Big Brexit Interview – Part 1
British Expat Bloggers discuss their thoughts.
“Brexit means Brexit”. Ever since Prime Minister Theresa May uttered those famous words back in March, the UK has been waiting in anticipation to discover how it will affect all our lives. Now, with the Theresa May’s election gamble backfiring, the country faces an even more uncertain future.
Despite the dust having barely settled on a tumultuous election, June 19th marks the official start of Brexit negotiations. But whilst we all wait with baited breath to discover the outcome, spare a thought for the many UK expats who’ve chosen to leave our shores for pastures new, who now find themselves facing an ever more uncertain future.
For an alternative view on the referendum result and how its already beginning to impact their lives abroad, we sat down with some of our favourite British expat bloggers to get their unique perspectives on all things Brexit.
Our featured expat bloggers are:
Simon in the Netherlands – Amsterdam Shallow Man
Oliver in Germany – Frankfurt Expat
Melanie in Denmark – Dejlige Days
David in Spain – David Jackson
Emily in France – Lost in LyonEditor’s note: All opinions expressed in this article belong to the individual attributed and do not represent the opinion of Currency UK.
How did you feel about Britain’s decision to leave the EU?
Simon [Netherlands] – I was incredibly disappointed. Prior to the Brexit vote I honestly believed that my fellow Brits were the most open and tolerant people in Europe, so I was quite frankly shocked. The Brexit vote was all about narrow-minded Brits who can’t stand the fact that people from Eastern European countries that they look down on, have come to the UK and done well for themselves. A lot of Brits would sooner sit on their buttocks and watch reality TV than go out and work for a living. The fact that people from Poland, Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe who often speak English as a second or even third language, have come to the UK and done well, has turned a lot of British people into mean-spirited bigots.
Oliver [Germany] – I think like many people, both British and non-British, I was shocked by the result. No one I spoke to expected this result whether they voted for it or not and many people seem to still expect it to not happen. Ironically, it was the Germans around me who took the news hardest. They couldn’t believe that the British would vote to leave in such large numbers. They also can’t understand why I am also not entirely against the decision. Now I didn’t actually vote for Brexit but I was very undecided as I could see positives on both sides. I actually think Brexit could be positive for both Europe and the UK. The UK can push forward with the various reforms that people feel the EU are preventing and the EU can move to greater integration without having to continually fight with the British anti-EU group. It could mean a simple and more successful future for everyone.
Melanie [Denmark] – I was very surprised if I am honest. I really didn’t think that the vote would go that way at all. I found the decision very disappointing, especially for the next generation of kids who won’t have the same opportunities that my generation have had – to travel and live easily in other European countries. It also concerned me how much division in the UK was revealed by the referendum.
David [Spain] – It was a complete shock. Obviously we knew the opinion polls were 50/50, but when I woke up the next morning and saw the headlines – it was as if someone had physically punched me in the gut. But I can understand the reasoning driving many Leave voters. The EU is a colossal inefficient machine which does not appear to impinge upon life for most Brits at home. Here in Spain we are constantly reminded of the EU, as the government plasters its flag upon all public works, and the general feeling is that the EU is a good force which helps to counter-balance local corruption. Rather the opposite to the British feeling.
Emily [France]– I feel profoundly disappointed by the decision to leave the EU, and shocked by how quickly a very marginal decision in the referendum has turned into a push for hard Brexit. As I grew up, I was fortunate enough never to really need to question my identity, but I suppose I would have described myself as both British and European if pushed. The European part of my identity was about far more than just holidays, good food, and language lessons. I felt that I was tied to my continent by history, and that there were far more things that held us together than forced us apart. When I first moved to France just over three years’ ago, that impression was even stronger. My sister lives in the US, and I realised that British culture is far closer to French culture than it is to American culture, despite the language difference. None of this stopped me feeling British. The two are not mutually exclusive.
On a practical level, I am anxious about freedom of movement. My husband has a permanent job in France, and I work here, and all that was straightforward thanks to the EU. I am worried that we will no longer have the right to make a living in France. We are, of course, relatively well-off and have the option of returning to the UK. There are many people who are less fortunate than we are, for whom returning home is either not an option or, in the case of some immigrants to the UK, a nightmare.
I am also concerned about the UK economy, as I cannot see a way for a British exit from the UK to be financially advantageous. Whilst it is arguable that the London property bubble needs bursting, I am worried about the quality of life for ordinary people outside of London when the economic reality hits. I am frustrated that so many people were willing to gamble with our collective future in registering a leave vote as a protest, and angry that they should have been encouraged to do so.
Did you have any worries about your position as an expat prior to the referendum results?
Simon [Netherlands] – No not at all.
Oliver [Germany] – Not really, no. I expect a certain amount of pragmatism to take over after all the political manoeuvring. I can’t believe that anyone will want to see 3 million EU nationals evicted from the UK and 1 million Brits evicted from the EU as revenge. Probably there will be more paperwork for me to register and future expats will have to prove they can afford to live and work in Germany, but that is also not a bad thing.
Melanie [Denmark] – As an EU citizen I felt that I was in a privileged position. With a red passport I am able to travel relatively freely around the world and if I choose I can live and work in any EU country, once I have met the rules for that place. I felt very comfortable building a life in another EU country, in my case Denmark.
David [Spain] – No I did not. Nor do I now, I feel sure that a solution will be sought between Spain and the UK.
Emily [France] – I thought that the remain campaign would win by a tiny margin, so I deliberately avoided worrying about my position as an expat before the vote. My husband, however, was very concerned. He has what is called a CDI in France. This is basically a permanent contract, something that is very sought-after here. He was very anxious that maintaining his contract would be very difficult if the UK left the EU as his company would need to go to additional lengths to justify employing a non-EU citizen. We do not yet know whether his fears were justified. In the short-term, the uncertainty before the vote was helpful to us, as we were buying a house in France, and the fall in the pound enabled us to bring our savings over at a reasonable rate.
Keep tuned for Part 2, coming up later this month…