The winner takes it all?

Loss. It is something I have had reason to write about far too often recently. All the many bereavements, the two burglaries, even the loss of two cherished pets. And now the enormous sense of loss Mr Blue-Shirt and I both felt at midnight on 31st January, which, although very different, felt just as momentous and just as life-changing. We feel utterly bereft, bewildered and betrayed.

We are bereft at the withdrawal of our almost life-long EU citizenship and the myriad rights and benefits it bestows – sorry, bestowed – upon us, our families and our friends. We feel utterly bewildered by the reckless abandonment of half a century’s solidarity and brotherhood in favour of isolation and petty nationalism; we feel equally bewildered by the wilful self-infliction of economic, social, political and cultural impoverishment on the country of our birth and its consequences for future generations.

And we feel betrayed by a hubristic and disdainful government that, in their own interests rather than the nation’s, sought to stoke division and discord, and turned the whole sorry affair into a winner-takes-all, zero-sum game in which those who, for perfectly legitimate reasons, held fast to the worthy principles of European unity and cooperation were not just ignored but mocked, taunted and vilified and ordered to ‘get over it.’

I refuse to succumb to bitterness, though. Because when I went to bed on Friday night, I was European, and when I woke on Saturday morning, I was European. I was still European this morning, and will be tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that. For being European is as much part of me as being left-handed and long-sighted. It is what I am and who I am, and no one – least of all the power-hungry, self-serving chancers currently in Westminster – can take that from me.

I could continue my despairing rant ad nauseum, but I have had my fill of reflecting on loss and no longer wish to participate in the crude, divisive discourse of ‘we won, you lost’, as we are surely all losers now.

Instead, I will keep this short and give the last word to that icon of British patriotism, William Shakespeare. For across the centuries his peerless poetry seems – both inevitably and ironically – to hit the mark precisely:

England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots, and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.

— Richard II (II.i)

With thanks to Shreya Sen Handley ( for the quotation.

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