Originally I’d planned for today’s post to be a joyful cultural exploration of one of my favourite Quebec holidays taking place every June 24th – St Jean Baptiste – but certain international circumstances rather take precedence.
The first time I heard the term used to start describing the referendum was only a week or so ago, but I’ve been dreading this day for many months now. Shortly after my arrival in the UK to be precise.
At the time it seemed to be nothing more than a disgruntled topic grumbled about over pints and dinner plates. But as the weeks went by, it was clear that the thing was growing in magnitude. It was no rumour and no back burner topic. The referendum was coming and a decision would be made one way or the other.
From the start, it certainly seemed swayed to leave. I wanted with all my heart to believe that people would want to remain. After all, referendums in my personal experience never come to anything.
Quebec’s sovereignty vote in 1995 was a close one at 49.42% leave and 50.58% stay.
Scotland just a couple years ago just about the same and they stayed too.
Brexit, I was certain, would be a heated debate that ultimately culminated in a head to head match wherein it would be close, but things would die down and go back to normal.
And yet I woke up this morning and there we go. The beauty of democracy all over my newsfeed.
Though I’m of the firm opinion that the UK should have remained, I don’t want to get into a political debate here. The things I have to say have all been said elsewhere and more eloquently. I will, however, say what this vote means for me.
As most of you know, I’ve applied for Austrian citizenship. It’s taking next to forever to come through (hence my being back in Canada), but it had been my plan to use the convenience of my soon-to-be EU citizenship to be able to live and work in the UK with Ricky until we can take off on our next worldly adventure.
Thus having the UK separate from the EU right at this junction for me is a little bit of a monkey wrench.
The good thing is that the UK won’t be officially separated until about two years, during which time freedom of movement among other things will continue as per prior agreements between countries in the European Union. This means that so long as my citizenship arrives in the next two years (which I hope to the gods it does), I can still continue my plans as, well, planned.
The issue arises when we leave because it means I won’t be able to come back. At least not on that passport: not with the rights I would have had.
I also worry, what with the trouble I had with immigration the first time around, that despite the laws remaining in effect for freedom of movement, right to live, and right to work for European citizens, I might still be given a hard time. Perhaps it’s pessimistic of me, but I’m afraid of them looking for any reason to deny me those rights and freedoms based on arbitrary judgements at the border. It wouldn’t be the first time. Especially the later in the game it gets.
Me being at the mercy of the arrival of my Austrian passport, I have no control over when I can go back. If I do get denied entry because a conservative border control guard decides I’m looking for a way into the UK before they shut down EU immigration to take advantage of the system and they don’t like that…well, I have no idea when I’ll be able to be with Ricky again for longer than a few weeks vacation.
Aside from these concerns over my personal situation, I’m horrorstruck by the possibilities this referendum result presents for the rest of the world. The economy is already taking a massive overnight beating, the ripples of which are being felt on an international scale. I can see the EU splintering as the rest of the countries follow suit. It seems like such a backward step – division when the world should be opening up. Building fences across common ground that past generations worked so hard to cultivate.
Certainly for all interested in travel, this is a sad day.
Basically I’m afraid. I’m really, really afraid. The world is a different place today than it was yesterday. No one can say yet if it’s for the better or for the worse.
But I guess if you want to make light of a bad situation, now’s the time to exchange your dollars for pounds.