Brexit Rep Training Manual: Gold Level

What an iconic symbol. Shame that they will all be destroyed when the pound crumbles and stamps become worthless and people are forced to eat envelopes to survive.

So Brexit Day came and went, and nothing concrete has occurred. Your country is still thrashing in the water, drowning in the most famous and most large-scale embarrassment in human history. Your colleagues occasionally mention it at the coffee machine, waggishly raising an eyebrow. You engage standard protocol: a dramatic and practised roll of the eyes, a sigh, and that eminently British chuckle that signals amusement, self-consciousness and resignation all at once. None of your European friends are able to make exactly this noise in quite the way you can; it is your birth right and one of the few remaining legacies you culturally retain from your homeland.

You will have lots of practice in answering a small selection of FAQs:

– how do you feel about May?

The grim satisfaction of having expected thundrous disappointment and those expectations being thoroughly met.

– did you vote remain?

Here it is acceptable to throw out a jokey “well what do you think” or a “no of course I voted leave” and then commence another session of eye rolls and chuckles. If you’re feeling jaunty you might also throw in a comedy face palm.

– what do your parents think about you being here?

The more pertinent question is, what do you think about your parents being there, but considering that thought makes your throat tighten. Best here to say something generic about bullets being dodged and everyone in your family being Very Proud that you are doing the Europe thing.

– are you worried about whether you can stay here?

Yes, you are, and you must answer this question calmly and as generically as possible. “Oh, for sure, but no one knows what’s going to happen – I doubt they will throw us all out without warning.” You ignore the fluttering heart palpitations and the ferocious itch of the Not Knowing What’s Going To Happen, which has been plaguing your waking moments as it becomes increasingly clear that the people in charge of this dumpster fire might well cock it up so much that everyone does get thrown out without warning.

If you are lucky enough to have got citizenship you must say so with the bashful grace of a distinguished actor winning a Bafta award, trying to convey with your face alone the joy and guilt of your luckiness, of all the times you sailed through the immigration office, ushered past rows of miserable non-Europeans hoping for Visas or residency permits or asylum, the cheerful Brit-loving burocrat waving you over the threshold of her office, her heart filled with pity reserved just for you despite the fact that there are literal refugees in the waiting room trying to escape literal war zones. You try not to think about all your friends who didn’t have the chance, all those people in the waiting room for whom the paperwork will be life-long.


It is increasingly important to check the news but increasingly unbearable to do so, so you reluctantly read the headlines like unpleasant medical diagnoses, terrifying but essential. Occasionally Teresa May does something painful to watch and you must make sure to not make full eye contact with all the photos and videos that immediately appear on your internet feeds.

When you have to fly back to the UK for birthdays and funerals, people jokingly say ‘Hope they let you back into Germany!!’ with oddly consistent wording, as if there was a memo. You laugh with pinched eyes because you feel a bit sick.

In the end you are not there, in the UK, in the midst of the maelstrom, and so you should feel relieved. But instead you feel breathless about what is happening. It feels huge and blind and unknowable and impossible to understand, and it will change the face of global politics forever, and YOU made it happen. Of course you didn’t – you voted remain and literally had nothing to do with the failure of the government to Get A Grip. But you finally feel it, the connection to your country you never felt before. Except it is not patriotism but rather a grim sense of shared genetics – like being the mother of a serial killer. No matter what you do, you are British. Not only that but you are English, because people in Europe tend to think of the countries of the United Kingdom as discrete nationalities. And so you are English and you sound like a dead empire and you are the Brexit representative for your social circle and you can do nothing but cringe inwardly forever.

Maybe if you practise your accent enough you can convince people you are from the Netherlands.

Rose T