Happy is England! I could be content
To see no other verdure than its own;
To feel no other breezes than are blown
Through its tall woods with high romances blent;
Yet do I sometimes feel a languishment
For skies Italian, and an inward groan
To sit upon an Alp as on a throne,
And half forget what world or worldling meant.
Happy is England, sweet her artless daughters;
Enough their simple loveliness for me,
Enough their whitest arms in silence clinging;
Yet do I often warmly burn to see
Beauties of deeper glance, and hear their singing,
And float with them about the summer waters.
John Keats, 1884
“We will continue ever more intensively to go on cheapo flights to stag parties in ancient cities.”
Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Wednesday 14th February 2018
My dad woke me up early one dreary summer’s morning, just before he was about to head out to work. I mustn’t have been sleeping very soundly as the sound of his muffled footsteps woke me up and hurried me into a startled, albeit sleepy, upright position. The look on his face said it all; it wasn’t good news. “It’s happening”, he said, as I rubbed my eyes and he raised his shoulders and huffed and puffed in typical French fashion. The weather forecast wasn’t looking so good either, the sky was grey, showers were heading our way, even a storm was supposed to show its teeth, and a sudden, soaring rise in temperatures was expected the following day, ready to cook us all. It was as if it were all planned – a day like this does not deserve blue skies.
On Thursday 23rd June, 2016, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, in a move more commonly known as “Brexit”. And as you do in times of great distress, you turn on the television set. Insults were promptly hurtled into my ears, “Fuck off Europe! Fuck off Brussels!”, and the TV was not to be turned on again. For a couple of days, at least.
Two months later, on Saturday 20th August, I set off on a road trip along the South coast of England. I had planned to go long before it happened. But from Brighton to Land’s End, no insults were hurled at me. No signs of rampant patriotism. No banners, no flyers, nothing. Lots of English breakfasts were had, and lots of tea was drunk. And yet, the air was still heavy with anticipation.
On Friday 29th March, 2019, at 11pm, the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union.