Welcome back! It has now been over three weeks at the Commission, and the list of conferences and networking events is growing ever longer. For example, today we went to the offices of UKREP. UK trainees from all EU Institutions were invited for an afternoon of presentations, quizzes and hobnobbing at the UK’s EU embassy. To start with, here is an insider tip: UKREP is not pronounced “UK Rep”. It is pronounced “ukrep” – as in “uck-rep” – which is an acronym crying out for vandalism.
I can’t provide too many juicy details, as we were all sworn to secrecy. But we were assured right at the start that, despite what some of our European colleagues might suggest, Brexit is definitely going to happen. This was met by gasps of shock from the trainees. Those looking for reassurance (or ‘crumbs of comfort’ as one trainee put it) were to be disappointed.
The general feeling I got was that most of the staff there quite understandably were Remainers who now grudgingly have to work on Brexit. We all felt sorry for one speaker who had devoted much of her career at Whitehall towards working on the issues she felt passionate about at the EU level. Only weeks after finally being seconded to Brussels to do her dream job, Brexit happened. The UK would no longer be playing an active part in her project, and instead of working on issues of EU-wide benefit, she was now having to help negotiate the UK’s exit. Another dream smeared greasily underneath the Brexit bus.
The UKREP offices have a red telephone box in them, and pictures of the Queen. The speakers were at pains to assure us that there were still opportunities for Brits in Brussels, and that we should network tirelessly to get jobs and make contacts. However, the mood was resigned. And all the while I could not stop my eyes drifting, ever so slowly, out the window and across the road to where a Saltire hung above the offices of the Scottish government’s representation…