Expat Essentials

Jackie Harding: Will Brexit force me to return to a ‘home’ I might not even recognize?

Brexit is a dirty word in our house!

We wholeheartedly disagree with the concept of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, but, because of the length of time we have lived outside the U.K., we were not given a vote in this huge decision. Ironically we live in Europe and whatever the fallout of this event we, and many like us, may be hugely affected.

I was asked recently by Dispatches editor Terry Boyd if I had arguments regarding Brexit within my family and circle of friends. The answer is “no.”


My British family totally believe, as I do, that we are stronger together and tell me of conversations with people who voted leave, not really understanding the full ramifications of the referendum.

Conversations around my family table are generally full of incredulity that this is happening and fervent wishes that somehow, we could stop this runaway train.

My European and U.S. friends are filled with disbelief that this is the situation, even more so at this juncture as it seems we will be leaving the E.U. in March with no guarantees.

The European friends cannot believe that the British people would choose this path, but some are also grateful that the Brits are proving how risky this would be to their own countries, should they also decide to follow our lead.

An added stumbling block for me is the feeling that, after 19 years, I would like to return “home” at some point, but at this juncture, I’m not sure what “home” will look like anymore, or if I would even like it! The worst-case scenario is that I won’t even have a choice if the European country that I live in decides to ask us to leave.

Expat quandary

That in its self is a minefield, as we own a home and a business here in the Netherlands. Then there is the concern regarding pensions, retirement plans, health care and, for some, their children’s education, in the E.U. country in which we leave in. I’m not the only British expat with this quandary, but each time the word Brexit pops up on the news these days I flinch!

Thankfully, because my family and friends are on the same page, dinner conversation does not have the potential to cause a major political skirmish but there are many homes divided by this topic. Many people voted out of fear regarding immigration, a subject that is concerns people in many countries.

The older generation supported leaving convinced that before our entrance into the E.U., we lived in a “golden time.” The younger generation feels that they have had the rug whipped out from under their feet, and opportunities stolen – all from decisions made by a generation that won’t be around to live the consequences if they were wrong.

No going back?

It is an emotive issue for sure and I continue to have a tiny but rapidly fading hope that someone in government will say, “Ooops, sorry that was a mistake, let’s have a second referendum.”

That likelihood is fading fast.

As a Dutch friend said to me recently, “You never know, Brexit may stand for Br-exciting!”

We can only hope, but personally, I feel like a child whose parents are divorcing and I’m in the middle shouting, “Don’t do it! You love each other really. Make it work!”


About the author:

Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a longtime expat, she’s lived in Boston for 12 years, and in the Netherlands for the past seven years.

Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States for as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.

Writing for Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat ilife and issues.

She also covered Women’s March Amsterdam.

She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.

You can read more of Jackie’s work for Dispatches here.

To Top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest news and updates from Dispatches Europe. Get lifestyle & culture, startup & tech, jobs and travel news dispatched to your inbox each week. Keep up with what's going on in Europe. Everything Expat.

You have Successfully Subscribed!