From Heike Wilms
Dear Mr Johnson,
Before the referendum I hoped for a remaining Britain. After the leave decision I hoped for negotiations that would lead to an amicable agreement underlining the friendly relationship between Britain and EU / between our countries Britain and Germany.
I live in North Rhine – Westphalia, for decades next door to British neighbours – enjoying common activities, the Scottish “Fish and Chips” dealer serving the English quarter and its neighbourhood and the opportunity to learn from each other, to improve my school English, after my teachers had given up at an early point and told me, that I will never be able to communicate in English.
I was a member at Tate and loved to visit the gorgeous exhibitions, celebrating quiet moments on the member cafes terrace aside the river Thames, Ethiopian food at Old Borough market, together with an CDI from the Metropolitan Police I built up a network for male victims of trafficking and exploitation cooperating with several London charities and EUroPol.
I still have friends in England, Wales and Scotland and so I realised the differences between those parts of UK. I never experienced United Kingdom as a divided Kingdom.
I was used to receiving my favourite British treats and things. I loved the easy traveling to visit each other, as I can still do it all over Europe with member states. To me it is a highly valued gift, that there are no borders and through so many different cultures. I am allowed to experience this at any time I like. I can even work where I like and my children have a huge choice to study, where they want to. They decided to study in East Germany including single semesters abroad to learn about more diverse cultures.
Now it takes weeks to get chocolate from my favourite British chocolatier – and on top of this, he is not allowed to send dairy chocolate treats – just dark vegan seems to be allowed. Customs even sent them back and he had to make a declaration of contents and I had to pay extra costs for the tariffs. For small mugs a friend sent I also had to pay a toll. To send a parcel to Britain has become really expensive in general and I still do not have a real clue as to what is allowed and what is forbidden to send.
I have no idea how to get my traditional Lindt treats to your country to spoil my friends around Christmas. My friends are also insecure, as to what it takes to be allowed to travel to my place and had to get passports, which was not as easy as they expected, so they had to change the date to meet me In Germany.
I am upset and sad how difficult it had become to care for our friendship.
And apart from that I had to experience, how friends in Britain got divided in Remainers and Brexiters, and as a German I know very well how long it takes to get a divided nation reunited. We are still not reunited, there are still wounds, which aren’t healed and are just superficially covered in West and East Germany. It led to a high number of nationalists in the right political corner in East Germany, it led to populism, as feeding a fire is much easier than putting it out. And to build up something new on a burned ground needs common goals, which is a challenging process between divided parties.
It so sad to see that happening with your country, which I saw as a bastion and fighter for democracy, multicultural living and tolerance.
On top, I wonder, when I look at empty shelves and petrol stations running out of gasoline, are there advantages of Brexit and a so called sovereignty? Can nationalism without a strong bonding to neighbour countries bring anything good? I might be more sensible for that due to my heritage as a German.
I can’t see any so far, to me most things have become more complicated and the division will bring disadvantages over generations worst case. The trade agreements with new Zealand and Australia, appear to me like feeding big companies while getting British farmers and small enterprises starving and on the edge / on risk of losing everything.
I am also concerned about Ireland and the vulnerable peace progress between this divided island and how that will affect the relation between Britain and EU.
In my view and experience, I always saw Britain as a critical voice and strong part of the EU to develop a strong union without losing sight on the big picture and as well on national interests.
I write to you hoping that my concerns get heard – and that I may get an answer about the positive benefits of Brexit that would make sense to me.
I miss my uncomplicated relation to Britain and the comfortable years , when it was so easy and cheap to cultivate my friendships. And I miss the feeling of being welcome in general, I feel at a distance.