What does Brexit mean for Longford expats?

What does Brexit mean for Longford expats?

Last week the electorate in the United Kingdom voted in favour of the nation revoking its membership of the European Union, a decision which has sent shockwaves across the globe. 

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, subsequently resigned; falling on his sword after the message he professed as leader of the Remain campaign failed to resonate with voters. The path is clear for a pro-Brexit successor, likely to be Boris Johnson, who will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and officially begin the process of the UK's departure.

But with such a fine margin in the voting (51.9 per cent chose to leave, 48.1 per cent wanted to stay), and with a myriad of economic and social issues now to be faced, Brexit remains an emotive issue. The Longford Leader contacted local people who now call the UK home to hear their views on how they view the outcome:

 

Padraig Stapleton
Originally from Killashee, now working as a graphic designer in London

Be grand, they said. The bookies never get it wrong, they said. The polls usually get it spot on, they said. It was with this knowledge, that I thought that by the morning, it'll be all ok once this is over with. 5am, the notifications on my phone popped up. And it was the surreal headline 'Britain votes to leave the EU'. Nobody expected this.

I thought it wasn't real. It was only then that the first thing on BBC News this morning when I switched on, was Nigel Farage, lording it at the House of Commons, stating the Leave won the referendum 'without a bullet being fired'. A huge statement of insensitive idiocy, the week after Jo Cox, a Labour MP was shot and stabbed. But the Brexit referendum was the most toxic, poisonous display of electioneering I've ever witnessed, that has brought out the absolute some worst in people.

The worst thing is that it was so needless. David Cameron declared a promise in the general elections last year, that he would introduce an EU Referendum to appease the Eurosceptics in the Tory party. I felt then that it was a display of arrogance and thought it would backfire. And how it has. He gambled with people's futures, and while it's easy to blame the Brexit voters, I feel the buck stops with him, and he'll be forever known as the PM who took Britain out of Europe and indeed could be yet responsible as the PM who broke up Britain.

I've plenty of EU national friends who are worried for their jobs, including myself. I've also seen English friends who passionately wanted Britain to stay openly looking for alternative passports, and declaring they want to leave. I feel the right wing press have certainly a lot to answer for. Certain newspapers have been anti-migrant and anti-European, stoking up the flames, plus there's the presence of the inflammatory Britain First Facebook page.

I was lucky enough to have a vote at this referendum, but I feel that EU nationals should have had a vote too, as they pay their taxes, work hard, contribute so much and have made their home here. At this moment in time, what I feel is alienation, and feel I can't look people I know who voted Out in the eye. It could also have a devastating effect on the Irish economy, could lead to the break up of the UK and what is going to happen to Northern Ireland? More questions than answers.

Personally speaking, I've been in the UK for 12 years, and have never had any problems from anyone here. But there are people that I thought I knew, that I feel that I can never talk to again as a result. Thankfully I've made some lifelong friends in Britain, and many feel truly ashamed of the backwards step that has been voted for.

'Taking Our Country Back' was the slogan of the Leave campaign. The way it's beginning to unfold, little England, shunned by it's neighbours, will be truly a reality. Careful what you wish for.

Boris Johnson potentially as PM. Farage as cheerleader-in-chief. Trump potentially US President. Stop the world and let me off as the great Declan Nerney once sang.

 

Paul Devaney
Originally from Killoe, now working as an aerospace consultant in London

The result is a political and economic earthquake here in London. This city is the multicultural, multinational, economic powerhouse of western Europe and is at the centre of Irelands biggest trading partnership. London voted 60% to remain in EU and there is a sense of bewilderment at the result. The election has revealed the real political and societal disconnect between London, Scotland and Northern Ireland on one side, and England and Wales on the other. 

Many of my friends in London are aghast and angry. But many of the people I know from the East Midlands believe the vote is a good thing. It is all too easy to label those who voted Leave as bigots or racists, but the truth is much more nuanced. For some voters, this was a protest vote against the Conservatives who have decimated the NHS and Eduction budgets over the past 5 years. Others felt that weak Labor leadership will not give them any voice in general elections, so this was their only hope to unseat the Tories. Others see their towns or villages changing with what appears to them as uncontrolled immigration and they simply don't like it. Some are closet racists and some just miss the old world of the British Empire with comments such as 'We want our country back' or 'we want Britain to be British again'. What they mean is that they want the feel of empire and they want their village to be white, British and loyal.

The campaign was a smorgasbord of misinformation, outright lies and scare stories. Tactically the Remain side got it horribly wrong. Their decision to fixate on the economic scaremongering angered many, and George Osbornes 'punishment budget' tactic was seen as a form of establishment blackmail which deepened resolve to use the EU vote as a protest against government. The Leave side peddled lies and misinformation on costs, migration and consequences at levels I've never seen before and much of it went unopposed as the Remain team pushed economy-economy-economy, not realising that nobody was listening anymore.

Ultimately the electorate is to blame - voters no longer have any interest in the gradation of complex issues. Everything has to be black or white, right or wrong, In or Out. The news media in the UK fed into the 'them and us' narrative, and the outcome was a result which at its core is not what the majority really wants, but at a headline level fully represents the superficial media-fed beliefs of the majority of ill-informed voters who can't be bothered digging into the argument and entertaining open debate to wrestle complex issues to the ground properly.

I am no cheerleader for the EU. You only have to look at Jean Claude Junkers arrogant statement the night before the vote to see that there are major problems with how the EU is managed. Moves towards full political unity, EU Army and a still struggling and incompetent Eurozone, should have us all focussed on major reform (we in Ireland are not, but we should be). But the answer to those challenges is not to cut and run, as the UK has chosen to do.

Historic divisions notwithstanding, Ireland has effectively lost its closest political ally in EU, who had more of our interests than the remaining big countries will ever have. We need to contend with that new elephant in the EU room. The sands have shifted and like it or not (and we don't) we have to review our arrangement too.

It remains excruciatingly perplexing that Little Britain never grew up.

 

Peter Geoghegan
Originally from Longford town, now working as a journalist based in Glasgow, contributing to Channel 4, The Guardian, Al Jazeera and other news outlets

“England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”, as the old republican saying went. Well, in the wake of last Thursday’s Brexit vote it could be Scottish nationalists’ chance, too.

While the UK as a whole voted to leave the UK, Scotland voted by a large margin to say in. Overall, 62 per cent of Scots voted for continuing membership of the European Union, with all 32 local council areas voting to remain.

On Friday morning, as a shell-shocked David Cameron and Boris Johnson faced the press as the respective faces of the remain and leave campaigns, the only politician in the UK who looked prepared for the result was Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgoen.

Flanked by the Scottish Saltire and the starry European Union standard – not a union flag in sight – the Scottish National Party leader began by telling EU migrants in the country that they were welcome here and ended by saying that a second referendum on Scottish independence was now “highly likely”.

Whether there is another vote on leaving the UK remains to be seen, but already it is clear that those who orchestrated Brexit gave little or no thought to the impact it would have on the United Kingdom. Scottish nationalists have long argued that Scotland is politically distinct from England: “we vote social democratic, they vote conservative”, the nationalists say. In the wake of Thursday’s result, that statement has never looked truer.

Early opinion polls suggest that most Scots now favour independence. In the wake of Brexit many internationalist “no” voters among my friends say that they would seriously consider voting ‘yes’ if there is a re-run.

Right now, however, Sturgeon and the SNP are exploring whether Scotland can remain in the European Union without leaving the UK. There has been much talk here of Greenland, which did the reverse in the 1980s.

But if such an unlikely deal proves impossible, we could be back at the ballot box again in the next couple of years. Voters might not welcome yet another election (since 2010, I’ve voted six times in Scotland) and the economic situation is worse than 2014, but by voting to leave the EU, England has put clear blue political water between its northern neighbour. In voting to leave one union, they might have spelled the end of another.

 

Ciaran McGann
PRO with the Longford Association in London

My view of the reaction was a bit of shock, not at the result but the behaviour of the In campaign to it. It was on the cards but they kept their heads in the sand hoping that the scare tactics would influence the voting public. I work with a number of nationalities, some from Europe and outside it, and a lot agreed that things had to change.

Is it a good thing? Probably in the long run but I am sure we will need to feel the pain for a few years before the storm clouds roll away.