Explaining how I have been feeling over the past few years seems a futile endeavour when it comes to convincing Brexit zealots to change their mind, so I largely have kept my feelings to myself. However, perhaps this is a mistake. Perhaps convincing anyone of anything isn't the point. Perhaps I need understanding from my friend and allies. And so here is an attempt to explain things. I feel nervous and slightly vulnerable sharing this, a part of me even now is putting up mental shields waiting for the emotional attacks and gaslighting from both political enemies and well meaning but misguided friends. But I also feel a small amount of hope that some will understand what I've been going through and offer me the support I need.
First impressions of EuroSceptics
It was always transparent to me that the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory part were basically xenophobic fascists, and that when they split off to form UKIP, that was the far right Tories breaking off to do their own thing. It always saddened me when the UK kept electing UKIP MEPs to the EU parliament. It worried me that so many of my fellow Brits were willing to vote for obvious fascists. But it didn't surprise me. After all I grew up with a large part of the union voting for Thatcher.
I felt revulsion for such people, not quite in the same way I despise racist bone heads, because these people present themselves as respectable rather than violent thugs. They present a facade of culture and education, behind which they hide their ignorant and perhaps insincere opinions.
As I learned more about EU I came to see it as largely positive. Yes it had flaws and needed reform, but I observed that Euro-sceptics always BLOCKED the needed reform, and mostly supported the worst laws. Electorally the EU was superior and more representative than the UK, which is stills stuck with the antiquated gerrymandering system known as 'first past the post' (FPTP).
As the EU was hemmed in by the USA and Russia I began to see that overall the EU was a force for freedom in the world. A positive influence. The USA, like the UK, is crippled by a FPTP electoral system that polarises politics and returns minoritarian rule. Russia has PR, but was freshly emerging out of dictatorship and has a long way to go before learning how to use it. It was initially too trusting of the American right wing when implementing its economic reforms and fell into the trap of adopting the 'shock doctrine'. The UK remained a corrupt influence within the EU, but I hoped one that could learn from its neighbours and enact the necessary electoral reforms.
When it became personal
Overall however, this was all fairly abstract political theory to me until 2008, when I met, and began my relationship with @dana-varahi. Any feelings I had on the subject until then were surface and I was able to get on with my life facing other priorities. We had also been living under a Europhile government for some time and so it seemed a non issue.
Dana had come the UK under the EUs Freedom of Movement rules, and by 2009 our concern for the increasingly hostile sentiment of UK politicians towards immigration and the EU was becoming cause for concern. We decided to get engaged, and although it wasn't our main motivation, thinking marriage would be a safeguard against rising authoritarian politics tearing us apart was certainly a consideration of mine. By the time we actually had our wedding in 2014 however, the UK had enacted a most terrible xenophobic law, denying the spouses of UK citizens the automatic right to live with their partner. These changes were brought in by then Home Secretary Teresa May in 2012. This was a blow, and increased our sense of urgency to secure our future together. Dana retained the right to live with me as an EU citizen, but one extra level of security had been removed from us.
May 2012 was also when Dana and I left Bristol, England to live in Scotland. We knew a general election was coming, and the Tories were talking about holding a referendum on EU membership to appease the sceptic wing of their party and try to stop their votes haemorrhaging to UKIP. Given the pro-EU stance of the Scottish government, we saw a YES vote for Scottish independence as potentially providing us the future security we need to plan and build a future life together. It wasn't our only motivation, an Independent Scotland unchained from the restrictions of Westminster, we felt would become a very liberated and free with great opportunities. We would both have sought Scottish passports for sure, and I would gladly have given up my British one if I had to.
Before the EU referendum
Sadly that vote was lost and we faced another year or two of uncertainty until the Brexit referendum. I felt fear, but mostly denial. I didn't want to face the possibility that Leave would win and constantly reassured myself that they were trailing in the polls. Any thought that they might win raised the sense of our uncertain future.
After the vote
Of course, the Leave vote did 'win'. They cheated, broke the law and murdered a remain supporting MP. All this and more is known. But our government and spineless Labour opposition say we must 'honour the result'. I feel disgusted with both Tories and Jeremy Corbyn. The SNP have been brilliant, but stuck in the UK they have little power over Scotland's future. It seems England will drag us out of the EU against our wishes.
If, in order to preserve the Good Friday Agreement, the UK does in fact stay in the single market and customs union temporarily, then it would buy us time. But right now we've had a couple of years since the referendum and we still don't know what treaty the UK will have with the EU. It makes even short term planning frustrating. We both hate guess work.
The debate turned towards the kind of Brexit we were headed for. Sadly, despite a narrow win for leave, the FPTP oppositional politics meant no national consensus was sought, and instead of arguing for a reasonable compromise to build a lasting consensus, the government moved further and further into extremism. Instead of quickly reaching an agreement with the EU to protect freedom of movement, or otherwise provide a permanant guarantee of residency with safegaurds, the government talked of us as 'bargaining chips', made vague promises with no guarantees, continually threatened to renege and generally ignored our concerns.
And so this was where we found ourselves since 2016. I can't speak for Dana but my own emotional state has been eratic. I originally used the term 'emotional rollercoaster', but this makes what I've been through soon thrilling and exciting. It really hasn't felt like that at all. Instead it has been through a rough ride of Betrayal, Anger, Anxiety, Defiance, Depression, Determination, Hatred, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Dispair, Stress, and Abandonment. I probably need to write a follow-up article expanding on all those feelings.
During moments of defiance and determination, we built BlockPress. We campaign for a #PeoplesVote on the final Brexit deal. During moments of anger and hatred I engage in pointless arguments on twitter to release my rage. Sometimes I am able to focus and channel that energy into something more constructive. During times of anxiety, depression, sadness and abandonment, Dana and I cuddle and reassure one another, watch films, read books and get creative to distract ourselves.
I am, I feel, largely misunderstood by my side of our family, with the exception my supportive daughter, Claire. The rest, whether they voted for Brexit, abstained or voted Remain, seem to have bought into the idea that we have 'bought into project fear' and have 'nothing to worry about'. I say seem to. I don't really know as they avoid the subject, even when we ask and our only communication is largely superficial.