Seven years since the Brexit referendum or seven years of bad luck! Calling it 7 years of bad luck is in my view highly appropriate.
I am a German who came to the UK as an au pair/student in 1981. Instead of returning home to Germany after one year, I stayed because I fell in love. In 1981 it was easy for us Europeans to decide to stay because we have fallen in love. It’s not quite so straightforward now, sadly.
At the time of the referendum, I had lived in the UK for 35 years and had a good life. When I found out the result on the morning of 24th June 2016, the world I had built for myself in the past 35 years began to shake and crumble. Questions started to go around in my head: What happens to me now? Where do I go from here? Am I still safe in the UK? What really irked me was the fact that as a German national I was unable to vote in the referendum, so others decided over my future in the UK in which I had no say.
Thoughts of my security in this country kept going around in my head, I felt upset and deeply saddened about the result of the referendum. After 35 years in the UK, I felt unwelcome. While out campaigning to stop Brexit and for another People’s vote, I was called a traitor, undemocratic and even to pack my stuff and p*** off back to Germany. That was deeply hurtful.
Over the next weeks and months after the referendum I was following political developments very closely. It became clear to me that this referendum was based mainly on anti-European idealism and mendacity – remember the £350 million going the NHS on the side of a red bus?
As I was following the news I heard and read about possible Russian involvement in the outcome of the referendum and dark money the origin of which is unknown.
I decided to join a local pro-European campaign group and met lots of like-minded people who felt that it was wrong to leave the European Union (Oxford for Europe and the Oxford branch of the European Movement). We held street stalls on a regular basis, and we held campaign events in the city centre of Oxford. We often invited speakers onto Zoom meetings during the pandemic.
I went on all the pro-European marches in London. I joined Steve Bray outside the Houses of Parliament, shouting ‘Stop Brexit’ with him at the top of my voice. I took part in demonstrations in places where the main political parties held their annual conferences.
I also was very active in campaigning for the ‘People’s Vote’ hoping to help give people a second opportunity to have a voice. During that time, I also applied for British citizenship and became a dual national German – British citizen. I hoped I would now have an opportunity to vote remain should the People’s Vote materialize. Sadly, it did not.
It was devastating for me when the People’s Vote campaign collapsed. I was happy that in December 2019 I was able to vote in the General Election for the first time after obtaining a British passport. I followed the election count and stayed up that night feeling demoralized and depressed seeing the Conservative Party winning big and knowing Boris Johnson remained as Prime Minister. At 04.00 AM after the election I sat on my bed crying my heart out. We were now definitely leaving the European Union!
I decided I did not want to live in England any more and I would move to Scotland. My reasoning at the time was that Scotland was dragged out of the European Union against its will and the wish for Scotland to become independent was growing. Scotland could then rejoin the European Union as an independent country. This idea appealed to me, and I started looking into living in Scotland. Scotland had an independence referendum in 2014 and voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. One of the reasons for this decision was that it would allegedly secure Scotland’s place in the EU. Who knew that the UK would vote to leave the European Union 2 years later?
Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic came along and this as well as other complications kept me in England. However, I have not given up on my dream and I am working to make this happen in the next 12 months or so.
I have been watching developments in the UK, rising energy prices, rising inflation, rising pollution of waterways and beaches, and knowing that leaving the EU contributed much to this. I am watching how people are now waking up and realising that leaving the European Union was a mistake. An increasing number of the British population would now like to re-join the European Union. Their voices must grow louder and louder to make politicians listen!
On the one hand I am sad that it took departure from the European Union to make people realize what a bad idea it was. On the other hand, people are realising that they were lied to by the politicians and noticing the impact that leaving the European Union is having on the UK, even if this change could be a slow process. Many people now want another referendum to re-join the European Union including many who voted to leave 7 years ago.
A roller coaster
During the 7 years since the Brexit referendum, I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions and thoughts – from feeling devastated about the referendum results, anger that it was all based on lies and anger at the continuing mendacity of our ministers and other mostly right-wing politicians. The rise of the hard right movement concerns me deeply. I feel frustration at the unwillingness of opposition parties as well as the government to acknowledge and recognize that Brexit is becoming increasingly unpopular.
I remain hopeful that all is not lost.I am joining the second March to Rejoin in London on 23rd September, and I am looking forward to it.
Knowing that people realize it was a big mistake to leave the European Union and the opposition to Brexit gives me hope. I believe we can turn this around, but I know that this will not happen overnight. I know it needs to be a gradual process.
I will continue to be involved in campaigns to rejoin the EU, whether that’s from England or from Scotland. There is a future for Scotland as a European nation, first it needs to be independent. There is a lot of work to do!