There is a new rule whenever my parents visit me in Spain or when I stay with them in England. Do not mention the ‘B’ Word. Alcohol fuelled arguments, unpleasant silences, and feelings of resentment were becoming the norm since the referendum. The atmosphere was so poisonous that for the good of our relationship we would simply deny Brexit any space in the room.
At the time of writing, it is difficult to say what damage or good will come to the UK, but the damage it has caused within my own family is maddeningly tangible.
My father voted for Brexit. He wants Britain to regain absolute control of its judicial system, border control and immigration. He believes that Brussels has too much power. I could spend the rest of this article on why my father’s views are misinformed, but that has been done a thousand times on a thousand other websites. Instead, here is something else.
My earliest memory as a child was overlooking a bay in Malta. I was four. It was the second time my parents had taken me and my sister abroad. In fact my parents would take us abroad at least once a year, every year for the remaining years of our childhoods. We rarely went on beach holidays to the Costas. My family were more adventurous. They preferred cottages in the remote French countryside, somewhere my father could interact with the locals over a glass of red wine. I am grateful for this. I was able from an early age to see so many exotic and different places, hear different languages and witness the kindness of foreigners. Although then I was the foreigner. And that was OK.
It was no surprise that my sister went on to take European Studies at University, and having spent an Erasmus year in Bordeaux became fluent in French. And at the end of 1999 my parents supported me in my move to Madrid, where I continue to live with my Spanish wife and daughter. No doubt some of you reading this now are in exactly the same boat as me, a colder, darker more vikingesque vessel but nonetheless the same; the EU.
So what will happen to all those advantages that Britons both abroad and at home enjoy? What will us Brits overseas loose? I posed this question to my father. He isn’t worried. Everything will work out and Britain will be great again.
Ok Dad, but will I need to apply for residence and work papers again? Will I be covered by national health insurance? Will I need to take out extra health insurance when travelling to other EU countries? Can I move freely, as you did for most of your life, around the EU avoiding long delays in immigration?
The uncertainty and constant media amplification is causing unnecessary anxiety and stress for millions of people both in Britain and outside. It is at times like this I need support from my father but the only thing I feel is betrayal. Not just betrayal from my father, but from a faction of government of a country and a pitiful opposition which has allowed families and friends to become divided.
It’s not all doom and gloom though is it? My father isn’t a bad person. We can talk about how bad our football teams are, or share laughs over nice meals or a pint down the pub. But the elephant takes up far too much room. And if it were my choice, I’d shoot it.
*Matthew Kennington is an English teacher, published translator and writer.