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A sad day

31 January 2020

At midnight, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. From my point of view, as an Anglophile European, this is a tragedy. It will diminish the EU, most obviously by removing the second-largest member state with its almost 70 million people and a vibrant economy. It will damage the UK, of course, maybe even leading to a breakup of the country. It will carry a heavy economic cost, both in the UK and on the Continent. But to me, personally, the greatest damage is on the emotional level.

As far as I can remember, I have loved all things British. Even as I child in Communist Poland in the 1960s, I was taught in school about the heroism of the people of London during the Blitz and the Battle of Britain (not least because of the contribution made by Polish pilots). My older sister listened to the Beatles. I dreamed of visiting London some day…

As a teenager in Denmark in the 1970s, the music I listened to was all from England: Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zep, The Who, David Bowie–all my favourite bands were British. Later in the 1970s, I embraced punk, even convincing my music teacher in high school to acquire music by the Sex Pistols for the school’s record collection. At the same time, every year I wholeheartedly enjoyed The Last Night of the Proms on Danish TV and sang along with Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory. And some time in the early 70s, I fell in love with Liverpool Football Club, a love that has endured to this day and will be with me till the day I die. In history lessons in school, we listened to a recording of a BBC broadcast from 4th May 1945, announcing to the people of Denmark that the German forces in the Netherlands, north-west Germany and Denmark had surrendered to Field Marshall Montgomery. The British army had liberated our country from five years of German occupation.

English is the language we speak at home. It is the mother tongue of my children. When my son had to choose where to go to university, he chose to study in England (we were living in the Netherlands at the time). In 2013, I had the enormous privilege to attend my son’s graduation from the University of Bath, held at Bath Abbey–a more magnificent setting I cannot imagine. And my daughter too studied in the UK, in Cardiff, which gave me the opportunity to get to know the wonderful country that is Wales.

In my office I have pictures of my wife and children, as many people do. But I also have a portrait of Winston Churchill, the man who saved Europe in the darkest hour. And then, I woke up that morning in June 2016 and saw the results of the referendum. I was in shock. How could this happen? How could the people that had given us some of the greatest thinkers, artists, statesmen of the past 1000 years come to such a disastrous, stupid, self-defeating decision? And how could it be that they chose an unprincipled buffoon to lead their government and a deranged Trotskyist to lead the main opposition party? There are all kinds of socio-economic factors that can be invoked as explanations. But for me, it is as if someone I love had decided to reject me.

I will continue to love the Beatles and Liverpool Football Club–the latter a manifestation of a UK that is open to the outside world: a team coached by a German, with star players from England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Brazil, Egypt, Senegal. I will continue to listen to the BBC every day. And I hope against hope that one day the British people will reconsider their ill-fated decision of 2016.




One Comment
  1. Thank you for that summary, Nathan. It is an emotional wrench for my wife and me as well. It remains an unfathomable decision and the split in the country, communities and families is likely to continue.

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