Certainly deciding to work remotely for a year has been a step into the unknown but that is not what I want to talk about in this blog. The step into the unknown I want to discuss is the decision the people of the UK have decided to take to leave the European Union and the immediate effects it has had on me, someone who is currently living outside of the UK. While these effects are personal to me I would also like to speculate on how these will impact on the UK in the months ahead and also make a plea. But first I feel that I need to describe the events on the run up to when I found out that the vote had gone in a direction that I hoped it would not.
Thursday evening was festival evening in Valencia, with the celebration of San Juan Eve, and we all headed to the beach for an all night party (luckily no work for me on the Friday!). Valencia has a wide and sandy beach where many people had gathered around hundreds of small bonfires. The air was filled with smoke and resembled Guy Fawkes Night in the UK – except that the temperature was a world apart! At midnight the tradition of jumping over the fire three times was attempted and a quick dip in the warm Mediterranean Sea to jump over the waves. Lots of fun was had and a game of football: not sure that the British did very well at the football given that we all woke up the next morning with identical foot injuries. Yes – I did play football again after drinking, yes – I did get injured and yes – I probably would do it again!
So eventually I made it back to the apartment at 4am and fell to sleep only to be woken at around 7am as the first text messages arrived on my phone with the dreaded news that Vote Leave had won and Brexit was turning into a reality. I can safely say that I was in a state of shock – what had we done? I have never been brought back down to reality as much as I was on that Friday morning. I watched as the value of the pound started to fall and the stock markets started to react. Ironically at around the same time as hearing the news I got my bill from Remote Year for my next month’s fee which had to be paid in dollars. Suddenly reality was dawning – everything was instantly going to cost a lot more. When you are earning your money in £ and having to pay for rent, food and general living expenses in $ and € you realise how much of a difference this will make. And the difference is instant – there was no warning, no time to adjust – the rates changed instantly. I can safely say that due to Brexit I have so far had to find an extra £200 and we are only one week in. I have nothing to show for that £200 – this is the reality of what it means when a currency goes down so sharply, someone is paying for this.
As the day went on I saw much gloating on Facebook and other social media outlets and comments that we were 10 hours in and nothing had happened to the economy! Well the reality is that everyone within the boundaries of the UK are buffeted at the moment, the increase in costs will make their way into the supermarkets, petrol pumps, holidays if the pound continues to remain undervalued. Being on the outside meant that I was instantly exposed to what it means. Oil is traded in dollars – therefore there is only one way the price of petrol and diesel is going to go and that is up. Greater fuel costs will mean that all goods will go up in price – including those made in the UK as the cost of transporting them goes up. And then everything that is imported into the UK will also go up in price. At the moment, prices are being buffeted but they will go up if the £ remains low: the middle man will want to pass on their additional costs to the consumer.
While economics played a big part in why I wanted to stay in the EU it is not the main reason. To me the free movement of people allowed the type of lifestyle that I and many of the younger generation want to live: to have the freedom to live and work in other countries. We hear all the time about the movement of people into the UK but what about all of the UK people who have decided to live and work abroad? I feel as if Brexit is telling me that I’m not allowed to live the life that I want to lead, that I have to come back to the UK and ‘fit in’, ‘live like everyone else’, ‘settle down’, ‘start a family’!!! I’ve made decisions in my life that are not typical but why is that wrong?
And now we get to the main point of why I’m so worried about the future. I have been horrified over the past week at the racist comments that are appearing with increased frequency on social media. These are often coupled with the word’s ‘I’m not a racist but..’ I know these people and I would generally agree that they don’t intend to be racist BUT every time one of these comments is posted or spoken out loud it helps validate the people who are racist who do go around and demand that people leave and go home, those that intimidate with words and violence. The frequency of the posts are helping to legitimise this hatred of anyone who is different. Where will this lead us? I don’t want to live in a country where everyone has to be the same: I want to embrace the different people and cultures that makes the UK a vibrant place to live. I therefore would like to make a plea to everyone who reads this. Please think before reposting memes on social media – how could it be seen by others? is this being used to stir up racial hatred? does someone have an alternative agenda behind this?
So my closing thoughts are that while the decision didn’t go the way I voted for, we as a nation must come back together. There are deep divisions starting to emerge and social media is making these divisions deeper and wider. Our country will be economically better off and safer if we work together and embrace that everyone is not the same, regardless of whether we are part of the EU or not.