I will admit that I am definitely not the most qualified person to pontificate about the Brexit. Canada, while still having close ties to Europe and the United Kingdom in particular, has an ocean and a century-and-a-half of history between it and the old imperial motherland. I barely paid any attention until this week, not really wanting to contemplate the thought of the EU (or the UK, for that matter) disintegrating. It is one of those thoughts that sounds appealing and interesting in a “giving the middle finger to authority” sort of way, but a bad thing to do in practice. Clearly, from seeing the reaction of some British voters on Friday, they regretted their impulsive actions. Or, at least, they are shocked that their friends are crying.
I have also never been to the UK or mainland Europe, and I am often quite annoyed at regulations, being told what to do, and being talked down to. Merely from following the news for the past 20 years (since I really paid no attention as a child), I have on many occasions thought that sticking it to the government would be a good idea. Of course the EU is frustrating. Who wants the Germans running Europe? (But if you don’t want to be run by Germans, why leave?) But the European Union is a marvelous achievement, considering the continent’s history. By creating the institution – which needs reforming, granted – the various European governments acknowledged that they needed to stop being plucky little provincials if they wanted to avoid further catastrophic war and stand up to their enemies and negotiating partners. Because really, without the EU, that is exactly what Europe is: a collection of little competing countries, some larger and wealthier than others.
But I do think that I still have a say in this matter.
I am a European union – namely, my ethnic identity as an ethnic Canadian is based on three centuries of various western Europeans having children together in the New World under the British Crown. The idea that we can live together in peace and prosperity is not to be feared – it is vital to survival. And I am proud of all my backgrounds, including English, and it pains me to watch my beloved St. George get dragged through the mud. More importantly, I can sit back and watch from the comfort of my western Canadian living room (although this has ruined my weekend…), but millions of British and European citizens cannot. Many lives are ruined and severely altered, while the “Leave” vote was primarily cast by those whose lives are already not doing too well economically, or those that are nearly over.
Really, 51% is too close for a major change. Shouldn’t 60% be a better threshold?
What is more, simply because a lot of people are rightly fed up but expressing it wrongly, the entire United Kingdom is threatened, not to mention the whole of Ireland. Scotland is right to reconsider leaving, since their situation is akin to being strongly encouraged to stay in a marriage for security only for your spouse to up and quit their job. Children born to peaceful Northern Ireland were only old enough to vote in this referendum if they were born in early 1998 – the year the peace agreement was signed. The loss of EU funds toward the continuing peace process, as well as calls to keep the border open and even bringing unification back on the table, will only destabilize Ireland as a whole.
Best case scenario? Scotland gets its independence, Ireland reunites (yes, I can dream), and both are able to be a part of a reformed and more democratic European Union.
And England will be back to its sixteenth-century influence – a backwater nation at the edge of Europe, left out of world affairs.
Like a grown child watching its parents get divorced, Canadians simply sit on the sidelines, but will be affected not just in future, but in our very identity. We agree with both sides on different points. We are frustrated with bureaucracy, but we believe in something greater than ourselves.
And it isn’t hockey.