Still A European

European Parliament

The European Parliament, Strasbourg. Public domain photo by hpgruesen.

On Friday morning, I woke up to the news that I didn’t want to hear. I had gone to bed quietly confident that the Stronger Together campaign would prevail, but the result shocked the world.

This vote could easily have gone the other way — out of a 72% turnout at the polls, 51.9% voted Brexit while 48.1% voted to stay. I believe that if we had another referendum tomorrow, we would not be facing the uncertain prospect of a future outside the EU.

And I am sad. I feel bereft, as though part of my identity has been stripped away. Oh wait, it has. As it stands, within the next two years, I will lose my European citizenship.

Given that my blog readership is predominantly outside the EU, you may be curious: what has the EU ever done for Britain?

A lot actually. The social, economic, environmental and employment benefits are numerous, too numerous for me to mention all of them here. EU law legislates on issues such as equal pay regardless of gender, and bans discriminating against people in the workplace. The EU Working Time Directive prohibits employers from making employees work more than 48 hours per week on average.

Thanks to EU legislation, we have standards for keeping beaches clean and protecting the environment. The EU recently quashed the British government’s bid to start using bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides in agriculture.

We have the economic benefits from trading in the single market — the free movement of goods, services, money and people.

And there’s the fact that being part of the union gives me the right to travel freely to 27 other countries. It gives me the option to live, work and study in any one of those countries if I chose.

It gives me a European Health Insurance Card which covers me if I need medical treatment in Europe, and I can receive treatment at no charge to myself. It gives me cheap flights, the right to compensation if my flight is significantly delayed or cancelled, and low mobile phone charges so I can easily keep in touch when I’m abroad.

Plaza Mayor Madrid

I cherish the right to travel freely and cheaply in Europe. This is Plaza Mayor: one of my photos from my recent trip to Madrid.

And then there’s the world-class research which is carried out in the UK with millions of pounds of EU support. Business leaders, medics and scientists, leading academics and entrepreneurs have benefited from the fact that Britain is the second largest beneficiary of EU spending on research.

So, yes, I am feeling heartbroken about being cut off from all this. No one is saying the EU is perfect, but what/who is? The benefits far outweigh any negatives.

And I’m feeling so sorry and helpless for my EU friends (and non-EU too) who are feeling unwelcome here. Some of them are already thinking about leaving the country because they don’t want to be part of an isolated England.

Brexit is a victory for prejudice, for fear, for separating ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. Already the reports of verbal abuse and hate crimes are steadily rolling in. The Brexit result has given certain people an excuse to express anger and racism.

On my social media pages today, an American woman reported being told to “f–k off out of the country” (and America isn’t even in the EU!). Family friends have been verbally abused, one while she was out with her children, and and a friend of a friend had dog mess shoved through her letterbox. Are we losing sight of our common humanity? I feel sick.

I am by no means saying that all Leave voters are racist. That is clearly not the case. But it is true that fear and discrimination were used to galvanize people into voting to leave, from false statistics about the amount of money we send to the EU, to images of immigrants behind barbed wire fences that were used to illustrate Leave campaign leaflets.

Toledo Spain

Another photo from my trip to Spain. This one from the beautiful city of Toledo.

We must stand against discrimination, racism and hatred. I am still a European at heart. Just as the jus soli rule means that being born into certain countries makes you a citizen of that country, so it was that I was born into Europe and the European values of unity, solidarity and harmony.

But that is a poor consolation when all around me, the country is being divided. The United Kingdom as I know it is crumbling. So. You want me to be happy?


Note: I reserve the right to moderate comments. Respectful debate is welcome. Abuse is not.

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17 thoughts on “Still A European

  1. Pingback: Brexit, Nexit, Vlexit and Frexit | Marcus Ampe's Space

  2. Dark days, indeed! And as a Scot I am not enjoying our government’s attempt to use people’s natural frustration and anxiety as an excuse to break up the UK. If ever there was a time for us all to pull together it must surely be now. All the rest can wait till we see how things are once they’ve stabilised. I still hold out some (slight) hope that the thing won’t actually come to pass – but that depends on some intelligent manoeuvring by our politicians, and I’m not convinced any of them are up to the task. My great hope is that we never have a referendum about anything again ever – so divisive, and leaving such bitterness. I feel as if I’m grieving too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m really glad and appreciative of you writing this post, Grace. I admit that I was only peripherally aware of what was going on and the context of both sides so it was only apparent after the results came out how the vote would affect the UK and the EU. I really hope you’re doing okay and that your day to day life hasn’t been disrupted too much. I do worry about the long-term implications and how people of various backgrounds will be affected. It was disappointing to hear about how uninformed many voters were, who regretted their Leave vote once they realized it actually became a reality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, a lot of people who voted Leave were only aware after the results how it would impact the UK. Too late then! The official Leave campaigners told a pack of outright lies and false promises to gain support. Sigh… we should have a second referendum with nothing but the facts.

      It’s also frustrating that much of the Remain campaign was based around what’s bad about leaving the EU, rather than what’s good about staying in.

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m fine, even though my mood has been low overall since last Friday. Day-to-day life is going on as normal, but I know it will affect my future in so many ways. It still feels like a bad dream that I’m going to wake up from.

      On a happier note, I hope you’re having a lovely vacation. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I watch the BBC every day to see what is happening in the rest of the world and was interested in what the outcome of the vote would be. With a close vote like this, whichever side won…the other half would certainly be unhappy. I will be watching from the sidelines as to how things are worked out for your country and your citizens. I understand your feelings and hope your life will not be disrupted too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it was very close and has sadly divided the nation.

      The media is reporting that many people who voted Leave are now experiencing ‘Bregret’ — regretting their decision. Unsurprising, really, considering that the Brexit campaign used false promises and outright lies to win support.

      Thank you for your understanding. 🙂 This will probably be my first and last political post. I prefer to keep my blog neutral as politics can be so divisive.

      Like

  5. Thank you for this–you eloquently describe what many are feeling right now. Your generation has been profoundly affected by this outcome…I can’t help but hope that calm heads will prevail, and some kind of compromise will be found. Hugs from Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Still A European — Cultural Life – Welcome to the World of Ekasringa Avatar!

  7. I’m so sorry to hear about what’s been happening to people you know, Grace. I have a friend (American) who’s in the UK for the short term, near Cambridge, and she says that for her partner’s colleagues, many from the rest of the EU, this is a really terrible time. Hoping for better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. It is stressful, and the worst thing is that it’s going to go on for such a long time. Disentangling forty years of shared history, laws and policies is a mammoth undertaking — I don’t think anyone really knows how to go about it. But yes, all we can do is hope for better. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Grace, it’s nearly two months since you wrote this, but the anguish and deep concern are evident. I’m sorry at the way this decision is affecting people, and it’s the first time I’ve read such a detailed analysis of the losses from a younger person’s point of view (all the leaders on TV whom I saw talking for both sides were older people). Are you feeling any more hopeful today?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The largest demographic who voted to leave the EU was older people — 75% of 18-24 year olds voted to stay. But it’s hugely frustrating that only around 36% of that age group got out and voted. If more young people had voted, maybe we’d still be in the EU!

      That said, I know there is no point in ‘what if…’ scenarios. Am I feeling more hopeful? I think I’ve just become more resigned to the inevitability of what’s going to happen. Things are going to be uncertain for a long time — it will take a few years before Britain actually leaves. We’re currently still in the EU and negotiations to leave haven’t started yet.

      Thank you for your sympathetic comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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