As my train accelerated away from Berlin this morning, heading onwards towards Hannover, Köln, Brussels and eventually Bruges, the grey-green of the Brandenburg fields streaked by outside the window under a leaden sky. My destination: the College of Europe in Bruges, to teach the next generation about how the EU works.
It has been like this way for the six of so years I have lived in Berlin, and so it will ever be thus.
This is my life, my city, my Europe that I criss-cross regularly for work and pleasure.
Yet as I logged onto social media this morning the posts from friends were filled with sadness. I changed my nationality listed at my job one wrote. From now on I will be listed as Belgian and not British. On Twitter MEPs posted pictures, among them one of the MEP I used to work for more than a decade ago (and who always asked me to tone down pro-European sentiment in her speeches and letters), sad about what has happened.
But I cannot bring myself to feel sad.
This feels like the end of a very long break up.
It feels the same to me as at the end of relationship, when you know it really is over.
That there is no way back.
The roots of my unease in this started a long time ago. When I realised the party I had long been a member of, the party the MEP mentioned above represented, the party I had long hoped offered a better future for the UK, took a nationalistic turn for the worse. British jobs for British workers. Turning up late to sign the Treaty of Lisbon. The Ed Stone. That mug.
When I moved to Berlin I moved on, politically. From the Labour Party to the German Grüne. “I feel I have been steadily moving away from Labour for some time” I wrote then.
Then came Cameron’s 2015 General Election win, and the promise of the referendum, and I was still in denial. I did my bit to help get Brits living in Germany to register to vote in the referendum, but I did not really fear what might happen. I did not fight for the future of the UK and for its place in the EU to the extent I should have done, perhaps partly because of this unease I had long been feeling.
And then the referendum vote came.
And then, sometimes frantically and sometimes methodologically, came a three year period of intense activity to do what I could to save things. Blogging. Campaigning. Analysing. Diagramming. Tactical voting. It’s like that period of a relationship where you try manically to patch things up, to see if it can actually be saved.
Millions of people marching with EU flags! A 2017 election where the Conservatives took a hit! Some more convinced pro-Europeans in some of the parties! And, with the dawning realisation among more thoughtful observers that this whole Brexit endeavour was a bad idea, maybe it could all be saved after all?
The General Election result was the kind of final slam of the door, the definitive step.
This week is the bit when you sort out your mutual belongings, you make the final bank transfer, and it all ends formally.
So here I stand, the same person, the same European, with the same commitment to EU federalism, to democratising the EU as such, to multilateralism, with the same unshakeable determination that we only solve cross-border problems by working together through common institutions.
For me the UK is not leaving the EU this week. It feels instead like the UK is leaving me, with this week the final formal step. I look back on all those years with a mixture of joy and frustration, of what ifs and if onlys. But it is not not sadness I feel, in the same way as I cannot look back on any past relationship with sadness as my predominant emotion. We shared good times.
But now that is all over now.
All I feel is empty.