Bremain Chair Sue Wilson writes for Yorkshire Bylines:
Thanks to the pandemic, the last year has seen all our lives turned upside down and inside out. Dealing with a global crisis on this scale would have been damaging enough. For the UK, and to a lesser extent, the EU, the double-whammy of Brexit, on top of Covid-19, has added to the pain, confusion and damage.
Brexit – the thief in the night
Whether you supported Brexit or not, there’s no doubt that there has been a cost for all of us. Brexit has been the thief in the night that has stolen our vision of the future. For those in favour of close ties with the EU, that relationship has been soured, and our rights diminished. For those that looked forward to a brighter new day, outside of the EU, the view ahead is not quite what was expected, or promised.
Brexit has proved to be a skilled burglar, having robbed us of job opportunities, freedom of movement and EU trade – to name but a few. But apart from the tangible losses felt by the country, what has Brexit cost us personally?
Excluding Brexit extremists on both sides of the debate, the feelings of loss vary considerably depending on where you started your Brexit journey. And whether the direction of travel took you to your expected destination.
For those that went into Brexit with expectations of a brave new global world, then its more likely feelings of optimism and hope have been lost – to be replaced with disappointment, and perhaps a little anger.
Covid – the deadly mugger
As we struggled to deal with the new post-Brexit order – or to try and put anything Brexit-related behind us – we were about to be mugged by covid.
In many ways, the pandemic has become as divisive as Brexit. On the one hand, there are those who believe in taking every precaution possible, even at a considerable cost to their families, their careers and their mental health. On the other hand, there are those who believe lockdown restrictions are an invasion on their civil liberties, vaccines don’t work, and even that the virus is no worse than the flu.
Where it was clear which side of the Brexit debate the government was on, it was less clear with covid – not helped by the constant change of direction, mixed messages, and general appearance of ministers and decision-makers not knowing, or understanding, what they were doing.
Of course, the vaccine rollout – handled (as everything covid related should have been) by the NHS, was a remarkable feat. However, there were times when it felt like the UK had bought an expensive insurance policy, installed security systems and cameras all over the building, but went out for a walk leaving the back door wide open to invasion.
Not everything we’ve lost can be replaced
Regardless of what Brexit stole from all of us, covid was a much more deadly assailant. Not only did covid steal our freedom, our social lives and in many cases our livelihoods, it stole so much more. It stole our ability to be close. It stole family reunions. It stole our hugs. Worst of all, it stole perhaps 150,000 lives, not least from those working at the frontline trying to protect us all from the pandemic heist.
As with any home invasion, gradually over time we can start to replace what has been lost. In some cases, the replacements might even be an improvement. Those treasures we value the most – like our family members, lost to this terrible disease – can never be replaced. We will feel their loss long into the future.
But the hardest possession to recover will be a lack of trust and confidence in the government. They were meant to protect us from harm. They were meant to keep us safe and secure. Whether it’s Brexit or covid, and regardless of where you sit on either debate, they have failed miserably. The next insurance policy is going to come with a huge excess, and the deficit is coming out of your pocket.