Generation Brexit

The Tale of Brexit Boy: A Dispatch from the Frontline

Liam Travers
Liam Travers | Sep 2, 2017 | in Swipe right for Remain

Picture this...

You're Soho way. It's late, but not irresponsibly so for a school night. The composition of the evening's posse is deliciously cosmopolitan: two Brits, a German and a manciata (handful) of Italians. This is standard stuff for you; an international baller floating competently (at least in your own head) through an LSE undergraduate degree.

You've brought along a friend from the West Country. That's right, you're keeping it grounded. Conversation is light and polite, ranging from summer plans to Emmanuelle Macron's bottle-flipping prowess (what a guy!).

Talk turns, inevitably, to Britain's position in the Global order post-elephant in the room. Scheisse (sh*t)! You laugh the line of questioning off, aware of the dark secret your amigo has locked away in his Brexit bank. "Let's not bring down the mood", you mumble in a manner elucidating your torn desire to save your mate's skin and see him ferociously interrogated in multiple languages.

One of the Italians persists, confident that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. Good try [insert your name]. At least in juxtaposition to the upcoming revelation you will look more charming/wonderful than you naturally are. A small mercy. You await the fireworks.

They are brighter and more explosive than you anticipated. They are also dangerous. The first fist slammed on the table shakes the legs of your chair. The second sends the quasi-pretzel nibbles flying along with any composure these continental Europeans once held.

The reaction is above and beyond your expectations. You were anticipating a laugh and a joke at the expense of your friend and his silly decision. It would be uncomfortable, but probably palatable. Instead, they grow visibly angry. You are guilty by association. Your mate's subsequent sobriquet of 'Brexit Boy' gives rise to yours: 'Brexit Boy's Friend'. You understand the etiquette of nickname-giving but this is still upsetting. You go to bed in a similarly confused and angry state as your foreign counterparts.

After reading this stream of nonsense, you are probably sharing these same two emotions. What has this anecdote got to do with, frankly, anything? Well, I think this true and truly bizarre incident has some relevance. 

From my own experiences, feelings over the UK's decision to depart from the European Union have not reduced in intensity but are simply manifesting differently. In contrast to the jeering texts I received from family abroad over the summer of 2016 (cheers Oma), there is now, more than ever, a real feeling that the UK has let the side down.

But this is harmless, right? Wrong. Indeed, not too long ago there was talk of punishing the UK during the Brexit discussions - much of which was peddled by leading Eurocrats. Alarmingly, a notable few of these are, as I write, in and around Michel Barnier's dream team. This rhetoric needs to end and has no place on, under or in the same continent as the Brussel's negotiation table. I am well aware that we aren't in the club anymore, but let's not become the opposition. 

Besides, I don't fancy getting banned from a bar again.

edited on Sep 2, 2017 by Liam Travers

Valeria Vigilante Sep 4, 2017

Hi Liam, I really liked the story and I think it depicts well a state in which many young British people are feeling right now. I share with you the worrying that delusion towards the Brits is not disappearing, but only dangerously transforming. There should not be any talk on 'UK needs to be punished' or something along these lines: it would be dangerous for the negotiations and the future relation between UK and the EU.

Do you have any suggestion on how to avoid or escape this situation? What can we , as part of a millennial cross European generation, do effectively?

Liam Travers Sep 4, 2017

Hi Valeria, many thanks for your comment!
Off the top of my head I can think of a couple of ways that might help avoid a mutually destructive divorce/trade deal. I think both sides need to stop holding their ace card over the other as ransom. Using citizen's rights and tax levels, for instance, as a get out of jail free, so to speak, makes for an uncomfortable combination of guarded and emotional discussions that are more likely to give rise to erratic and volatile decisions. Moreover, staggering the talks/segmenting them should provide more scope for focused and mutually beneficial brokering (although it does have potential for grinding negotioations to a halt). Lastly, and perhaps a little selfishly, I would love to see the negotiations televised. I think it would mitigate against bullying behaviour - Yanis Varoufakis has written an excellent recount of his experience during the Greek bailout talks - &, on a personal level, watching a livestream of Barnier v Davis would be a real pleasure.

For the Brexit generation, I think we need to maintain as close links as possible with EU enterprises so that once we finally leave, it is less about re-establishing a brand-new relationship and more modifying an already strong and stable (unintentional!) one. As a workforce, we also need to become as flexible and innovative as possible. All we know for certain is that life outside the EU will be different, and we need to be prepared for that as well as the competitive pressures and new challenges that we will indefinitely face over the coming decades.

Hope this answers your Qs. Apologies if not, am writing in a bit of a hurry!