FIVE years ago, I went to bed in the early hours, bored with the seeming voting inevitability that the UK would remain in the EU. There was no excitement as result after result came in...Remain.

When I woke in the morning all had changed and would no longer be the same ever again. Cliched words for an unknown situation which would divide the UK into factions of hatred, xenophobia, ignorance, racism and the triumphant crowing of those who believed the Great in Britain.

It was a hugely emotional moment. Particularly for those of us who had used our rights to live in another country and believed in those rights passionately. There was this dreadful feeling that those ‘rights’ would soon be meaningless despite all the mouth music from earnest politicians.

In hindsight, it was the moment that politicians used lying as the new normal and haven’t stopped since. The moment the UK was left with only a handful of decent men and women who saw service to their country as a privilege and not a hand-rubbing exercise in robbery and the lining of pockets.

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But right then most of us were in shock and disbelief that we could turn away from years of peace and united prosperity for jingoism and lies; for some tunes played on old colonial glory when Britannia ruled the world.

That morning, after hitting the phones to equally stunned friends and colleagues, I accepted commissions to see how ‘the ex-pats’ were taking it.

That was my second shock. The number delighted with the result. Over and over, I heard people say: Britain has far too many immigrants. This will sort it.

They’d be sitting by the pool in a house they could only previously dream of; Panama hats rakishly worn; cheap flights already booked for a jaunt back home or the family coming out for a summer of cheap but good wine and aperos with their friends…non-French, of course.

‘You are seriously telling me you voted Leave? I asked incredulously of these ex-pats who, of course, could never, ever, see themselves as immigrants. As always, they were special and would be treated as such.

Special – and too thick to see what they’d given away.

‘It’ll all be fine,’ said one woman I once considered a friend. ‘You think too much.’

HeraldScotland: English Vote Leave campaignersEnglish Vote Leave campaigners

And you don’t think at all. Many of them don’t so long as the sun shines and they can all gather in square or bar for a good gossip in their tight little circles.

Nobody really wanted to discuss the referendum, before or after; the formation of the European Union; its aims; its politics. All too boring. Have another wine...

Nobody wanted to be contentious. You lose ‘friends’ quickly that way here. Just lucky, I guess. Better to be lonely than have one’s mind blunted by the inanities of the striving middle class.

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This is usually the point where, from under the line, the familiar threesome of Fidelma-haters jump in to say I’m a bitter, anti-English Remainer who has never accepted the vote.

I won’t address the ridiculous first two charges but I will the third: You’re right I have never, nor will ever, accept a vote won by at best fairy-tales – at worst, fraudulent means.

I will never accept a vote that has destroyed fishing, agriculture, freedom of movement, business…in fact, you name it and this Government has run with it citing the power of the vote. They disgust me and I have yet to hear one good reason for any of it.

When, or rather if, Covid is curtailed by the vaccine, the UK will truly be seen in all its diminished glory. Its ‘take back control’ the joke it always was; its arrogance as futile as little boys and their willy-waving contests headed by a dishevelled ‘teenager’ who enjoys inappropriate jokes. Whose life is one inappropriate joke and to whom lying is given no second thought.

The EU is far from perfect. We know this but its politicians are grown-ups, in the main, who still put service first. The ones who did this in the UK now watch helpless from the sidelines as Johnson and Co continue to strip away laws, rights and, yes, decency.

But don’t worry. There’ll always be an England. Once known for courtesy and diplomacy. Once known for honour.

Now? For blatant mendacity and mediocrity. Oh, and flags – lots of flags.

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