Life Lessons You Can Learn from Brexit
I’ll admit it: I am so sick of hearing about Brexit every time I turn on the radio, the TV or head to a news website, that I have slightly (OK, fully) checked out of the conversation this last month or so. Because it’s relentlessly unchanging. At the time of writing this, we are at yet another stalemate, as Theresa May has failed to reach an agreement in parliament for the third time.
This morning (5th April), she has written to the European Union to request a further delay to Brexit until 30th June. The current default position – i.e. if nothing changes – is for the UK to leave without a deal on 12th April. So far, still so uncertain.
But, as with all times of uncertainty, there’s a thing or two we can learn from Brexit – and the painful process – if we look closely enough. Here’s how to apply some of the key discussions (and sticking points) in the deal to our own lives.
If there’s one thing we have all learnt from Brexit, it’s that tricky conversations – often with people who are completely diametrically opposed to your viewpoint – need to happen to move forward. Unlikely alliances between the Conservative Party and the DUP have formed in recent years, and Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have finally put their heads together to try to find a meet-in-the-middle solution.
Although confrontation is never pleasant, having tricky conversations is vital to keep things moving forwards. Is there an elephant in the room in your family, or is there an atmosphere between friends that is causing factions in your friendship group? Challenge yourself to broach a delicate subject and try to find a solution – you may be surprised when you hear the other side of the story. People are often more receptive than we assume – and often more than willing to compromise – meaning we can all move forward positively once the dust has settled.
One of the major issues with leaving the European Union will be freedom of movement between the UK and EU countries. Under the single market, people, goods, services and money can move around between EU member countries with ease. Not all countries with access to the single market are members of the EU (Switzerland, for example) but, if the UK leaves, it will no longer automatically be a part of the single market.
Hayley from Love Island wailed last summer, “I love my holidays!” and, while the issue is somewhat more complex than getting a yearly dose of sun and Sangria, she hadn’t missed the point entirely (although, the tree comment left us all incredulous.)
The single market's policy of free immigration between member countries was one of the big issues discussed during the referendum campaign. With a high likelihood that the freedom to travel so easily to and from EU countries could change very soon, it’s made us all wake up to the benefits of it, and definitely stop taking it for granted. So, take this time to travel more while it’s still relatively simple, or even explore the world alone. Likewise, if there is a no-deal Brexit, it will be up to individual countries (including the UK) to decide what rules will apply to people studying abroad. Make the most of the option to live, work or study abroad while you still can.
Money, money, money
There’s no shying away from it: things are going to get more expensive. Everything from our clothes to our food – which relies on importation from fellow EU countries – will need the current importation processes readdressed (and that’s before we’ve even sorted out access to the single market). As a European Union member, the UK is automatically part of about 40 trade agreements which the EU has with more than 70 countries. Leaving with no deal would mean the UK loses these trade deals immediately.
So, if you’re guilty of a shopping habit that leaves you with a wardrobe full of unworn items, or need to get your act together with a weekly shop rather than pricey pit-stops after work (or, worse, Deliveroo splurges) now’s the time to reign it in.
Get better at meal planning for the week, and try to limit yourself to one big, weekly shop, instead of two or three smaller ones. You’ll be amazed how much cheaper it becomes over the course of the month. You can use our inspiration for spring meals to get you started. Likewise, curb that ASOS habit. With news that the e-tailer has recently started blocking ‘serial-returners’ and the increased knowledge about how fast-fashion is damaging the planet, it’s high time we started shopping more responsibly, anyway.
While Theresa May has vowed to protect workers’ rights, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has raised the alarm about the lack of legal guarantees for EU-derived equality laws after Brexit. EU law currently protects equal pay for equal value work, pay and conditions for outsourced workers, and equal treatment for people in insecure jobs. That means bosses must treat agency, part time and temporary staff as they do their permanent employees, and ensures workers have the right to a voice at work.
Use Brexit as a catalyst to assess your career – or career aspirations – to date. Does your career need a spring clean? You may have fallen into something and be plugging away, rising blindly through the ranks, without ever sitting back to question why you made that choice in the first place. Think about what you want out of a fulfilling career. Is this it? Or is there something else – no matter how much of a long-shot it may seem – which is calling to you? Take stock of your working life and ask yourself how you could change it. You may not even need to, but it’s good to get into the habit of at least checking in with yourself to see if you’re still on the right track, or if that path has totally changed.
Peace, love and understanding
Brexit has shown an incredibly ugly side to people at times. In the three months following the EU referendum, more than 14,000 Hate Crimes were reported, according to Stop Hate UK. Ten forces reported more than a 50% increase on the previous three months; sadly, incidents motivated by race saw a 55% increase and those motivated by religion an 80% increase.
So, there’s no better time to put yourself into someone else’s shoes. While hate speech and acts of violence are serious offences, it’s shockingly easy for all of us to stay within a bubble these days – even if we think of ourselves as liberal and forward thinking. The algorithms online, which choose which news stories we see, or suggest new accounts to follow, keep us in an echo chamber, which only exposes us to those who are similar to us.
Make it your mission to seek out different points of view. Diversify your reading and your Twitter feed to include new cultural perspectives and educate yourself on what life is like for someone born into a completely different identity. Knowledge is power, so reading up on the views of those you don’t agree with can shed interesting light on an issue.
The one thing we can definitely take from Brexit – whatever the outcome – is to never, ever underestimate the power of a plan – no matter how vague. We’ve all seen the chaos that ensues when you don’t have one…