How more surrealist can it ever get? Dining in the Red Fort in Vilvoorde, a city north of Brussels, is always a special and delicious experience. What used to be an old Flemish pub, or “café” in Flemish, now harbors a menu is refined and extensively Indian. The food is hot, the ingredients fresh and the atmosphere somehow exotic on a cloudy day. The dark wooden walls on the other hand move you back to a Flanders that once existed fifty years ago, but is now long gone. Vilvoorde, once home to many factories, has experienced firsthand how the world has come to change. I sit down after a hard day’s work and confide a friend this is the best Indian restaurant in town. Young and old enjoy Indian food together, with a beer, of course.
Enjoying a Punjabi specialty, we discuss the upcoming referendum. My friend James, for he has British roots, hints politely at the fact that they would probably stay in the European Union. His balanced answer is in fact a reaction to my bold statement and invitation alike we should have Afternoon Tea at Claridges, but only after the referendum, for we would be able to visit England as disaster tourists.
Today, with the Pound Sterling to historic lows and the stock markets in free fall, my ironic musing back then now makes place for unbelief and disappointment.
Many young people in the UK voted Remain and were let down today by a generation who enjoyed the benefits of tighter integration and the opening up towards the world, while turning its back on the European project when economic hardship hits and war is surrounding Europe. At the same time, the economic and social suicide of this decision might give way to many of us finding ourselves unemployed, again, for we belong to a generation without the privileges given to our predecessors.
The events leading up to this referendum were carefully planned and orchestrated starting years back. Let nobody convince you otherwise. For decades now, the United Kingdom has refused to integrated fully in the European Union and has blocked many attempts for tighter integration or more efficient decision making. The Brexit today finally breaks the catch-22 logic the British they themselves have designed. Better decision making and being closer to the people requires tighter integration and more efficient structures and processes, thus reducing the national leverage.
I was surprised to find major newspapers and tabloids supporting the Brexit, but this really ought to be no surprise at all as they only translate the narrow minder views of a conservative British elite. The campaign, the political murder and the atmosphere leading up to the final vote are nothing but mediocre. For the many references to Churchill, the second World War and the Commonwealth and at times the Empire, cannot hide that voters in England and Wales have failed to battle the extremism on the Isle it they fought before on the Continent. For he who claims this victory, knows he won at the expense of progress.
James, how about Afternoon Tea at Claridges somewhere in August? For it is now, a moment that might be only an mediocre anecdote in world history, we can meet the British who long for the economic and social policies of the British Empire. For it is now they can enjoy their 5 minutes of fame, after which the economics of inequality and poverty will put the citizens of England and Wales in front of a mirror that reflects the results of the policy of British leaders, not that of European politicians.