By Anita Graafland
“I was stunned to hear the result of the Brexit referendum. For years, I had lived in Hamburg with my German husband, enjoying all the privileges and freedoms of EU membership – proud and happy to know that the UK was part of the historic European peace project. How could anyone fail to see the advantages of remaining in the EU? Like so many other Brits living in the EU, I simply couldn’t believe it. I was first shocked, and then deeply depressed.
On our annual summer holiday in Cornwall, we looked for some way of contributing to the fight against Brexit. That’s how we first “discovered” Cornwall for Europe, and were allowed to help with their street stalls.
Five years, several London marches and countless petitions and letter-writing campaigns later, the predicted downsides of the decision to leave the EU are gradually manifesting themselves. And although the practical fall-out from Brexit has no doubt been less severe for us than for family and friends still living in the UK, the emotional impact has been enormous. Brexit has left us feeling abandoned and bereft. Many of the links we had with the UK have been broken, and Britain no longer feels like home.
I am really grateful to Cornwall for Europe for their kindness in letting me vent my frustration and help them to promote EU membership. And I’m still hoping that one day we will be able to Rejoin.”
Rosemary was the first Cornwall for Europe person I worked with, as I’d asked what I could do to help and Tom (Scott) had suggested I’d give her a hand vetting potential new members. We were inundated at the time and were scrupulous as to who we let in, as we were determined to remain a non-partisan organisation and didn’t want to inadvertently let in Brexiteers. Of course I did at some point and lived to regret it, but not Rosemary. She’s the furthest person you’ll ever meet from Cerberus, but just as tenacious: nothing passes her by. Every single person expressing an interest in joining Cornwall for Europe has been scrutinised by Rosemary, their Facebook pages meticulously checked, any other publicly available information thoroughly vetted. And she worries.
Rosemary loses sleep whenever she decides not to let someone in (she prefers the “benefit of the doubt”). She has long exchanges with people who tell her why they want to join. I suspect she’s made friends with tons of people without even knowing it, she’s just so bloody nice. Quite a few of her exchanges then result in people wanting to share their Brexit stories. Like I said to her the other day when she thought she might have offended me, she is by far the most considerate and sensitive person I know, and that’s saying something: before I lived in the country and definitely before Brexit, I mistakenly believed all British people were more considerate and sensitive than my own fellow countrymen. In fact, to me, she is all that is good and kind, and she is a real asset to the CfE Executive Team.
Those were the heady days when we still hoped we could help to prevent Brexit. Bev and I have long since stopped helping Rosemary, and just serve as a sounding board when she’s not sure about admitting someone. But make no mistake: Rosemary is still the hardest-working of us all, she still spends hours of her time vetting and checking people, as a steady stream of disillusioned people continue to apply for membership. None of us on the team know what we would do without Rosemary at the gates – we’re so fortunate to have her.