Since I am a British Expat living in The Netherlands a few people have asked me my thoughts on the Brexit vote and that about sums it up. F**k!
The Brexit is a much more serious subject than I would ever normally write about so this is going to be a step out of my comfort zone. I’m usually the guy that writes the (hopefully) funny stories about life in the Netherlands as an accident prone Englishman. However, there is nothing funny about the results of the Brexit referendum. It’s also too big a subject to ignore (even though I have been desperately trying to for the last few days).
I have lived in The Netherlands for fifteen years. I moved here in 2001 to start working for a computer games company. I’ve never really thought about how easy it was for me to do that. Now I am starting to realize how much I took free movement within Europe for granted. The EU has existed my entire life. To me it was normal. The thought that my country is no longer a part of it is hard to understand. A union that was formed to stop another incident like World War II from happening and allowed for free trade and cooperation, surely that’s a good thing (even if it was a little flawed).
Effects of The Brexit
The days following the announcement that Britain had voted to leave the EU left me with a profound feeling that my country was suddenly broken. This feeling was not because the value of the pound suddenly dropped to the lowest it has been in 31 years, nor was it because European companies had already started taking their business elsewhere. Those were just side effects. The country suddenly felt broken because of one simple fact. A large part of the British population had made the choice that they had made. A choice, not to work with others and try to improve a flawed system but a choice to send a message to the world that the British are not the friendly people they were once believed to be.
Even more horrifying are the openly racist and xenophobic incidents that are now being reported up and down the country. It’s as if a percentage of the British people think it is suddenly ok to throw slurs and abuse at someone simply for being different… It is not. It fills me with anger that my fellow Englishmen are capable of such horrible things. The stereotype of the polite Englishman is gone forever. He has been replaced by his much uglier and often not talked about brother.
Every time I read a story of a child bursting in to tears because he thinks his international Mother or Father will be forced to leave the country my heart breaks. After all I am a father living in a country that is not originally his own. What if the Dutch were to suddenly demand that I leave or start throwing abuse at me? I don’t know what I would do but I know that I would be very afraid.
Ultimately I know I will be fine. I’m married to a Dutch lady and if that is not enough I could and I would take up Dutch citizenship. I am not leaving this country. However, there are a lot of British expats living in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe who suddenly don’t know if everything will be alright. Will we all need work permits? Visas? We all took EU membership for granted. It probably won’t get as serious as us all having to leave. However, staying is not going to be as easy as it once was.
What makes all of this worse is that it happened because of miss information, manipulation of people’s fears and the vote being used to, “stick it to the man,” without any real thought about what a leave result actually meant. I know there will be a lot of people that disagree with everything I have just said. However, if you are reading a blog about an Englishman living in The Netherlands (a European country) you are probably not one of those people.
I could not vote in the Brexit referendum because I have lived in The Netherlands for more than 15 years. My amazing life here has been made possible by the kindness, openness and friendliness of the Dutch. If I could have voted I would have voted to stay. I hope that if The Netherlands is ever given the option to vote you will too.