When I first moved to the US a decade ago, being British had some cachet. Since Brexit and Boris Johnson’s premiership, it feels increasingly embarrassing
“Go back home to your third-world country,” a helpful stranger told me on Twitter recently. I get comments like this a lot, often appended with a witty comment about my name. Normally they don’t bother me. But this particular jibe was just after Christmas and it hit a nerve because, guess what? I’d love to go back home to England. I live in New York and it’s been more than a year since I’ve seen my family and friends in London. Part of me feels homesick, but the other part of me isn’t sure what I’m actually homesick for. When I read the news about Britain, I feel as if I barely recognise the country I was born in any more.
I don’t want to romanticise pre-Brexit Britain. The country was not exactly an accepting utopia before the referendum. But Brexit unleashed something new and nasty: almost overnight, many people who were seen as in any way “foreign” felt unwelcome and out of place. Things seem to have got progressively worse ever since. Theresa May’s anti-immigration “citizens of nowhere” speech felt like a slap in the face. The premiership of Boris “piccaninnies” Johnson has felt like a punch in the gut. The government has been crammed with self-serving and out-of-touch ghouls such as Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg – a man who thinks that food banks are “uplifting”.