Yesterday, my wife and I said goodbye to a good friend from France who works as a high level executive in the European Medicines Agency, until now based in London, and who is moving to Amsterdam like anybody else in the Agency. Having been thrown out by Brexit, The Netherlands opened their arms.
This European agency of high prestige, founded in 1995, that looks after the efficacy and safety of the medicines we use every day, and that has a high concentration of scientists and regulators, is leaving the UK for good after the Brexit decision. Another great loss for the country. An issue which does not deserve any attention by UK politicians, let alone hard Brexiteers. In fact, according to our friend, only the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has bothered to visit them to see if he could do anything.
The waste, and the absurdity, and self-harm, are not the topic of this Daily Thought. Nor is my anger towards those who have systematically lied to the public about the ‘submission of the UK’ and the ‘imminent flow of immigrants’. Nor the fact that a sector of the UK politics had invented ‘The Wall’ well before Mr Trump did. They had The Wall in their neurons.
My friend explained what I had seen in The Guardian: the ceremony of removing the flags of the EU countries from their flagpoles, and their folding, to take them to their new home in Amsterdam. Apparently, the ceremony was moving and solemn. One civil servant from each country took care of their own flags. I did not know that each country had its own rules to fold a flag! One side, other side, that colours cannot be seen, etc.
I was moved when I saw the picture in The Guardian. It made me angry.
I was taken aback by one of my friends comments, in passing: ‘and of course we will take the British Flag with us to Amsterdam’. I thought it was so beautiful. Those highly skilled professionals taking with them a little bit of their history, and their colleagues, their flag, their symbol, as is that emotional and rational and professional connection was of a higher moral ground than all the political, social, historical, and generational vandalism produced by ‘Brexit-means-Brexit’.
How wonderful to see our plain and simple humanity in action. ‘We will take your flag with us.’ Then you will be coming with us in spirit. Part of the same family. Just as if moving house.
(But it isn’t. It’s the sad realities of tribal politics with no eyes on the common good.)
May the Union Jack have a quiet place in a building in Amsterdam, surrounded by friends who respect Britain, their people, their professionals. A tiny part in our collective heart.
Even if some of us feel betrayed, deceived, and deeply unsettled by the brutal self-cantered Brexit, we know that, above all, our human relationship will always sit above that toxicity.
May we protect ourselves against that toxicity. May we all carry other people’s flags to a place of safety, respect, reverence and shelter.