by Sam Greet
I am a British student studying here at KU Leuven on an Erasmus year, a stone's throw away from the heart of the infamous European Union in Brussels. From my brief time here I have taken some degree of perspective on the European view towards Brexit, but think it is important for Europe to have an insight into the British side, as we have experienced it.
Since the result on the 26th June 2016 declared our intent to leave the European Union, I have seen my country slide into a politics spectrum full of echo chambers, false promises and self-serving interests. Nobody has the answers, everybody has the questions. Government keeps its cards to its chest, clawing to keep power to itself and away from Parliamentary scrutiny. Parliament itself has little unity on anything, not even on the catastrophic potential of a 'No Deal' crash out, although that perhaps is the closest to a majority opinion that might be shared. The parties within this are equally internally divided.
The Conservative Party tears itself apart and in its tug of war between its Eurocentric and Europhilic factions has opened a social and political rift in the country not seen so deeply amongst our people since the Thatcher era, with May caught between this proverbial rock and a hard place. David Cameron's Referendum has exposed the deep divisions within the Tories and risks the collapse of the very party itself on these divides, and has already set the ball in motion to drag the rest of our country with it. Their minority government relies upon the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland and this places paramount importance on getting the issue of the Northern Irish border right by their considerations. In opposition, the Blairite and liberal divisions of the Labour Party harry and undermine the socialist leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, whilst Corbyn and his allies have consistently failed to provide clear party-wide answers on the Brexit question. Despite, in theory, being the two parties best suited to offer a clear Brexit position for the divided groups to rally behind, the Liberal Party and UKIP have failed to be taken seriously as genuine alternatives.
Our country, our parties and our people are no longer split by class or traditional party lines, but by being in-out of Europe or cosmopolitan versus national ideals and there is little solution or end in sight to these issues. For two years Brexit has dominated almost all political discourse in the country. People have become almost delirious with their fervour around Europe, often at the cost of their values, ideologies and sense of reality. It is the latter point which I want to share my deepest sadness on the state of my country which is rarely recognised amongst the Brexit fervour.
This obsession with Brexit and its potential implications for severe poverty, for damaging our economy and our country's progress for years to come has meant consistent ignoring of the crisis our country already faces at home, Brexit or not. The UN recently released a report on the 'Great Misery' currently facing huge swathes of our population and this is an insight into the state of many people lives in our country. We have 4.5 million children living in poverty, we have UN declared 'grave violations' in the rights of our disabled population, wages stagnate whilst cost of living rises, 1.8 million people work in 'zero-hour' contracts that leave no guarantee of income from one week to the next, whilst almost 100,000 are now homeless and rough sleepers die in their hundreds each year on the streets. These issues play second fiddle to Brexit, yet are the painful reality for huge swathes of our country.
When the Europhilic elites clamour to make it so overwhelmingly clear how the people will be worse off in a post-Brexit world and champion a 'People's Vote' in a second referendum, they ignore the overwhelming backslide into destitution for many in our country whilst we already remain in Europe, often under their leadership. When Eurosceptic elites promise change through 'sovereignty', 'taking back control' of our laws and borders through Brexit, they present an idealised future and a promise to these frustrated people that can never fairly materialise in the current political context. Caught between these two self-serving elite is a British population, Remain or Leave voter, who places undeserved faith in one party or the other to solve problems that run far deeper than either our prospects on departure from the EU or our previous membership of it.
As May tries to drag her last attempts an almost impossible deal through to Juncker, her Cabinet drop like flies and the time left to negotiate Brexit draws to a close. Whatever the outcome by March - whether it be No Deal, Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, No Brexit -, the people of Britain will be happy for this overwhelming and incessant political episode to be at least somewhat over. And I will be too.
However, I fear that the new political cleavages left behind from this mess will see the end to the two parties that have held together our country, for better or worse, for the past 100 years. I fear socially that the rage and entrenched emotions felt by the people of Britain will erode our ability to fairly discuss and debate with one another, as well as our principles of tolerance and acceptance. I fear economically that already destitute conditions for some will broaden to take in new victims and deepen for those already there. I fear for the future of Britain.