Whenever someone utters the word ’emotive subject’, you can safely wager that what they really mean to say is ‘everyone just calm down, please’. Or ‘this topic is probably best avoided’. The subject will often be about money, religion or politics. Or a rage inducing mix of all three. Brexit is an emotive subject. Exceedlingly so. Partly because of the money angle – we’re going to be poorer. And almost everyone, on both sides of the debate, now agrees on that point. But Brexit is emotive beyond the financial implications it will have upon our lives.
Like most people my age, I was brought up on an ideological diet of British exceptionalism, maintained in part through xenophobic denigration of our European neighbours. For an all too brief decade or two, within the EU, we became an open, inclusive and outward looking nation. A place where casual prejudice was called out, not embraced. And yet here we are in 2018, turning inward and looking backward yet again. A place where bigotry is once more being normalised and accepted as part of British life.
I stood at the stern of the ferry, gazing back at Cherbourg as we sailed away from the French coast. I watched the Tricolour flap in the wind. And I thought to myself, “I rather wish I were French”. And I further thought, “I’m probably not the only one”. How did it come to this? Well, Brexit is an emotive subject. Shall we talk about something else for a while?