Opinion of British expat in Bucharest | Brexit wrecks it: gloom after UK votes to leave EU

Newsroom 24/06/2016 | 20:49

My Facebook feed is currently flooded with shock, anger, disappointment, disgust, sadness, tears and betrayal: the UK has voted for Brexit.

It was not a huge margin – four percentage points – but the repercussions are and will continue to be huge. Predictably, the pound and stock markets are in freefall, leading figures from the Leave campaign are backtracking on promises and the prime minister has resigned.

Voting went along social fault lines: old, working class, less educated, benefit claimants, small town or rural-dwelling – Leave. Young, middle class, graduates, employed, urban – Remain. Sadly we in the latter demographic did not turn out to vote in high enough numbers to save our country from the uncertain fate that awaits it.

This is a catastrophic decision. It’s a disaster economically: the UK has lost its AAA rating for the first time since 1978. Companies will relocate. Jobs and investment will be lost.

It is terrible politically: a moderate, modernizing Conservative PM (David Cameron) has gone, and will likely be replaced by a buffoonish, Machiavellian chancer who has sacrificed the country’s future on the altar of his own ambition (former mayor of London, Boris Johnson). What is worse, he will be in the debt of a racist demagogue (UKIP leader Nigel Farage).

It is worrying for the cohesiveness and security of the continent. Far-right parties in other member states have been emboldened and are calling for their own referenda. One can imagine how warmongers like Vladimir Putin feel to see Western institutions like the EU rocked. The issue is also a needless distraction from more pressing issues such as the refugee crisis.

Brexit dents the UK’s standing as a progressive and open-minded country, one that welcomes those with a contribution to make.

And it is also calamitous on a personal level for hundreds of thousands of individuals and families. Many of the Brits in Romania have built lives and set down roots in this country. We have spouses, partners, children, friends, jobs, businesses and properties here. Uncertainty now hangs over our futures in Romania.

The same is, of course, true for the 3 million EU citizens living and working in the UK. People who wanted nothing more than to contribute to British society and build better lives for themselves will now feel unwelcome.

The campaigns were bitter and so are the recriminations. It is being pointed out that the elderly people who voted for Brexit are not going to be the ones who have to deal with its consequences, and that they have bequeathed a future to the UK’s younger people that we didn’t want. The Baby Boomers are being berated.

Amid the criticisms of Leave voters and politicians another theme is emerging: shame. Never have I heard so many friends say they felt ashamed of their nationality. “I am not British; I am a Londoner,” posted one (British) friend. (London voted overwhelmingly to remain.)

From the ashes of our hopes, a new cohort is forming, joining the recent percentages (the one percent, the 99 percent). We are the 48 percent. We love Europe, we were happy with our place in it. We love freely travelling the continent, exploring new countries and meeting new people.

We welcome those who come to the UK to work and integrate, many of whom are now plunged into months of uncertainty or longer. We appreciate what they bring to our country. And we are so sorry that this has happened.

We are the 48 percent. And we are feeling terribly gloomy right now.

Debbie Stowe

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