Paul in Italy “losing the ability to move around as freely is going to seriously affect my life.”

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Trying to put into words exactly how Brexit has affected my life is easier said than done. I am fully-fledged Europhile, I graduated university with a first-class degree in European Languages (German, Spanish and Italian if you’re interested) and was one of the lucky UK students to do an Erasmus (why more didn’t take it up is for another time). Not only did I do Erasmus, I was able to spend a day at the heart of the EU doing a Dummy Booth day at the European Commission. I believe wholeheartedly in the European Union, I don’t deny there aren’t issues but what it gives us is worth it.

After graduating, the first thing I did was get on a plane to Germany where I lived for almost two years until recently when I made the move to Italy. The day after the referendum I will never forget, first and foremost due to the horror of seeing what the country had done. Secondly, because I had an appointment for a root canal at 8am that morning. I am not sure what was more painful. Having worked in an office with lots of other Brits at the time, come the end of the day we locked ourselves in a meeting room and discussed the future. Almost two years later, nobody is any the wiser about what might happen to us.

Brexit has affected me in different ways, personally and professionally. The biggest issue in all of this is we just don’t know what the future will hold. Carrying out the most mundane administrative tasks has this extra element. Nowadays, I am constantly met with the question, “are you still classed as an EU citizen?” The answer is always the same, yes I am for now…

My leave-voting parents always tell me “people lived and worked abroad before with no problems”. Whilst this might be true to an extent, it’s never been easier. I feel they don’t understand that potentially losing the ability to move around as freely is going to seriously affect my life. I have never been one to stay in one place. If there are bigger and better opportunities, I will take them, wherever they are.

The biggest problem now is all the uncertainty, the British government says anyone who has been in the UK for five years has the right to remain, what about us Brits who have moved around Europe? I’ve not been in one place for five years; accumulatively I have been in EU member states around 4 years. Hardly fills me with confidence that my way of life won’t be affected if a similar deal is achieved for UK born residents on the continent. Not only that, such a deal adversely affects the young, two of my colleagues only graduated last year. That’s a long way short of 5 years. This brings around the generational gap between voters again. The young especially feel like the older generation has robbed them (and we’re not just talking about the financial aspect we have seen over the last decade). I won’t lie; it is hard to discuss things now with my parents. I respect their vote but I never shy away from telling them how wrong I believe they were.

Furthermore, I am constantly met with the question “why?” Something which I have real trouble to explain in laymen’s terms to people who are curious as to why we Brits voted the way we did. And it’s not just Europeans asking me this question. Most Europeans are completely dumbfounded, especially the young ones. My core group of friends consists of Italians, Spaniards, French, Germans, Austrians and we are all under 30, to them the decision is as confusing as announcing a ban on smartphones would be.

I’ve said all along if I was offered citizenship of a country, I would take it. Not a moment’s hesitation, I am British by birth and I am British due to my upbringing. However, this again is met by distain from some people, “how dare you want to give up British citizenship. You are a traitor.” Well, no I am not, I care desperately for the UK, it is my home. I don’t want to see the country go down the pan any more than a flag-waving, bulldog-owning patriot.

As mentioned earlier it has been a year and a half since the referendum. Nothing has changed yet in real terms, but for me Brexit has strained my personal relationships, it has affected my choices about what to do with my life since it has affectively grounded me until I know what the situation is, and it has also meant I am often met with curiosity from people who really don’t understand the vote to leave. These are real issues most Brits abroad face yet the actions of our government don’t seem to take us into account. In fact, it seems the actions of this weak and wobbly government don’t take into account any remain voters, you’d think leave won by a landslide. We want security in our lives now. It shouldn’t be too much to ask should it?

Paul is just one of the volunteers to our Citizens’ Panel. You can read about the experiences of other Britons living in the EU27 visit our Meet the #britsinEurope feature

Disclaimer: As with all of the information supplied through the citizens’ panel and presented in our Conversations with the #britishinEurope feature, the views, information, or opinions of individual study participants presented above are solely those of the individual author. They do not necessarily represent those of the project team, Goldsmiths or our funders.