Emotional Brexit vigil

More than 100 people attended a vigil at the St. Alphonse church on Friday night to mark the official exit of the UK from the European Union.

Organised by father Ed. Hone of English-speaking Catholic community, which holds its services at St. Alphonse, and Geoff Read chaplain at the Anglican Church, alongside BRILL, Europa-Union Luxembourg and Pulse of Europe-Luxembourg, the non-religious event was billed as being an opportunity for reflection and gathering. Father Hone said he was positively surprised at the turnout, having expected maybe 20 or 30 people when he and Geoff Read first mooted the idea of a vigil. Delano estimated around 120 people were in the church as the clock approached midnight.

Attendees, including Luxembourg MEP Marc Angel, German ambassador Heinrich Kreft and Czech chargé d'affaires Kateřina Sternbergová, were treated to music and a recital of songs and poems by David Pike.

Angel, whose office at the European Parliament in Brussels was adjacent to those of the 10 British Labour Party MEPs told Delano he was upset on Thursday when he saw them packing their belongings into cardboard boxes. “It was very emotional, everybody was in tears.” But he and his fellow members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group paid “a wonderful homage to the 10 British MEPs”. The Labour MEPs , “especially Richard Corbett, who was there for a long time”, were even the subject of what Angel called “a great movie” highlighting their contribution over the last 45 years. Angel says that although “we know we’re all going to lose, I hope we lose as little as possible.”

British ambassador John Marshall attended the vigil and was asked to say a few words. “We recognise that for many people this moment is not a happy one. There will be people who are celebrating and there will be people who will be reflecting sadly. Many of you, perhaps, will have seen interviews I’ve done…in which I have conveyed my own optimism about the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Occasionally I get the sense that some of you feel my optimism is misplaced. But I assure you my optimism is considered and heartfelt.”

Just before midnight, the church fell quiet for a two-minute silence, which was followed by the ringing of the bells that signified the UK had officially left the EU. But the mood then changed as a communal singing of “Auld Lang Syne”, accompanied by a bagpiper, as the Scots in the audience upped the tempo and turned the farewell into a joyous moment.