A Lament from a Brit in Germany
As an eighty-year-old plus, I view the coming of Brexit with disbelief and with fear. The decision to vote for Brexit was governed by the hearts of the British people and not by their heads. I further believe that that many people were influenced by the half-truths and in some cases, outright lies propagated by the UKIP and their supporters. Mr. Farage had obviously been studying the methods used by Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels during the time of the Nazi dominance of Germany in the 1930s and the 1940s. The debates in the House of Commons have also revealed how shallow and out of touch some of our politicians are. The likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson do not truly represent the concerns and the needs of their constituents, or only so far as what they themselves perceive as their interests. Financially independent, politics for them is a game of high stakes played out in the most exclusive club in the world, the House of Commons, with the prizes being position and power. Loyalty to their party leader has no place in their game and if a stab in the back will further their hand, then let it be “Et tu, Brute?”
Brexit has divided the country as no theme has ever done before. It will take generations to repair the damage. Not only is the unity of United Kingdom threatened, but the heart of our society, the family, is also being torn apart. Children are opposed to their parents and my grandchildren have no understanding for Brexit, claiming that a part of their freedom has been denied to them.
As a young man back in the late 1960s, I was an active supporter and promoter of our membership of the EU. As Vice President of the British Junior Chambers of Commerce I accompanied Sir Edward Heath on a number of campaign meetings. As a young boy I had lived through the dark days of the Second World War and the difficult times in the immediate post-war years. The shadow thrown across Europe by the Iron Curtain also left its mark and the idea of a European Community to which we all belonged, talking to each other, working together towards a better and safer future was and still is the most compelling argument for being in the European Union.
The damage that Brexit will bring to the British economy has been well documented, but the financial loss caused by the Brexit vote to British citizens, most especially pensioners, living in Europe has been devastating and hardly documented. I am also one of those whose lives have been dramatically affected . In 1971, I was given the opportunity by my British employer to come and work in Germany. What was intended as a four-year contract turned into a lifetime spent here in this wonderful country promoting the sale of British goods and services. Upon retirement in 2003 I had looked forward to a retirement in what I now regard as my home, living on my company pension payments, which are, of course, paid in sterling. In 2016, the year of the Brexit vote, I received for every pound ca. 1.40 Euros. Today for that same pound I receive ca. 1.11 Euros, which represents a reduction of my income of over 20%. The financial experts are saying that when Brexit actually takes place, the pound could be devalued by up to 25%. The current devaluation is catastrophic and has meant a complete life change for my wife and I at the age of 80 plus. From being quite comfortable, we are now forced to make substantial cuts in our style of living. Life has suddenly become very hard, worrying and stressful. At our age this is so unjust.
The opportunity of being able to live, work and travel in mainland Europe for over forty years has revealed to me how much respect the other European countries have for the United Kingdom, its history and its great tradition of parliamentary democracy and they were looking forward to the British taking a lead in what every country in the EU recognises as necessary: reforms. The British have never fully used their influence in Europe and the efforts of David Cameron, prior to the referendum, to negotiate a better deal can only be regarded as half-hearted. Had he taken as much time as Theresa May has taken to negotiate an exit, perhaps we would be looking at a different situation. It is a shame that the United Kingdom are now revoking a contract to which, 45 years ago, they gave their signatures instead of taking a lead to reform.
I am proud to call myself a European but bitterly disappointed in my misguided fellow countrymen.