Today I feel like I’ve been dumped. Violently, without cause, with little more warning than a “we need to talk”. It’s a very unconscious uncoupling. I’m talking, of course, about the Brexit results which came in this morning.
I went to bed hopeful, because I’d seen “Remain” people all around town yesterday and no one from “Leave”. Because polls were predicting a narrow win for the Remain camp. Then I was woken up at 4am and told it was done. Finished. The England I know and love, and more importantly this Europe I consider my true country – is no more.
I have been intermittently crying since this morning, and nothing, not even cherries for lunch, could lift my mood. My Facebook feed is inundated with outraged posts from friends and family, countless in the UK, many English. Latest numbers show that barely anyone under the age of 35 wanted to Brexit. But it’s our generation that will have to suffer the consequences chosen by people too old to see them come to fruition.
I’m a European living in England, what will happen to me now? Will we be saddled with the same rules as Americans for example? Lengthy interviews and processes for work and student visas, paying for NHS treatment, having to earn a certain amount to be allowed to stay? Should those of us who’ve been here long enough immediately apply for indefinite leave so we can stay in our jobs, with our friends and possibly families?
As the day unfolds, I’m reading about Farage admitting he lied about the £350 Million that would be pumped back into the NHS if we leave. I’m hearing about people regretting their votes as they see the Pound drop and the EU prepare for battle. Friends are sharing tips and legal advice, articles and petitions are littering every social media feed.
As I wrote in my History essay for my ABIBAC, I am a true product of Europe, and I’m proud of it too. Play me the Ode to Joy and I’ll get goosebumps, not because it’s a great piece of music, which it is, but because of what it represents.
I was born of a German mother and a Spanish-born, French-raised father. I grew up in a town in France that became more and more international. I went to a German kindergarten, and an international school. I was able to travel from one European country to the next, and I barely remember what actual borders look like (I vaguely remember slowing down and passing officers, then going again).
I embraced the Euro when it came, relishing how easy it would make my life. I always thought I’d do an ERASMUS year abroad, and I always believed I’d live somewhere else for an extended period of time. I didn’t know until I was 16 or 17 that it was going to be London, but I never regretted coming here.
I have gone to an English University, worked at a French/English radio station, and a French school in London. I have been able to travel home using just my ID card, and celebrated only having one stamp in my passport.
I have felt more accepted for my differences in England than I ever did anywhere else. My quirks and oddities have been welcomed and celebrated by some amazing people, all of them a happy mix from all over the world. I didn’t realise how racist certain people can be until quite recently. England, and more importantly London has been my home for close to 9 years now. I have made a life here, believing that I’d always live in a country that was part of something bigger, this Union that was built out of the ashes of World War II and that has kept us together for so long.
Yes, the EU has issues. Every country does, and every union does too. Just think of couples, friendships, the US. But leaving it is not the way. I don’t know what the future will bring, or what exactly the rules for EU residents will be in the future. But I know that I will not be pushed out by bigots and idiots.
I am French. I am German. I live in England. I am EUROPE.