WHAT DOES BREXIT MEAN FOR THIS PRO-EU LONDONER,
IMMIGRANT, AND TRAVELLING BLOGGER?
24 June 2016. Shoreditch, East London. It felt like the end was nigh. The excessively sultry sun that bathed the city felt ironic, vulgar, and outright mocking me and most of my contemporaries (young, educated, upper middle-class, and many of them European) who had voted for the UK to Remain. In my pocket of the East End - itself part of an ethnically diverse borough - the shock and despair was palpable. For Bremainers, Friday morning felt like waking up after a breakup of Adele proportions (no award-winning revenge song in sight, but with 27 burnt bridges). We were rolling in the deep, deep sh*t.
“…The younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages, and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.” NICHOLAS, FINANCIAL TIMES
Disbelief. Fear. Betrayal. Blame. For the 48.1% that voted to stay, the rollercoaster ride of emotions following the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum had all the makings of a 19th century opera. Across the nation, over 16 million hearts broke to the tunes of humorously fitting songs aired on radio: The Clash - Should I Stay or Should I Go was my personal favourite. Predictably, the internet rose spectacularly to the occasion with Twitter reactions, Tumblr posts, and memes. Facebook feeds were flooded with posts of outrage and disappointment. The air, thick with tension, was occasionally sliced with shouts of "F*ck Brexit!" or "F*ck the EU!" Not since the last Malaysian General Election had I seen my peers take such an interest in politics. And of course they would - the younger voters were the ones who would have to live with the consequences of Britain leaving the European Union. A widespread reaction to the results was that nobody over 65 should have been allowed to vote on the referendum because they wouldn't be alive long enough for it to be their problem. The young 'uns felt betrayed by the very same generation that fought in WWII for their liberty. Some feared that the impending Brexit was indicative of nationalism - already, Eastern European acquaintances and my local Italian barman had been shouted at "to go back to where (they) came from". Many of my European friends who had come to the UK to live and work panicked, fearing deportation in the face of uncertainty and contradictory promises from Leave. For the young and the foreign, the horsemen of the apocalypse hath cometh: It was the Brex't of times, it was the worst of times.
MY INITIAL REACTIONS TO BREXIT, AND IT'S RAMIFICATIONS
FOR ME AS AN IMMIGRANT & TRAVELLING BLOGGER IN LONDON:
FOR ME AS AN IMMIGRANT & TRAVELLING BLOGGER IN LONDON:
1. Hello, my British friends! Welcome to the “Other Passports" queue, we’ve been expecting EU! Not having a European Union passport made no damned difference to me at passport control (it was only by the grace of Fast Track invitations that I could hold my own at a 'Border Control race' between me and my European/British travel companions)...until British passports issued pre-referendum expire. By then, expect the "All Other Passports" lane to swell with red-faced, tan-lined, flip-flop wearing sweaty blancmanges straight off their EasyJet flights from Malaga.
2. Bloody fan-f*cking-tastic, now I'm stuck with the very real possibility of Boris Johnson for PM and that great greasy racist Farage as deputy. And if Trump becomes the President, God help us all. Imagine the circle jerk between the three of them! That's it - if that happens, I'm moving to Russia. In all seriousness, to all voting-age Americans who were optimistic and/or idealistic enough to think that there was no way Brexit would've happened, learn from the naivety: that tiny fingered, cheeto-faced, ferret wearing sh*tgibbon can and will become your Overlord if you take your vote for granted.
2.5 On that note, despite this Commonwealth citizen applying for a poling card, I can't believe I never received one. I am quite bloody certain that I am eligible to vote on the EU Referendum, at least according to principle. I'm not only a descendent of one of the Empire's former colonies (well, I guess if we didn't want to be 'civilised' we shouldn't have natural resources) but I'm also a taxpayer who's lived in and contributed to the UK for TEN years! Don't I have a say in this?
3. Bad enough that the Brexit panic has wiped $2 trillion off the world markets, the pound being at its lowest in 30 years, and my spending power when I travel abroad decreasing, I also foresee the worth of my UK assets, including property, plummeting. Excellent. On the plus side, this is a good time to buy British pounds with my Malaysian Ringgit...
4. As a Malaysian, I came here on the same points-based system that Australia uses, so thankfully my immigration status is unaffected - for now. But now that the far right have been legitimised and the dialogue for nationalism has opened, what next? "Immi-gants, I knew it was them! Even when it was the bears, I knew it was them!" An acquaintance cried: "This is exactly how World War II started - with nationalism, xenophobia, and a ruined economy! They'll be coming for you next! They'll seize your property! Who knows when they'll start rounding up people and putting them into concentration camps! Then civil war will break out! Then World War III! At least you have a place to go. At least when you get deported, you can return to Malaysia and lord it up over there. I have nowhere to go! I'm stuck in Britain! I'm screwed!" Said acquaintance is prone to hysterics and theatrics, but in his defence, his fantasy isn't entirely not plausible.
"I want to send a clear message to every European resident living in London - you are very welcome here. As a city, we are grateful for the enormous contribution you make, and that will not change as a result of this referendum. There are nearly one million European citizens living in London today, and they bring huge benefits to our city - working hard, paying taxes, working in our public services and contributing to our civic and cultural life. We all have a responsibility to now seek to heal the divisions that have emerged throughout this campaign - and to focus on what unites us, rather than that which divides us." SADIQ KHAN
5. I have always believed that London is the world's true metropolis: founded by the Romans, conquered by Saxons and Normans; developed as a commercial centre by Italian, Flemish and Baltic traders, attracting a melting pot of nationalities from the French Huguenots to the Moors. My borough is one where Cockneys and Desis live jowl to cheek, if not with acceptance then at least with a degree of tolerance. This very diversity, multiculturalism, and open-mindedness is what drew me from Malaysia to London in the first place. Sadiq Khan's compassionate message embodies the accepting attitude of London, and for that, he has earned even more of my respect. I am incredibly grateful that he is the Mayor of London.
NOW BLOODY WHAT?
So far, nearly 3 million are pinning their hopes on this petition for a second referendum. Unfortunately, with most signatures are coming from areas that voted Remain as opposed to Leave voters with Regret-xit - it's beginning to look like we have a better chance of establishing London as a separatist state, joining forces with an independent Scotland to form SCOTLOND, so...not very likely. Americans, now's a good time for you to visit the UK, while the pound is weak.
I don't know what words of comfort I can offer to my European friends whose prospects are overcast with doubt and uncertainty. I'd like to think that all EU citizens who immigrated pre-referendum will be granted automatic indefinite leave to remain (I hasten to say 'granted amnesty' because an amnesty implies a pardon, and no crime was committed in their being here) but nothing is certain. Honestly, even though my right to remain in the UK looks comparably stable, I'm worried that Brexit has opened a can of worms which may threaten to destabilise my immigration status in the future. And what if the UK does change their mind and comes crawling back, begging to rejoin to the EU? Oh, the blackmail! Oh, the humiliation, oh the imposed conditions! The damage has been done. I wonder if the Brexiters get to keep their holiday homes in Spain? Will their friends living it up in Portugal will be deported? Frankly, my dears, I'm beginning to not give a damn. Call it Referendum weariness or exhaustion from venting my feelings in writing this post or just plain disappointment, but I'm so very tired and depressed. Maybe it's time for me to pack up and come home to the Shire...