Alright, so here I am in a surprisingly hip hotel close to an airport - indeed, it’s called Moxy - so evidently I am off somewhere. And that is indeed true, although exactly where will have to wait until tomorrow. For now though, I am in Vienna, the city of the waltz, of coffee culture, and of one of the best political jokes ever.
A man is in a Viennese cafe and, turning to his friend, says, “I hear that there’ll be a revolution in Russia soon.”. His friend scoffs, “And who’s going to start that then, Herr Lenin and Herr Trotsky sitting in the corner there?”.
In the past, I found Vienna to be slightly unsettling. There was always that vague impression that a squad of soldiers, wearing black, might march around the corner at any moment. Fortunately, those days are over, although Austrian politics is, to be put it politely, a mite on the right-wing side at the moment.
There are, at least, some liberals, courtesy of NEOS, whose leaders I first met over dinner in Brussels. I rather liked Mathias and Angelika, and I still do. They, and their party, are adamantly pro-European, internationalist and liberal, and they do attempt to make politics both fun and professional. Campaigning in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections on a slogan “We Love Europe”, would have been unimaginable at home, which perhaps explains why we lost the 2016 referendum.
And sadly, it is a reminder of what we will probably lose. I am a European to my fingertips, an internationalist of the heart, a believer in the seemingly fanciful notion that, in a complex world, working in harmony with other nations is a good idea. And whilst I am sympathetic to the idea of fighting Brexit to the last ditch, I fear that with a Government too unimaginative to change course, and an Official Opposition led by a man who believes that a new Jerusalem (ah, perhaps the wrong city there) can only be built outside the European Union, there is little prospect of salvation any time soon.
For we will go off the cliff in a year’s time. The only question is, how far is the drop, and how painful will the landing be? And, sadly, the damage will be all the worse for the lack of competence demonstrated by those leading the negotiations. It will be for historians to catalogue the events that follow, and for economists to write their theses on how Britain chose the path that it did.
As for me, I’m doing something vaguely useful, i.e. finding out what life looks like from outside the European Union, and attempting to make some new political friends. Wish me luck...