Steve Bullock+ Your Authors @GuitarMoog New Album, One Thousand Days, out now exclusively through @EUCitizensChamp (link below). 100% of proceeds fo to @the3million. Jan. 31, 2020 4 min read + Your Authors

Okay, this is the sore one. This is the one that's got to me.

I spent 4 years working here at UKREP in Brussels. Every day I felt lucky, privileged, and proud to walk under those two flags.

Nostalgic, self-indulgent thread warning.

For me this building signifies the very best about the UK in the EU, but also the Big Lies that have simmered for decades and been weaponised by those plastic patriots that have painted their country as a helpless little victim for their own destructive political ends.

The Big Lies are that the EU 'handed down edicts' for the UK to follow whether it liked it or not, and that the UK was constantly being ganged up on by the others.


Neither is true.

Not only is that just not how the EU works, but the people working in this building (and those of other Member States, as it happens) would never have allowed it to be so.

The truth is that the UK had disproportionately great influence, and in some policy areas such as the single-market, foreign policy, and many others managed to make EU policy largely in its own image.

Far from being ganged up on, UKREP staff and their London counterparts worked hard to put together and lead coalitions of member states. To win arguments, and take those sceptical along with us.

But this was rarely seen by those outside of the working groups and committees of ambassadors. Not only does it make for boring headlines and articles, but it also bored our political masters who, with some notable exceptions, saw the political gains to be got as meagre.

And can we blame them? Build up everything into an adversarial fight, and, win or lose, there's political capital to be made at home.

Win and you've won for Britain; lose and you've fought hard be been scuppered again by the dastardly, foreign EU machine.

But when it counted, and ministers and/or the PM would put in the work with their counterparts in UK capitals, the UK very, very rarely lost. 


The story above tells of all-night tenacity from the PM. That makes for great copy, and was certainly also true. But behind that were months and months of careful diplomacy by many people, which built upon relationships they'd formed over years.

And that was the best of the UK in the EU. Not a fighter, but a coalition former. Not an outlier tagging along, but a leader looking for support. While the politicians may have been transactional, those in UKREP made friends, convinced, looked for (our, of course), consensus.

There's a very persistent myth, even among some academics, that voting is what happens in Council. As it happens, things were very rarely put to a vote. Only in a few cases were the QMV calculators out to see how it would go. Most presidencies wanted full consensus.

The UK was not being constantly voted down. It was not being ganged up on. It was not a meek loser, constantly licking its wounds and having to implement what it opposed.

The EU was not something done to the UK. It was as much the UK's as anyone else's.

UKREP's bar, Number 10, was a symbol of this. One night a week it opened after work for UKREP, Embassy and NATO staff to relax. They could also invite their colleagues from other member states, and from the institutions, to come and have a drink and get to know each other.

Teams would take it in turns to volunteer to run it for a night. Opposite numbers would tell us how great it was, and how they had nothing like it (except Ireland of course, who always throws great parties). People talked about it.

I took over as manager, in my spare time from my actual job, from @jackschickler, and was very proud of it, especially when it was full of invitees from all across the EU.

It was the UK showing camaraderie, conviviality and bonhomie between colleagues that at a political level we were, as a nation, too scared to show.

And what's more, this camaraderie helped us get the results we wanted. Sometimes not even just for the UK, but for the EU as a whole, and even beyond as well. This was the best of us in the EU, and I hope at least one of the things we'll be remembered for.

A friend who's a diplomat for another Member State messaged me this morning that "We will miss you around the table".


My heart just exploded, as now, instead of getting the drinks in for others with a grin and a shared joke, we'll sit alone at a table for one. Our own little table, with our own little flag.

Finally, the picture painted by the eurosceptics of a helpless, powerless outsider, misunderstood, cast adrift and unable to get its way will become, for the first time, a true picture.

40 years up in smoke for that. What a gyp.

And they say they love their country.

You can follow @GuitarMoog.


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