"The referendum result is still a traumatic experience"

03 August 2017

This letter was sent to us by Gwendolen, a British citizen who lives in Germany.

"Dear Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen,

You have asked UK citizens who live abroad for our personal reactions to Brexit. I was absolutely devastated by the referendum result and it is still proving a traumatic experience. Talking to my compatriots here in Germany, I gather that most feel the same as I do.

I couldn’t vote in the referendum, as I have been absent from the UK for over fifteen years, though of course the result has affected my life. That my UK pension has decreased in value goes without saying, as does the fact that I will doubtless lose my status as an EU citizen post-Brexit. I can do nothing about the first, but I certainly do not wish to be stripped of my rights by a government that denied me the opportunity to vote in the referendum. I have therefore applied for a German passport and am half way through completing the process – it’s long-winded but not particularly complicated or expensive so I hope to be a German citizen (and thus retain my EU citizenship) by the end of this year.  

One of the most appalling effects of the Brexit process for me has been the fact that my country has lost so much face. I read with dismay the reports in the German newspapers – which, to give them credit, try their best to be polite when analysing the Brexit shambles, though it is getting more and more difficult. Germans have till now greatly respected the British, but now people here look at me pityingly and ask me what on earth has happened to the country they thought they knew. They just don’t understand how the UK can be so misguided and display so little solidarity, how the government can be so incompetent, and how the tabloid press can get away with spreading such blatant lies about the EU. For years we have also seen the UK government blaming the EU for its own woeful shortcomings. There seems to be very little public awareness of what the EU is about, along with a lack of civic education in schools: when I point out notices in England that state the EU has funded this or that project, people look at me with complete incomprehension.

I used to be proud of Britain for the reforms it brought into the EU, and at the time of the London Olympics our country achieved an extraordinary level of international goodwill for its admirable openness, but all that kudos seems to have vanished. For many years I’ve been depressed by the fact that the EU Parliament has increasingly been stocked with British MEPs who do their best to undermine the whole institution; indeed, it got so embarrassing that I often wished the UK would get out and leave the rest of the Europeans to get on with improving life for their citizens. Well, now it’s happened, and it’s made me incredibly sad."

Do you think the North East needs its own voice in the EU exit negotiations?

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