Back in 2007 it occurred to me that as the son of a British born mother, I could obtain dual citizenship and get myself a British passport to go along with my Australian one. This mainly appealed to me for the reason that the United Kingdom was firmly part of the European Union and that as a possessor of said passport, I could legally live and work anywhere in Europe for the rest of my life.
As I filled out the initial paperwork for citizenship and sent it off to England, my mind wandered to the possibility of a near-future summer spent working as a bike tour-guide in Budapest. While receiving the paperwork and the approval back in the mail two months later, I imagined a year long sabbatical in Paris spent strolling the Seine and reading books in busy cafes. And as I took the final step, a pledge of allegiance to the Queen of England at the British embassy, I pictured my retirement on a small Tuscan farm surrounded by sunflowers and grandchildren calling me "Papa."
Then along came Nigel Farage and his friends with an odd proposal that Britain exit the European Union. What a ridiculous idea! The United Kingdom to LEAVE the EU? Why even entertain the thought? Well it went from way out idea to slight possibility. The United Kingdom decided to have a referendum and let the people decide.
On the day England voted, I took the assignment to cover ex-pats watching the results come in at a series of British themed bars in Manhattan. I was nervous but sure that the Brits would vote firmly to remain in the EU. Then this terrible idea and it's wacky conspirators could be put to bed forever. God save my European dream!
I arrived at the first bar with early results starting to come in. Votes to "Remain" in the EU leaped from the gates winning a few districts in a row. Perfect. But then "leave" came back. As I stood by a table of analysts, Sunderland's results were announced. 61% leave. The analysts gasped and informed me that this was an indication that a BrExit was now the likely outcome. Yes they were analysts, but surely they were misguided ones? Increasingly, image after image of a smiling Farage flashed across screens. As I hopped to other bars, more results came in and just as they had predicted "Leave" pulled ahead. Sometime soon after midnight it was sealed. BrExit was actually happening. I stood amongst a stunned crowd watching a stunned broadcaster declare the result. I noticed the analysts attention now focused on a laptop. Sat on a table, it's screen displayed a graph showing the British pound in a nose dive. I stood waiting for the sky to fall as my dreams of Budapest, Paris and Tuscany faded like a reverse polaroid.
But I remain hopeful. The BrExiteers seemed as surprised as anybody that they won and don't seem to have a plan as to how to tear off from Europe painlessly, or even smoothly. They threw an exit date of two years out there but that's like the guy who says "next year I will lose weight." Ha. Yeah. Not impossible, but unlikely. I'm counting on a "what the hell were we thinking?" realization to sweep across my mother's land and for it all to end before it even begins.