over the past few decades. He tells about an explosion of people in the city, mostly foreigners. Super crowded, I confirm, shucking it off my shoulders. To have understood that he was right, that this was not how it should be. I ask him about his vote regarding Brexit. He wants to talk about something that happened to him when he was a boy. “Clearly, I voted to leave,” was his answer. It made sense in his world, it didn’t in mine.
The UK see what their people have spoken, and accept that decision. Only 36% of eligible voters given the 70% overall turnout. Nothing beyond simple majority, a referendum as in Russian roulette for republics. Honestly, I was not surprised when I found out about the result. Going back, not possible. The big question mark in the air now is regarding the fine line in free movement of goods, services, capital, and people. Or in other words, how will we shape future Europe?
Germany has been among the most persistent and vocal in insisting Britain cannot cherry-pick from the four fundamental freedoms –– or opt out of free movement but into the single market. This could end in failure unless Britain changes their divide-and-rule tactics. Britain believes the situation is complicated by domestic political and media pressure, which they argue makes compromise difficult. In London, the feelings that the country will simply get whatever it wants but that may just not be the case.
Time passes and civilians see the UK flirting with the Scandics as part of a charm offensive to find more sympathetic allies. Italy has red lines regarding the single market and free movement. France thinks there must be a price and don’t agree on leaving and not paying for it. Spain already sees the Spanish flag over Gibraltar. A Brexit-inspired mural by Banksy shows a metalworker chipping away at a star on the EU flag has appeared in Dover. The artwork emerged overnight on the Castle Amusements building near the ferry terminal, which connects the UK with mainland Europe.
The EU’s deal with the UK is something different to the normal political affairs in Europe. What is fair competition in the modern day world? We’ve gone a long way, survived two big world wars. Nobody wants to see any of these horrible stories happen again. We think we are smarter but are we really? It is another relationship when you have been neighbors forever. Many of us live a London-Europe lifestyle for years. We jump on airplanes back to the mainland and are part of frequent flyer programs.
For a long time, I had no clue what politics are all about but it looks like Jupiter’s grand finale in Libra has a certain effect on me. We can also see these energies play out on a country level between the UK and Europe, both contemplating whether we give as good as we get. I’m thankful for pursuing a career in London, living in a different culture and experiencing its everyday. If you would ask me if I dream in English or German, I wouldn’t be able to answer this. All I know is that I tend to switch into English sometimes when texting German friends. I guess that’s an indicator that my deepest level, in terms of oral language, might be English.
I admit that I lost a bit sight of what the free movement actually means, how privileged we are in Europe at the moment. I can only hope that I will be able to continue living here in London. Speaking to friends, I hear mixed opinions. Many of us are not willing to live in a country where we are second class citizens. Does that mean that we will be treated even worse within the national health system? Will the economy remain stabile or will it cause more burdens on the already disadvantaged and vulnerable people? I hope Europe finds a new level of unity, something worth pursuing, in the long run. Will people need to leave?
Politics in the 21st century, like brands, is memorable, distinctive, tangible and succinct. How can we add our unique perspective and make our vote count, heard and felt? Positivity is an optional term, more so it’s about freedom. We now hear a debate on globalization which is polarized between two camps, one saying this is the worst thing that has ever happened, others say that is the way that history goes. And I very much think that this is really true. You always have two parties who battle each other to create something better. Only through collision and hardship with another party will your own perspectives be challenged until you change and follow the path of time to become something different.
“It is about trusting the other part to do something that you find sufficient, not necessarily the same, but something that one way or another matches your own way of looking at things so that you do not import things that would not accept in your own jurisdictions.”
Margrethe Vestager, EU Competition Commissioner
I’m almost at the airport now, I was wrapping up my conversation with the wise Sagittarius guy sitting next to me on the train.
“You should write a book about the differences between Germany and England, how we perceive the story through different eyes,” he says and goes on, “A real effort is needed to empower the disadvantaged and vulnerable throughout diverse UK communities. Yet it is also indefensible to engage in racism and/or xenophobia. I welcome you here at any time.”
“Thank you, I will take it to heart and think about it. It was very great talking to you, and I wish you and your country all its best,” I say. Then I left the train and headed back to Europe.
I’m sure that a truer version of Europe will be born. A version where every country can pursue tactics which are best for its own as well as others. There is a virtue in truth, it has an almost mystic power. Like radium, it seems able to give off for ever and ever grains of energy, atoms of light. It stimulates a curious susceptibility in this direction, artful and highly colored stimulated.