I have dual British and American citizenship. I remember being worried about my residence status here in Germany since people started talking about Brexit last March. I googled and googled and just got more and more distraught. A friend saw how stressed I looked, and I told them why.
They dismissed me, saying, “That will never happen.”
Well it has happened and, like any other jilted lover caught by surprise, I have run the gamut of emotions since waking up the Friday after the referendum. First I was literally shaking from shock. Then I was angry. Now I am weighing up my post-Brexit options.
While many are still in the calling the ex an idiot stage, I am trying to understand what happened. Right and left I read of my international friends on the island being afraid as empowered racists asked them, “Why are you still here? We voted out!”
And it’s not just them who are on the receiving end. It’s Brits of colour too. I remember getting off the plane in London the first time and seeing no divide between black and white. And I thought to myself, “This is where I belong!” Was I wrong? Is my Britain really a sea of racists? Is that what happened?
Who actually voted for Brexit? And why?
While I was in favour of Remain, the truth is that, besides the sheep and racists, there are articulate intelligent people who voted Leave. I needed to know that to keep my faith in my adopted UK.
As I rethink my life and decide what is best for me in the long run, I gather as much information as I can to make as sensible and realistic a decision as possible. Leipzig has served me well for the last 12 years. I have finally come to a place where my art and volunteer work far outweigh my gainful employment. I live just above or under the poverty line. That’s something that has been possible here.
Each day I teeter between hope and despair. We know once Article 50 is invoked, there is a two-year negotiation period. How quickly this process starts remains to be seen, but I am not the only one who has reached the anger stage.
And I’m not the only one who thinks the EU will react like a lover scorned. Yesterday there was this comment on a post about possible restrictions on Brits as they no longer fall into the free movement arms of the EU:
“I know the EU doesn’t want to make leaving easy. It will want to punish Britain to a degree to dissuade other nations from leaving.”
Meanwhile, some have been growing impatient. There was at least one Facebook friend living in Wales who was bombarding his status with LEAVE for weeks before the vote. He posted this last week:
“Sore losers is it? Stop stalling and get on with Brexit!! People are saying Brexit has cost jobs… but we have not ‘left’ yet – either this is bollocks or negative publicity or people are so scared of losing that they are f*cking things up by way of trying to fiddle something and prove themselves right!!! Stalling will cost jobs and not Brexit!
“A basic bit of research shows that the GBP is already recovering and many other Countries in the EU are starting to follow suit. And yes it is true that the Euro is on its knees… who in their right mind would buy into a failing currency. How childish it is to throw your toys out of the pram because you didn’t get your own way!
“By the way… if this vote was related to generation (young Vs old) then would someone kindly explain to me why over a million young people didn’t vote? If they had voted as ‘Remain’ then we would not be leaving…. so instead of blaming my age group, why doesn’t the young blame theirs first????? Get real and for God sake GROW UP!”
and from another status:
“They snuck it through with anti Europeans, from an anti European party, heading both sides of the argument. The educated people, the people in the cities, the business and institutions were for remain. The people in the countryside who are so remote from Europe that they don’t even understand what it is, saw this as an anti immigrant vote without the faintest idea of what they are actually letting themselves in for.
“The city of London won’t have to open it’s (sic) books for tax inspection. The British rich will continue getting richer as their business base is globalised. They are happy. The poor idiots who voted leave, they don’t matter.”
In this case, it was not about the left vs. the right. In fact many from the left also wanted out; calling the EU undemocratic and corrupt.
Also, of course nothing is ever as simple as people who live in the city vs. those in the countryside or as easy as those for or against immigrants.
I guess now we just have to wait and see how things go. We have to move on and find a new way of relating, post-Brexit, “for the kids.”
Yet another Facebook status from a Brit in Leipzig (I chose to reproduce the whole long status because it covers multiple points in the ongoing debate):
“As a British Citizen working and living for the past 12 years in Germany on a European Passport, I was fairly well entrenched in the “Remain” camp of the UK Referendum on EU membership. From the Facebook posts and messages I received on Friday morning and the past few days, apparently so were the vast majority of my British and European friends and acquaintances. As an individual, the vote affected me in a conspicuously existential way. I was uncertain how a leave vote would affect my status. ‘Uncertain’ I suppose is the key word in the Brexit aftermath. However, although uncertainty may be a dirty word for investors and markets, uncertainty doesn’t necessarily equate to negativity.
“The facts of the Referendum are that a sovereign nation democratically decided it’s (sic) wider political future with a nationwide vote in which all citizens elegible (sic) to vote were invited to take part. One who lives and participates in a democracy must respect the decisions of that democracy – respect for the democratic process and the people who share the society which relies on such processes to function. Respect and understanding are what is needed now in the United Kingdom and Europe to move forward in a positive manner.
“The uncertainty felt by many after the leave vote concretely exhibits itself in the fact that very few people, if any, can predict what is going to transpire in the next few years in Europe. Even financial experts and the most perspicacious European political analysts can’t tell us what will happen. It would be a mistake to whitewash the decision to leave the EU as completely catastrophic or entirely emancipating. It all depends now on negotiations.
“Will the UK be able to negotiate advantageous trade agreements with the EU? How about movement and labour laws? Free to negotiate interchange with other countries, will the EU prosper economically without the shackles of Brussels or will iniquitous trade agreements with the US and China further alienate the working class from the financial elite? This will all be down to discussion. Discussion is what is needed now.
“I have been reading the discussions exploding all over the social media landscape since the calling of the vote in favour of leaving the EU. And, quite frankly, it is utterly disappointing. At a time of crisis in which people living together in a society should be attempting to understand each other and work together to make the best of their situation; I have seen, largely, only fearmongering, hatred and arrogance.
“Reports of xenophobia and racism are rife. The Adam Walkers of the country have been using this vote as an excuse to voice their churlish views and repugnant convictions. Legal immigrants are being openly castigated in the streets. A personal acquaintance of mine of Indian descent who was born and bred in the UK was told to ‘get our (sic) of my country’ because ‘Britain is for the British now’. This is racist, boorist (sic) bullshit. However (and I once again stress that I believe the UK should have stayed in the EU), in my opinion the ‘remain’ camp hasn’t been much better. Respect. Discussion. This is what we need at the present time.
“I read constantly from disgruntled remain voters that only ‘idiots’ or ‘stupid northern scallies’ voted to leave. To the Neo-Liberals in London they are not concerned working class who made a calculated decision that will impact their lives but imbecilic, reckless rabble. This is pretentious, boorish bullshit. I’ve actually heard imperious twenty-something londoners exclaim that because the over 65 demographic are out of touch with the modern world and are ‘dinosaurs’ they shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they don’t understand the machinations of the EU and globalization and ‘won’t have long to live with the ramifications anyway’. This is blatant ageism and shameless, arrogant discrimination of a generation that has lived through countless European crises including, for many, a World War. And it has to stop.
“Britain has always been a fractured society with the ugly spectre of class and status hanging over everyday life. Europe has been a historically partite region. Now is not the time to exacerbate this divide. We must respect the decision made by the majority of the populace of a democratic nation; but, more importantly we must respect each other and attempt to come to an understanding of our shared views, beliefs and concerns as well as our differences. This is the only way we can ever hope to build a world that we can all be proud of, together.”
My quality of life is far greater in Germany than it ever was in the UK. There I spent nearly every waking hour trying to pay the bills. I can’t imagine going back there, but I don’t think I have value in the new German point system which I, as a non-EU citizen, could be required to fulfill post-Brexit. As a creative, it looks like I will likely be one of the casualties of this war. My value is not defined by paying taxes.
Though I can’t afford to live in the UK, I remain an anglophile in my own little europhile way. As long as I can, I will enjoy the freedom that living in Leipzig brings. I will treasure time with friends. I will cherish every moment spent in the garden, surrounded by the laughter of my garden neighbours.
Hopefully the summer here will bring me the peace of mind and headspace I need to find my place in the post-Brexit European configuration and begin preparing for it. But most of all, the plants I sowed there will grow and continue to add value to my community, even if I am forced to leave it.