by Maria on November 9, 2019

Historic apologies get a lot of pushback, both from those who point out that saying sorry only happens when everyone who did it is dead, and nothing is ever learned, and from the fundamentally unapologetic amongst history’s apparent winners. Apologising for something you’ve just done or are about to do takes a lot more guts. But I’ve been wondering over the past couple of weeks whether Brexit negotiations with Ireland especially, and with the rest of the EU would have gone differently if at the beginning of major speeches, press conferences and working meetings the UK interlocutors had had a policy of starting with something like’

“We’re sorry. We know you didn’t ask for Brexit and that it harms you and costs you. We’re still doing it, but we acknowledge and are sorry about its unasked for consequences for others.”

And then getting on with the business of the meeting. Of course, to even conceive of acknowledging the harm and cost of brexit to others would require fundamentally different people to have been in charge. But even the act of saying this might have changed the understanding of those imposing their harms on the rest of us, and would certainly have done a lot to make other countries and institutions want to play nice. We’re emotional creatures, at the end of the day, and it’s more than just manners to acknowledge the harm we cause to others. The life you save just might be your own, etc. etc.