< SWITCH ME >

9.30 am, a Monday morning in Berlin

Something's changed. You notice it as soon as you wake up, but you can't work out what it is. The air in your Berlin flat seems to smell different.

Before you've figured it out, you realise that you're going to be late for work. You slide out of bed and into your skinny jeans, grab your ironic glasses and your faux homemade messenger bag, wrap yourself in several mismatched jumpers against the freezing Berlin "spring", and you're ready to go. You can't wait to get to the office: you're an interior designer, and your job mostly involves drinking coffee while talking English. Everyone thinks you were born in Berlin - you never mention that you're actually from a village in Bavaria, and that you grew up wearing lederhosen.

Prince_Harry
Photo: Carfax2 (CC BY 3.0)
What would Europe do without Prince Harry and his compatriots?

10.30 am

Harry, the British guy at your office, hasn't arrived yet. You assume it's because he had a big night out last night. He has a big night out most nights.

"Did you guys notice anything weird this morning?" you ask.

"I noticed that you didn't buy any new coffee for the filter," says Georgeos, the Greek guy. He has his feet on the table.

"I bought it last time, and the time before," you say. Georgeos just makes a gesture which you don't understand. Stefano and Marisol laugh.

11.30 am

You're starting to miss Harry.

It's true that he can be annoying sometimes. For example, he's never able to do anything before midday, because he's too hungover. He once came into work drunk and peed on a very expensive objet d'art made from recovered fabrics and distressed mahogany, which you had been planning to show to a client. When you got a bit tetchy about it, he said you didn't have a sense of humour.

But apart from that, Harry's a great guy. "When d'you think he'll arrive today?" you ask Stefano.

"Oh, didn't you hear? He's gone to Australia," says Stefano.

1 pm

It's time for some lunch. Wandering towards the vegetarian kebab stand, you bump into a guy selling newspapers. "Read all about it! The Brits have left!" he calls out. It doesn't strike you as odd that he's speaking English - everyone in Berlin speaks English, after all.

"What do you mean, the Brits have left?" you ask.

He hands you a paper, and you read the headline: Britain has moved to Australia.

"I think the weather got too much for them," says the newspaper guy. "They've moved the whole country to Australia! There's just a big empty hole on the other side of the Channel."

"They've moved the whole country to Australia!"

"The whole country?” you repeat. It's all starting to make sense: you can no longer smell fish and chips, vinegar and beer-soaked carpets wafting down from the North Sea.

"Well," says the guy. "They left Scotland behind. The Scots are already taking the credit for banishing the old colonial tyrants. But I think the Brits just wanted weekly barbecues, myself."

"Why didn't they just join Spain, then?" you ask. "They already had houses there."

"Well, they were sick of Europe, weren't they!" says the guy.

For some reason, you don't feel as euphoric as you expected. You already have an inkling that with the Brits gone, people will never stop moaning about the Germans. It'll all be about the awful German weather, the awful German food... You wonder whether you might be able to pass yourself off as a Dane, or maybe a Finn.

3.30 pm

The office feels empty. Stefano has gone to a mysterious private party, and Georgeos and Marisol are moaning to each other about how little money they have and how unfair it is that the Germans charge them so much rent.

This is about the time in the afternoon when Harry would do Monty Python impressions... He was great at The Ministry of Silly Walks. He actually had quite a few hidden talents - he made a brilliant curry, for a start. And he united everyone else in the office by insulting "Europeans", never seeming to realise that he was one himself. Well, he's Australian now, you remind yourself.

You check twitter. The Australian Prime Minister says she's glad the queen will be visiting more often.

3 months later

Down under, from what you can tell, things are looking pretty good: the Australian Prime Minister has ousted David Cameron and suggested that The British Province, as it's now known, elect a new government using the Alternative Vote system. Her opponents make impassioned speeches about the number of British immigrants entering Australia, but she points out that the numbers haven't changed much, given that the country was already flooded with British backpackers.

beach
Photo: P J Robertson (CC BY 2.0)
Australia is the perfect home for the Brits.

Everyday life in Europe just isn't quite the same without the British. The papers struggle to make the weddings and wardrobes of Scandinavian royalty seem interesting - and if you and your colleagues agree on one thing, it's your shared nostalgia for Kate and William's Big Day. You all still do your best to speak the Queen's English, of course, but no one corrects you when you say "that news is not very actual," "eventually we should meet up at 2pm today," or "I'll hold my thumbs for you!"

Oh, and the EU no longer exists. After heated discussions, Merkel, Hollande, Monti and the rest have decided to part company. Years of puzzling over the nature of "Europeanness" are over: it has become clear that "being European" in the early 21st Century had precisely three components. The first was the shared trauma of having to listen to condescending speeches from the British. The second was the collective experience of complaining about Britain's bad weather and revolting food. And the third was the guilty pleasure of reading tabloid articles about the British royal family. These simple shared values had united the EU member states and provided the basis for the single currency, and when the British left the shores of Europe, the union fell apart.

You haven't heard much from Harry, other than facebook photos which show him running naked through Melbourne, holding a can of Fosters.

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