Since 2015 I have been living and working in France. Many friends here and people in my industry have been asking what I think of Britain leaving the EU. Maybe this will help answer.
Last year Britain voted to leave the European Union. Like some other British expats I know, I signed up for the vote but never received my papers to actually do it (go figure). In any case, I think enough of the population of Britain became persuaded by politicians supporting exiting the EU. A population with very little idea on the actual implications of leaving Europe and a population driven mainly by emotion and personality politics.
A population driven by emotion and misinformation rather than facts
Take a village called Ebbw Vale, a small town not far from where I grew up as a boy. Charlie Chaplin passed through this village when he traveled in one of the early theatre companies he toured with as a youngster, before he was famous. His description of Ebbw Vale goes as follows:
“Ebbw Vale was a dank, ugly town in those days, with row upon row of hideous, uniform houses, each house consisting of four small rooms lit by oil-lamps.”
He would have visited in the early 1900s. So admittedly it would have reflected other small towns of the era. The economy of the town was stable with the steelworks that used to exist there. However after it was closed along with the mines, the economy crashed and the town suffered with poverty (like many other small valleys towns in Wales). Even though there was work during the steelworks’ time, what life is that? Places like this and especially Merthyr Tydil, another town close by suffered with the worst life expectancy in Britain. Breathing toxic fumes all day, polluting the air, environment and sending men down into deep holes in the ground. Paying them only enough so they could survive on basic necessities. It confuses me why some people would look back to this in nostalgia.
The European Union pumped Ebbw Vale full of funds and money for development. Now the town has been transformed and while still a working class area, is not stricken with poverty as it used to be.
However the people of Ebbw Vale voted to leave the EU. The very institution that made it possible for the town’s condition to improve in the first place. I’ve heard the people of Ebbw Vale give these arguments as to why they voted to leave the European Union.
- People who they don’t know are in control.
- Stopping illegal immigrants
- Only letting skilled immigrants into the country
- Money sent from the EU for the town was spent on the wrong things
I have problems with all of these arguments. They aren’t well thought out and are merely lines fed to them by repetitive politicians.
The economy is getting worse
Before Brexit, the money I have in Britain was worth a lot compared to the euro here. Now when I go back I notice barely a difference between the pound and the euro.
I am told repeatedly by the idealistic that the economy will climb to new heights before long. They are informed by simple speculation. Nobody knows. The evidence so far though suggests the following. The value of the pound has dropped by around 13% since brexit and has continued falling. This will likely not help the economy in general because while things like tourism may prosper more, three quarters of the British economy is based on services. Many businesses, especially those in the financial sector are now considering moving country.
Even after Theresa May’s recent speech in Florence, saying that she would like a softer exit and more time to negotiate, the pound value was barely affected. It is still bad.
People like me may not find it as simple to gain internships abroad
I have been very fortunate to have grown up in a time when there were EU work exchange schemes like the Leonardo programme run by Ecarc. In 2014 I went to Berlin for three months to kickstart my animation career with an internship. Without this experience, provided to me by joint EU funding, I may have never experienced life in a different country and may have not gotten to where I am in my career. I may not have had the kickstart and optimism provided by the experience to get to where I am today. All speculation of course. Yet all the same, the reason I’m here now doing my dream job and earning a good living is because the EU provided funding for people like me to find opportunities. Schemes may later be created to help exchange programmes between Britain and Europe. However it will never be as simple as it has been.
Uncertainty over residency rights
We have been told multiple things. The British government has gone around in circles of confusion. Saying at one minute that EU nationals living in Britain before the vote would keep their rights, then changing this statement at the next minute. So far there is no agreed solution between Britain and Europe. Mostly because the British government is trying to remove certain rights European citizens have in Britain.
While politically it would be improbable for European countries to expel or deport British nationals, there is no real certainty.
I’m personally not worried about this. I’m more worried about the disaster Brexit is causing in Britain and what it means for my family and the economy there.
This letter explains better the complications that remain with Brexit negotations regarding British expats like me and EU expats living in Britain:
So to answer the question that many of my friends and colleagues have asked me. Yes I supported the remain vote and yes I’m frustrated with how it is all turning out.