The idea of Brexit bifurcates me—it tears me in two—as I’m internally torn between Leave and Remain.
I call London home. Even though I only lived there for two years, it was the best years of my life. The people I met there, both British subjects and European citizens, will remain friends with me for the rest of my life. I met my partner there, who, like me, is not a subject of the British crown, but rather, another foreigner who still considers London to be home, years after leaving.
One day in summer 2013, a gentleman came to my door, delivered a letter, and asked me to sign that I had received it. The letter was from the UK Border Agency and very explicitly stated that I was required to leave Britain, London, my home, before the end of the summer. This demand—with no recourse to appeal the decision—destroyed my life as I knew it, and required me to spend 6 months apart from my partner, as we dealt with the U.S. immigration process. It was traumatic, but Britain remains home to me.
From schizophrenic Denver, I am not able to keep up with the raging debate about Brexit, the dirty discourse designed to motivate one way or the other. I am exiled. With that perspective, and through my friends and family that remain in Britain, I have seen how bifurcating this idea has become. It tears us apart, both collectively and individually. We each have our private, practical, and theoretical interests that have been pitted against each other by the raising of the question: Leave or Remain?
The question, however, is simpler than the convoluted half-truths and terror-laden predictions provided by those campaigning on either side. The question is, who rules Britain? Should supreme power rest in the halls of the Palace of Westminster, or is the current situation, where the council and parliament in Brussels presides over Britain as a member of a larger union, preferable?
The Palace of Westminster is hardly perfect, that much is clear. Brussels, with whatever benefits and privileges it can bestow upon members, has also shown itself to be far from perfect. Thus, the answer becomes difficult… lemon difficult.
As a person who does not carry a British passport, I have no say in answering this seminal and purely political question. Worse yet, as a person who calls London home, and currently has the opportunity to make it home again through the European citizenship of my partner, my personal interests are served by one answer, while my political philosophy and theoretical interests are served by the polar opposite. There is no reconciliation to this double-life I lead.
In a week’s time, those privileged individuals who do carry a British passport will decide the question while I hum along at work, 4,500 miles away. Their answer will be the answer I must live with. This is the world that we live in; this is the world of nation-states, of citizenship, and of democracy.
Brussels would not ask the citizens of any of its member states this question; in fact, it campaigns to squash any nascent idea of leaving the union in all the member states that it takes hold. The question was raised—almost beneficently—by the Prime Minister who does not have a beneficent bone in his Oxbridge-educated body. This is democracy at its core.
I have an opinion on which way the British citizen should vote, but my opinion is as worthless as my President’s opinion on this matter. My advocacy is relegated to promoting the understanding of what it is the British citizen is voting for or against. They—you, perhaps—are voting on where you want the locus of your country’s sovereignty to be located: Brussels or Westminster?
Do not be fooled. A leave result would be a revolution, the same as the revolution that quietly occurred in 1973 upon British accession to the European Community. But, we live inside the system of nation-states and, thankfully for Britain, within a system of democracy. What the British citizens choose will be the right result: not for economic reasons, or racial reasons, or cultural preservation reasons. It will be the right result because those who own Britain—its citizens—will have chosen.
When the result comes in—no matter the answer, I will be happy and sad. My only hope is that those who have the privilege of deciding understand that you are deciding who rules you, which group of elitists, which cobbled together system of institutions holds the highest—sovereign—power over you.
I wait with bated breath for the result of what will likely be the most purely political decision a country will make at the ballot box in my lifetime.