08:16, March 27 177 0 theguardian.com

2019-03-27 08:16:05
I’m glad I left Brexit Britain. My EU friends who didn’t are stuck in limbo

Almost every Brexit lie has been debunked over the past two years for the British population, and now it’s EU citizens’ turn. Surprise, surprise: your rights will likely not be protected as the government once promised. For the very few who still had hope that Brexit would not affect them this may come as a shock and cause serious concern about their future in the UK. For me, it is reassurance that I did the right thing in leaving the UK last September.

From the beginning I had zero trust in a government made up of vicious liars and buffoons. After the leave campaign pushed racist stereotypes and blamed all the country’s problems on the EU, how could I believe they really cared about people from the continent? So last year I did the only logical thing, packed my bag and bought a one-way ticket to Madrid where life is good and the weather is sunny. Ever since, I have been watching the Brexit chaos from a safe distance and can only say that I am shocked. The impossibility of striking a deal acceptable to every side, because of the backstop issue, the EU’s constant overstepping of so-called red lines and the Tory government’s obvious incompetence – if the fate of the country I enjoyed living in wasn’t so sad, it would be entertaining.

Donald Tusk: EU cannot betray increasing majority wishing to remain – video

While I managed to escape the current limbo, the situation for my friends in the UK is a bit different. Every day I receive messages about how fed up both British and non-British people are. While the former worry about the economic and social consequences of Brexit, the latter have additional fears regarding their most basic rights. A dear friend of mine put her situation like this: “As an EU citizen I just feel in permanent limbo at the moment. The environment is incredibly unwelcoming and it feels like my life is on hold while I am waiting for the government to get its shit together. I fully expect them to implement something that is different to my current rights and simply shrug their shoulders. It’s a massive ask by the government to expect 3 million citizens to trust they won’t betray them after the current shitshow in Westminster.”

Another friend who had the choice between jobs in and outside the UK decided to leave partly because of Brexit. Others contemplate leaving in case no acceptable solution for their residency is found. And just to be clear: we’re not talking about Nigel Farage’s imaginary benefit-scrounging immigrants here. We’re talking about university graduates who pay taxes and speak perfect English. People who have been in the UK for years and have built a life there.

And I’m certainly not going to persuade them to stay. After six months away from the UK I can say that the quality of life in many continental European countries is much better, especially compared to the madness in London. While I do miss British sarcasm, pubs and fried chicken, I’m happy to be away from exploitative rents, crowded trains and conspicuous self-optimisation. With some distance, too, has come the realisation that the country’s problems run way deeper than the disastrous referendum in 2016. While other countries used past crises to renew themselves, it appears like Britain has mostly muddled through since the second world war. It never completely abolished the suffocating class system, came to terms with its horrendous colonial past or further democratised its electoral system. Years of Thatcherism and austerity finally tore apart the UK’s social fabric, and resulted in the decision to reject the EU instead of making the reforms the country so desperately needs.

Now one can only hope that Britain and the EU find a decent solution to the deadlock to avoid reaching the point of no return. The turmoil has already caused too much damage and held too many lives in limbo. Besides making itself a global laughing stock, the UK risks damaging its society even further as it alienates the immigrants who have worked so hard to be there.

Oliver Imhof writes on topics that include policy analysis, international affairs and integration


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