On the 8th anniversary of Brexit referendum.

The Brexit referendum happened 8 years ago. I remember that I didn’t believe right to the end that Britain can be stupid enough to do it to itself. What else do I remember about that?

I remember the next morning we were driving our car to work (we worked together in one office back then). We listened to BBC4. There was a lady from some pro-Brexit party in Northern Ireland. As we were parking, the journo asked her if she wanted Brexit to be implemented ASAP. We stayed in the parked car to listen to what she had to say. We weren’t disappointed: “No” – she answered – “we should stay in the EU for a while more. If we left now, we would have no say about what is happening in the EU!”.

We both chuckled, on realisation she just only now realised what she had voted for. She was not the only one. The Google statistics show that on that morning millions of Britons turned to look up some basic information about the European Union. So much for informed decisions.

As we entered the office another Polish colleague gave us a heads-up: the office idiot is going around the office asking everyone who is not British when they are going back home. Of course, he came to me later as well. I told him my home is in Scotland, but of course, I will be free to move to Poland or whenever in the EU I would like at any time… Unlike him. This wasn’t the answer he expected, so he stood there for a while trying to think about anything smart to say. He apparently failed, so he just said “right” and walked away, giving me a very insecure look over his shoulder. It was still nothing compared to what our friends in England experienced: those who live in Cambridge were amongst those who received very aggressively worded leaflets asking them to go home, and a Polish family that lived in Woolwich had their car and house doors vandalised and were abused so much, that they ditched everything and moved to Scotland.

Apart from a few minor exceptions, the reaction of the Scottish people was overwhelmingly nice. We had my dad and nephew visiting at this time so as we were walking on the street speaking Polish, several people – mostly older – approached us to apologize and assure us that we could still feel welcome here. Interestingly there was a Brexiteer couple amongst them too.

An interesting scene developed in our local Coop the next morning. Mostly young people were working there and I could see they were in a really sad mood. They also welcomed us with cheer (we knew some of them) and tried to assure me we had nothing to be worried about. I told them that yes, we don’t, and began to explain to them that we are still to remain European Union citizens, so if anyone should be worried, it’s them. 

“Yeah, you’re the guy who studied European Studies!” – said one of them and they started to ask me some questions about the EU and what my predictions would be. It was a little embarrassing, as not only coop workers but also some customers gathered and I basically ended up giving a lecture on the basics of the European Union to about 7 people, in the middle of the meat aisle in my local Coop.

We went for a trip with our guests and people were approaching us all the time to say they were sorry for us and to apologize for Brexit. Very soon after the vote, we also received a very nicely worded letter from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s office assuring us we’ll be always welcome in Scotland, which I found to be a really nice thing.

But they were all still worried about us, and not about themselves, as they should be. I decided to tackle this topic in my next piece for STV News of which I was a columnist at this time. The piece is still up, you can read it here (you need to scroll down for English).

As I read this piece eight years on, I think I did pretty well in my predictions:
– We tried to make Brexit work for us, but it was a disaster.
– We decided to leave and we are happily living in an EU country now.
– Meanwhile, after turning inwards, the flaws of the British political system turned out to be more problematic than ever before, and British politics is now sliding towards corruption and right-wing populism at a scale at least comparable with what we had in Poland under PiS.

As predicted by anyone with common sense that Britain needs EU was utterly false, which can be seen from the fact that if not for the fact that I still have a lot of British connections and my social media bubble is mostly British, I would probably have completely forgot about Brexit right now. Nobody I know in Finland, Poland or Italy discusses it, unless to complain about the difficulties of shipping goods to Britain nowadays, or share pics of empty shelves with their friend to comment in disbelief why Britons did

I feel sorry for Britain, especially that I believe the only way to tackle those issues is to acknowledge its place is amongst the democratic nations of united Europe.
Scotland (and roUK) we’ll keep the lights on for you.

Picture: Public Domain via Pixabay




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