A Brexit Dilemma—or a Magical Solution?
On February 20, 2016, the then British Prime Minister David Cameron officially announced the date for the Brexit referendum planned for that year—June 23. Over the four-months preceding the vote, the Brexit debate that had been gathering pace throughout the UK became even more intense. In the course of that period of time, residents of the country were bombarded from all angles with the pro and contra arguments for Britain leaving or remaining in the European Union.
When the “D-Day” finally arrived and the votes were cast and counted, I thought the matter had finally been laid to rest. But no! The matter lingered on—since for several months after the Brexit vote I continued to be bombardment with “stuff” pouring down from ‘Planet Brexit’! I personally experienced a roller coaster of feelings ranging from anger, exasperation, disillusionment, resignation and back to anger.
Someone reading through the last lines may want to advise me—just switch off your radio and/or your TV whenever the issue is being announced/discussed. You might also wish to refuse to read about the issue in the newspapers, online and elsewhere. Good advice! Much as I would like to heed that advice, in my case it has not been that easy. I am a self-employed doctor. My work requires me to travel a great deal to various places of work; in some cases it takes me about two hours to get there.
Imagine driving over two hours alone in your vehicle without anyone to talk to. Well, this is not by any means a conscious publicity for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live. For reasons that I cannot clearly explain, I usually tune to either of the two stations during my journeys.
As might be expected, the two named stations, like most other media outlets, report regularly on issues relating to Brexit. If only to keep me mentally occupied and avoid falling asleep at the wheel out of boredom, I have kept listening—even if reluctantly—to the unending ‘breaking news’ on the Brexit front.
A time eventually came a few weeks ago when I decided, if only for my own selfish interest, to sit down and bring my brains to bear on the matter with the aim of finding a solution, a magic formula, one might call it, to resolve the puzzle. After several days of pondering and pondering over the issue, one night, I experienced my eureka moment, when all of a sudden a solution to the complex quiz dawned on me!
So I have found it – the magic formula! – that in my opinion can help end the Brexit jigsaw once and for all. It is a common senses solution! While not satisfying the maximum demands of the various ‘warring’ factions, it should, in my opinion, present a good compromise. Was it not Otto von Bismarck, a 19th Century German statesman, who said: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable—the art of the next best?”. Applying the insight of a German statesman to help solve a complex issue involving Great Britain should in itself serve as inspiration to the opposing factions to come together to work for the common good of their people.
You might want to urge me to present my Brexit solution to the leading political figures of the land—to the Theresas, the Jeremys, the Nicolases, the Borises! That indeed is what would be required of me. The truth of the matter though is that I do not have the guts to do so.
Why not, you might ask?
Well, I have very serious reservations. Maybe my hesitancy is ungrounded, even uncalled for. Indeed, my unease may be blown out of proportion, but the fact still remains that whenever I feel like going to the public with my ideas, an inner voice cautions me: “How dare you, you who were born into a very impoverished setting in rural Africa, have the audacity, yes the temerity to give any advice amounting to interference in the internal affairs of your former colonial masters!”
Indeed, how dare I, someone who was born in a makeshift bathroom of a dilapidated home, yes, someone who walked barefoot until his adolescent age for lack of means to purchase the cheapest pair of sandals available, yes, who slept on an ordinary mat spread on the hard bare floor of a small room in a shabby home; someone who grew up without electricity, without pure drinking water, who went to school to read books mostly written by British authors and printed in Great Britain, who was educated in English rather than in his own Twi vernacular, dare poke his nose into matters pertaining to his former colonial masters?!
It is true—the British used to be our colonial masters. That brings to my mind the conversation I had the other day with an elderly lady on the London underground. When she got to know I was from Ghana, her first question was: “Did we; I mean did my ancestors, come to your place?”
“Yes, indeed, Madam, Ghana used to be a British colony. In other words, your people used to be the colonial masters of my ancestors.”
“Well, I am aware they were in the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Gold Coast—but Ghana?”
“What you have just said, Madam,” I replied, “is the truth, for the British were, as a matter of fact, in the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast and Ghana can be described as the same entity—the Gold Coast was re-named Ghana after independence.”
“Oh, thanks for the clarification. I might have been so fascinated by the name ‘the Gold Coast’ that it has stuck in my memory until this day. To be honest with you, I thought that Empire colony kept that name after independence.”
We sat in silence for a while. She was the first to break the silence.
“My ancestors must have surely been confronted with significant amounts of gold to have arrived at the decision to bestow that name to that colony.”
“That indeed was the case.”
“Did they take good care of your gold? I mean, did they invest all the earnings from the mines in your country?”
“Can you, Madam, point to any human angels on earth…?”
Our conversation came to an abrupt end when the train pulled to a stop at the station where I had to alight.
Yes indeed, the Brits were in Ghana, the former Gold Coast. This piece is however about Brexit; it is not a history on the British colonial past. Readers who want a detailed insight into the matter are advised to research the relevant literature.
Before I finally leave the matter of the British presence in the Gold Coast, however, I want to touch briefly on an issue, if only because it relates to my own family. An uncle of mine once left our village in perfect good health to look for work in other parts of the colony. For a while everyone lost track of him. Later rumours reached the village to the effect that he had been forcefully seized on the street and conscripted into the army—that was in 1940.
Several years later, at the time when everyone thought he was dead, he returned to the village fully dressed in a military uniform, carrying a few bags in his hands and upon his shoulders. He narrated the story of how he was seized by a group of men as he walked to work, conscripted into the Royal West Africa Frontier Force and sent to Burma to fight against the Japanese occupation force of the British colony. On his return to the Gold Coast, he literally lost his mind. Today with my medical background, I can without doubt attest to the fact that his symptoms and behaviour can aptly be described as Psychotic Symptoms in Combat-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
His ordeal could be described as a triple tragedy—being conscripted against his will, suffering mental health problems related to his exposure to the trauma of war, and being left alone to cope with the aftermath with no one around to provide medical care.
His was not an isolated case. It is reasonable to assume that almost all the soldiers who were drawn into the conflict suffered a form of PTSD, even if not as severe as that of my relation.
This however is not the right forum to highlight such matters in great detail. Those wishing to read details concerning how tens of thousands of young West African men were conscripted, as in the case of my uncle, against their will to fight for King and Empire during WWII may consult my book WWII Revisited: Memoirs of a forced African Conscript.
On March 6, 1957, the British left the Gold Coast-turned-Ghana in the hands of the indigenous population. Whether the expectations of the population of the first African country south of the Sahara to gain independence has been met in post-independence times is subject to debate and does not form part of the current discussion.
For now, let me return to the Brexit issue.
Indeed, I have a magic solution to the problem, a solution that in my view should strengthen the peaceful co-existence of various nation states currently making up the United Kingdom—England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as the various factions in the Brexit divide.
Talking of the various factions in the Brexit quagmire—there are so many of them, I personally have lost count of them.
As part of my research into the Brexit ‘monster’ I contacted the BBC online edition of September 2018. Well, an article listed the following factions:
Theresa May loyalists
Tory hard Brexiteers
Tory soft Brexiteers
Tory second referendum group
Labour People’s Vote supporters
As I write in February 2019, a few more factions, the likes of The Independent Group (T.I.G.), have joined the bandwagon.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not comfortable in revealing my magic solution to the problem due to reasons the reader is familiar with.
Someone may urge me as follows: “Well, if you are not willing to reveal your magic solution, you can at least pray to Almighty God to bestow the leading figures in the matter the wisdom needed to arrive at an amicable solution.”
Of course I am happy to do that; after all, praying for others is part of my Christian calling.
I must tread carefully in the matter, though. I may indeed need to write to the Prime Minster—or is it the Supreme Court which is responsible?—for permission to do so. Indeed, in modern Brexit Britain one has to tread carefully on matters bordering on religion, faith and a belief in the Supernatural. In this particular instance, I could risk being dragged before the court of law by an organization such as the British Secular Society for possible breach of their human rights, even their rights not to believe in God.
Finally, together with all well-wishers of my former colonial masters, both resident on the British Island and abroad, I call on all residents of the Brexit Island to maintain their calm and work towards an amicable solution to the Brexit jigsaw.
In the meantime, allow me to urge my readers to join me in singing the British National Anthem: “God save the Queen!”
Copyright Robert Peprah-Gyamfi, 2019. All rights reserved