In the days leading up to the United Kingdom’s referendum on European Union membership, I wrote a heartfelt open letter to undecided voters, to explain the very real consequences a Leave vote could have for British expat families like mine.
In my letter, I pleaded with those still sitting on the fence to vote remain. We had been bombarded with both promises and forewarnings from the Leave and Remain campaigns in the preceding months.
But I wanted to share my personal story as a member of an underrepresented group, that would be overtly impacted by the referendum result:
For us, the outcome of the EU referendum could have very real consequences. It could put one almighty spanner in the works when it comes to our future security here in the country where we have finally begun to feel settled. And we’re not alone. There are thousands of British families just like ours living all over the European Union, anxiously awaiting the outcome of Thursday’s vote, and considering what the consequences of a “leave” vote may be for their family.
Likewise, all over the UK, families of various European nationalities wonder where they will stand after we finish going to the polls. They are your work colleague, your daughter’s school friend, your midwife, your car mechanic, your greengrocer, members of your church, your local community volunteers, your neighbours. They pay UK taxes, and they enrich our society and culture.
Once again, I’m writing to the undecided
At the time I wrote that letter, polls were suggesting a narrow win for the Remain campaign, but also indicated that a not-so-insignificant chunk of the British public were still on the fence.
And with hindsight, it’s entirely understandable so many people were still undecided right up until the last minute before the vote. As we’ve seen over the past few years, the matter of whether and how to separate the UK from the EU – and what the consequences of our separation will be for our country – remain endlessly complicated, even for the so-called “experts.”
More than two years later, and it seems that the powers-that-be have been unable to reach any further concrete decisions, following the decision that was so narrowly made by the electorate on the 23rd of June 2016.
So here I am, once again writing to the undecided.
However, this time I’m unsure as to which undecided group I should address my concerns.
• To the British public? Many of whom had already changed their mind in the days immediately following the referendum result.
• To the UK Government? Who, over and over again, have proven themselves unable to take any decisive action to secure the future of the country outside of the EU.
• To the main opposition? Whose indecisiveness was clear in 2016, and arguably remains so now.
I want to tell you once again about the sheer weight of the consequences of all this indecisiveness that has plunged so many expats into a perpetual state of foreboding limbo. But of course, this time around, you already know this feeling well. We are all living there, whether at home or abroad. Because to read the news today, is to realise that nothing is certain.
Incredible potential impact on expats
As the very real risk of a “no deal” Brexit looms, I remain uncertain as to whether my right to live in the country that I have come to call home will be dissolved overnight. Meanwhile, my family and friends back in the UK are equally uncertain as to whether they will wake up one morning to find their country at a complete standstill.
“It won’t happen,” I hear over and over again. “No deal is better than a bad deal,” they say. But the testimony of those in the know – of economists, of trade experts, of those who procure medications and other essential resources, of those who staff our vital services – speaks decisively otherwise.
We can no longer spout political taglines, with our heads in the sand and our fingers crossed. Time is very rapidly running out, and we must face up to the reality of our situation.
So more than two years on from when I wrote my original plea, I am pleading with you once again. Do not accept the absence of decisions as a decision in and of itself. It is not!
Crashing out of the EU with a “no deal” does not demonstrate our strength and courage as a country, but merely showcases our indecisiveness. It would indicate an inability to take control of our own future, as we surrender to the fate of “what will be will be” amongst hopes of “it’ll all work out alright in the end”.
If one thing is for certain, it is that the only party to this mess that HAS shown its decisiveness is the EU itself, which has clearly outlined its position again and again.
We know more or less the divorce conditions EU countries are willing to accept, and they have shown repeatedly that they are not going to radically change their minds. It’s now up to us to decide whether or not we are willing to live with the reality of what is on offer to us, and to face the fact that the only real alternative might be to revisit the question put to us back in 2016.
It is time for someone to make these difficult decisions. And if Theresa May’s minority Government prove unable to do so on our behalf, then I would argue that we must make the difficult decision to allow the British public to decide for themselves in a second referendum. Because if not them, and not us, then who and how?
Because whatever your position, be it Leave or Remain, only one thing is for certain in Brexit Britain: one way or another, it’s time to make up our mind.
About the author:
Laura Kaye is a freelance writer, researcher and editor. Her work focuses on social and development issues, parenting and family life.
Originally from the Wirral in the United Kingdom, she is a serial expat now happily living in Berlin, Germany.
More posts by Laura Kay