Brexit! – Voices from the people

A photographic impression of fear, anger and uncertainty
by Vroni Holzmann

“My future is in absolute limbo” Cat Crisan
“This immigrant-bashing thing!” Eric Swanepoel
“Brexit is a stupid idea” Justine Blair
“It wasn’t a democratic vote” Bill Wilson
“Westminster causes me complete despair” Vicky Allan
“The whole idea is ludicrous!” Helga Rhein

“Brexit could kill me” Sophie O’Riordan-Holzmann

 


“My future is in absolute limbo”

Cat Crisan, 41, customer service administrator

 

Brexit fucked up my life. I think it might have ruined my life, because my life is here. Now it turns out that I have no rights whatsoever and I just have to wait and see what happens next. I would say my future is in absolute limbo. I went to court and I lost my case because according to her majesty’s high court I have no status here despite having lived here for 16 years. I was just so outraged about being called an alien and not having the opportunity to get social security inthe country where I used to have social security.

I don’t understand Theresa May. The minute the Tories were in power everything went downhill and that wasn’t even a nationality thing. That was just the social security benefit cuts affected everyone and me as well. Yeah, it’s the fuckin Tories. It’s just amazing how much shit a government can create.

My anxiety started when I became unemployed two years ago and wanted to sign on and I was told that I am not allowed to sign on, because I do not have settled status. I lost in court with a proper judge who was actually very sympathetic but she had no way of giving me settled status. To get this, you need to have been paying National Insurance contributions consecutively for five years. When you are in between jobs and you don’t pay NIC for a month that sets you back to zero. It’s as if you had just entered the country. The hostile environment means that it’s made impossible for EU citizens to live here. I’m super scared because my job I have now, we are totally in limbo. It’s a fully international company that might very well consider moving away.

I’m usually just very very, angry because it’s just insane. Why would anyone vote against the opportunity of living freely and travelling freely on an entire continent!

Brexit affects me massively emotionally on so many levels. I have a Damocles sword over my head. I feel like I have to make a decision about my life. It makes me revalue my friendships. I am here because my life is here, and my life is not shaped by my job or my career, my life is shaped by the people I know and I love. Are those people really my good friends? Are they reason enough for me to stay in a country where the majority of people, and mostly the government, want me to go? Is this really all worth it?

 

 

“This immigrant-bashing thing!”

Eric Swanepoel, 54, freelance researcher, editor, writer & environmental activist

 

Brexit is an almighty mess. The people in charge of the leave campaign were found guilty of financial irregularities. The vote for leave was quite narrow, 52% to 48%, so on that basis alone it should certainly not be regarded as the settled will of the British people.

The most ardent leaders of the leave campaign were people who had vested interests in the financial services industry, and I think they were very worried about the EU tightening legislation on tax avoidance. They played on the basic fears of disadvantaged people in the UK. Short‐term profits of the super-rich are the driving force behind what the government does and this just widens inequality.

This immigrant-bashing thing! A lot of it was actually outright lies, of course. I think a lot of people who voted leave mistakenly thought that it was just a vote for clamping down on immigration in general. After the vote there was a vast surge in hate crimes. There was a famous picture that Nigel Farage used showing all these supposed hordes of refugees, but it was a complete lie because it was people in Syria and had nothing to do with immigration into the UK. Another big lie was that we would have £350 million a week for the NHS because we were spending that on the EU. One of the main leaders of the leave campaign subsequently admitted that they won because they lied. Another element to that is also the implication that immigrants are bad. On the whole immigrants contribute more than they supposedly cost.

I don’t think Theresa May cares at all about people. That much is pretty obvious. She couldn’t have done the things she’s done if she has any human empathy. It would be interesting to know to what extent she’s influenced by her husband. He works for an international organisation which helps big companies like Amazon and Starbucks avoid paying tax. I don’t know her personally, so she’s a bit of an enigma to me. But what she’s done is horrendous.

I think Brexit contributes to a general state of anxiety and dismay. I’m very concerned about climate change and Brexit even relates to that. Who knows what they’re going to do with environmental rules? It is obvious to me that leaving the EU will be a bonfire of human rights and environmental protection.

 

 

“Brexit is a stupid idea”

Justine Blair, 48, cleaner & administrator

 

I feel absolutely and completely gutted that on the 29th Brexit is meant to happen. It’s not despair; it’s like a kind of empty feeling that it’s going to be shit. I’ve lost faith in politicians. I’m probably going to be even poorer than I am.

I’m probably going to lose friends. I really love living in a cosmopolitan city where there’s people from all sorts of places living here. To think that a lot of them will go away is sad. It will just make the place where I live so boring. Also I think it’s a chance for rich people to get richer and to take away human rights from a lot a people that are vulnerable. I can see a government and a country in the future who can do what they like and treat people badly.

I’m probably going to lose friends. I really love living in a cosmopolitan city where there’s people from all sorts of places living here. To think that a lot of them will go away is sad. It will just make the place where I live so boring. Also I think it’s a chance for rich people to get richer and to take away human rights from a lot a people that are vulnerable. I can see a government and a country in the future who can do what they like and treat people badly.

I think Brexit is a stupid idea. There’s no need for it. I felt disbelief that people wanted it. I would never have chosen it and I can’t believe that people are going for it. I only realised how bad it was after the stupid referendum happened. And that people are still wanting it to happen just shocks me. It feels worse in the last month because you can see how there’s no solutions, there’s nothing bashed out and people are saying that it shouldn’t go ahead and somehow the politicians are still going for it. I work for a German woman and she provides me with an income and I don’t know what will happen with Brexit, whether I’ll have a job.

I don’t trust Theresa May. I think that her agenda doesn’t represent the general population and the sentiment of most people. I think that a lot of people who voted for Brexit didn’t vote for Theresa May to do what she wanted in the process of negotiating Brexit. I know she’s the Prime Minister but she seems to have more power than should be allowed. It almost seems like she’s not democratic, in the way she’s going about Brexit. I am scared. I feel so disempowered by choices that other people have made. And how a traditional, old-school mentality has kept people in Scotland from being able to have their own choices about what they want to happen in their own country. I fear for the future and for how power can be abused even more, especially when there’s not European laws to temper some of the bad things that could happen. Scotland chose to remain in Europe, but because we’re part of the UK we’re stuck in this horrible situation. I just feel like I don’t live in a democracy.

 
 

 

“It wasn’t a democratic vote”

Bill Wilson, 55, data analyst & Co-Convener of the Scottish Greens Edinburgh Branch

 

When I first heard how the vote went, I thought I’d misheard it. I didn’t believe it. In Scotland 66% of the people wanted to stay within the European Union. So it really hadn’t occurred to me this could happen. It made no sense to me, and I felt frustrated because I believed then as I do now that this was predominantly not about the European Union, but about racism. It’s about a petty‐minded sort of imperialism that a certain part of the United Kingdom just has not escaped from. And I think that’s part of the reason we ended up in this bizarre Brexit scenario and it’s frustrating. It’s ridiculous that you end up in this bizarre situation because people have not let go of the idea of British imperialism or Britain being a great power, which is long past. And I’m glad to say it because we know what Britain did as a great power, it was pretty damn nasty. So the fact it’s past is a good, positive thing.

The European Union is not perfect, it has fairly major flaws, but actually in many ways it has worked quite well. When you look at civil liberties, I think they’re much stronger because we are in the European Union. I do not trust the present government by any stretch of the imagination to protect the civil liberties of the citizens of its country. I think the concept is important of having a larger body which can say to multi-nationals: No, there are certain fundamental rights, working rights, civil rights, human rights that you cannot ignore. No nation and no company can afford not to trade within the European Union, and that gives the European Union strength.

Prior to the First World War you did not require passports to travel round Europe. You simply went to where you wanted. And there was no restriction on where you worked in Europe. So actually, Europe didn’t have enforced borders. And even after the First World War, you needed a passport, but there were no restrictions for a European working in another western European country. I think when Brexit happens the United Kingdom is going get a very abrupt shock. We’ve heard all about this idea that we can negotiate better trade deals on our own. Yes, the UK is a big economy. But the reality is it’s not as big as the European Union.

I think we’re going to see serious impact on the quality of our food and the quality of animal welfare, because the bottom line is, it’s going to be very hard to maintain animal welfare rights in this country if we’re constantly being undercut by countries which don’t maintain the same quality in animal welfare rights. I think we’ll see our environmental laws significantly weakened. We’ll see it more difficult to maintain our health and safety at work laws. Multinationals will use things like the world trade agreement to put pressure on our government which is not strong in defending these things in the first place.

Austerity does not work. It weakens your economy. If you cut workers’ rights and start cutting the wages at the bottom then what you actually do is push your country further towards a recession. If you erode basic rights it will have a negative effect on our economy. People will get poorer; the gap between the wealthy and the poor will rise. We’ve already seen that under the Conservative government, and it’s going to get greater. Now, we know that if you increase the gap between the poor and the rich you’ll have higher crime rates, shorter life spans and less general happiness. All this affects not just poor people, but also rich people. You have a massive impact on health, happiness and crime throughout the entire population. So it is a negative run all the way.

Theresa May has shown a callous indifference to the poorer people in this society. The only proven way to escape an economic problem in a recession is Keynesian. There’s only one way that works, and the Conservatives have done exactly the opposite. And they’ve done it with a remarkable degree of callousness. They’ve changed disability allowance, they’ve changed unemployment, they’ve put people in desperate situations where they are without money and they cannot get money. They forced people into low-paid jobs which have nothing to do with training; they’re about keeping wages down. They made people take these jobs in order to keep their benefits which means, of course, you force the wages of other people in these jobs down because you’ve got another source of forced employees. Since the 60s life expectancy has risen for all areas of the population in Britain. It has now started to go backwards for the lowest income section of the population. For the first time since the 1850s we’ve actually seen the gap between the poor and the rich widen. For something like a hundred and fifty years it had been slowly but surely decreasing. Under May it’s widening. We’ve seen a government who had money in tax-evading areas. We’ve seen a government which is callously indifferent to the bulk of the population and which is transferring money from the poor sections of society to the wealthier sections of society. And that is utterly contemptible. We’ve seen a government which has been condemned by the committee for failing to reach their climate change targets and they’re clearly not going to reach them.

There’s the whole immigration issue. Theresa May should have said on day one, whatever deal we get with Europe, European citizens will have full rights in this country. They should not have been bargaining tools. It’s also inhuman. If people have been here for five or ten years, even if they don’t have kids, they have homes here, their friends are here and they’ve settled here. To then just say they have to uproot themselves is a form of scattered ethnic cleansing, where you ethnically cleanse your country of everyone that doesn’t happen to have been born here.

And look at the Windrush population. I mean for goodness sake. If people have been living in this country for 40 years, do we really care if some of them came in illegally? They have worked, have paid their taxes and have contributed to our society. The government is not disputing with the Windrush people that they have been here for 40 years; they’re simply disputing the documents. And surely a humane government would say, ‘You have been here for 40 years. You can stay.’

It’s complete callous indifference to human beings, I mean it’s typified by the fact you have two ex-members of the Bullingdon club, the previous prime minister and Boris Johnson, who is a joke. It’s a club based on arrogance. They go out, they get extremely drunk, they wreck places and then they chuck a thousand pounds to the restaurant owner to keep quiet. What you have is an elite privileged group who have no concept of how the majority live. If you wreck a restaurant owner’s business you clearly have just contempt for people who make a living. You have contempt for the bulk of the population. And then they somehow become the heads of state.

I’ve never met Theresa May so maybe she’s a very nice human being to talk to, but her policies are vile. They’re contemptuous of people. They have an indifference to the next generation in terms of environment and they have an indifference to the bulk of this generation because the poor don’t register on the scale. I’m angry that we’ve been taken to this point on a tissue of lies and I’m angry we’ve been taken to this point on what was clearly illegal behaviour by the exit campaign. I mean, what we’re basically saying is, you have rules for the referendum, but you can just ignore them. The winning side can just get away with it. And that does make me angry.

You can’t have a fraudulent democratic election. It’s not democratic. We should have done it again. If the side that commits the fraud is the side that wins then clearly it has to be redone. It wasn’t a democratic vote. Well, we don’t live in a very democratic country anyway. Democracy is more than just an individual having a vote. You need a flow of information, and the flow of information has to be fair and equal. What we have in the United Kingdom is a press body which has a single view, and it’s an establishment view.

The Irish border is very difficult. There’s the unionist community, who are absolutely desperate not to be part of Ireland and who don’t want the UK to treat Northern Ireland differently because they’re concerned that this will create a movement towards the republic. And there’s obviously the nationalists in Northern Ireland who want to be part of Ireland, who will be extremely annoyed at having a hard border between the place they happen to think is their own country and who will now be more desperate to get out of the UK, because they’re suddenly pulled out of the European Union. And of course as you know, in Northern Ireland the majority voted very clearly to stay in the European Union, so I imagine there must be a lot of frustration.

I think the fact that Scotland voted to stay in the EU is an excellent reason for another independence vote. And the hypocrisy of the Tory party saying nothing has changed, when during the independence referendum their major argument was that if Scotland achieves independence from the UK it will be forced out of Europe. I think one of the things the Scottish Parliament did correct at the very beginning was saying, ‘We believe each independent nation within the United Kingdom should have a right of veto on leaving.’ Because I don’t think it is the right of the citizens or the residents of England to subtract the residents of Scotland from the European Union without the agreement of the residents of Scotland. You know, this is a fundamental change to the nature of the union which should not be permissible. But Westminster said no, we all vote as a single entity. That’s why I think the United Kingdom doesn’t work anyway, because it’s always been determined by the south and centre of England. What Scotland wanted never really mattered all that much and the devolved parliament only gives you limited power. They didn’t create a proper federal state. You know, it’s not like Germany where there’s big chunks of power lying within each federal state. And people say, we’re getting out of the European Union, it’s got all this power; but actually, it has very little power. The European Union does not have a lot of power over your life. And not a fraction of the power that Westminster has over Scotland.

 

 

“Westminster causes me complete despair”

Vicky Allan, 48, journalist

 

Brexit makes me anxious and worried. There are so many things in the world to be anxious about and this one seems entirely unnecessary, and a distraction from all the more important things. I wish we could rewind and somehow make it so that the whole vote never happened.

I woke up the morning of the Brexit vote and, to be honest, I so much assumed it was going to be a vote for remain that I didn’t even check the result. And at some point I checked and I could not believe it. And then my chief worry was for all the other people – people who are my friends, the European citizens who live around me – and what it would mean for them. Some people have left already, they’ve gone back to their countries. But also I was worried that we were going to see this rise in hate, that was really what I was most worried about at that point. And we did see that.

Brexit is not what I want. But also Brexit is the thing that gets in the way of all the other things that are important to me. I feel like all there’s all these other important issues out there in the world and they’re being suspended, there’s barely any discussion about climate change. What’s going on with Brexit is not so different from what happened with Trump and a lot of the other issues that are around globally. But I do think the media is in a mess and I think politics is in a mess. If you look at Westminster now, it kind of causes me complete despair when I see what’s going on there. It just doesn’t seem any more like we have a working political system. I can’t see a way out at the end of this. Even if we get the people’s vote and Brexit doesn’t happen, I can’t see a future with politics that I’m happy with.

Actually part of the problem really came out of the original whole set up within the Tory party. I think David Cameron was not naïve – I think it’s that sort of arrogance really, that he could just do this and breeze through it. He didn’t really engage with the underlying disillusionment and dissatisfaction that the Brexit feeling tapped into. And you know, ideally I’d like to see a more socialist politics tap into that feeling, but that feeling was tapped into with some sort of fear or hatred-of-the-other, and just a sort of anti-EU propaganda: ‘Lets pick this institution as being the problem.’

David Cameron called the vote with such a small time frame leading up to it. It was a ridiculously short time frame in which the debate didn’t really get to develop and we got very little information. So I think the media had some responsibility but the amount of information that we got was so little. If you think about the independence referendum, we had a whole year of stuff building up to that. You need enough time for people to start engaging with it, so that the real questions can come out and be made to be answered. We didn’t know what we were voting for. I think that opinions are changing very quickly in this kind of climate with social media. I don’t think that the media wasn’t neutral; I actually think it was broadly pro-remain. But I think that the leave campaign was good entertainment so it was given time.

I feel there is a lot of anxiety around anyway. I’m trying to keep it down and maybe one way of keeping it down is not looking at the news so much, which is not a great thing if you’re a journalist. I mean it’s sometimes hard to pick apart Brexit anxiety from a wider anxiety about the state of politics. And maybe part of my anxiety is my fear that even if we got what I wanted – a people’s vote which allowed us to remain – my anxiety would still there, because this atmosphere, this feeling of tension between people, is not going to go away. Brexit revealed so much. It revealed a lot of things about the fraud, the media and the way our political system was operating, but it also brought out a whole load of feelings and anxieties that shocked me.

 

 

“The whole idea is ludicrous!”

Helga Rhein, 66, retired GP & Vitamin D campaigner

 

I think Brexit is complete and utter lunacy in this modern day and age when Europe tries to join together in order to avoid wars and foster friendships. It is nothing to do with self-determination. We already can self-determine our country here in the UK. Brexit is just an idea of the right-wingers of the Conservative party, who want free trade instead of trade arrangements with the Europeans.

The morning after the vote we got a shock, of course, like everyone else did. We went to bed in the full conviction that nothing bad would happen. Of course no one would vote against a united European idea, and we couldn’t believe it! It was the shock of my life-time, when the next day the news in the radio was that the vote went for Brexit. It was just unbelievable. We don’t know what the position is of all of us who have been lured to come to this country, fully trained. I came here in 1978 and it was relatively easy at that time. The European Union had just started, I only had to do an English medical exam in order to have my qualifications from Germany accepted here. I came here because I met my husband here on holiday, and then I decided to move, even though I didn’t know for how long. I thought maybe six months or a year, and now that’s 40 years ago.

I got dual nationality straight after the lost Scottish independence vote in 2014. It cost me £1,200 then, but it’s now much more expensive. It’s outrageous. And you had to go through the life-in-the-UK test. And I had to complete a language test, which was an additional cost, although I had been working here for 35 years as a GP. The rules were very strict, you needed a language test unless you had studied in this country or had a degree. I had to swear an oath to the Queen but I closed my mouth and didn’t say it.

Theresa May is not a very capable politician I think. Apparently she keeps far too many things far too close to her and makes executive decisions. A good politician doesn’t do that in my eyes. She was very unpopular amongst the people who think like me when she worked at the Home Office. Because she introduced fairly brutal rules to foreigners. She should still be punished for being the leader of the Home Office when they shredded the Windrush papers.

I have no faith at all in Westminster. There’s really no democracy, including the ridiculous piece of theatre they’re doing every day in the parliament. I’m scared as I know that human nature will not manage to have world peace, not in my life time and not in our children’s lives time, because we are envious and aggressive to our neighbours. So you need really good strict rules which regulate the communications between the different groups. We have had 60 years without war in the whole of Europe, this is unheard of before. But now I am worried about hostilities. I’m worried that if Europe breaks up, if the rules and structures are broken up, countries are sucked into aggravating policies and eventually they end in war. The whole idea of Brexit is ludicrously and ridiculously crazy. It is absurd and against any reasonable, human and sensible idea. You link people together with trade rules and an exchange of ideas, research and students. So to get rid of all that is backwards and antidemocratic. I would like to have a vote where you have two choices; either an acceptance of some kind of deal or no Brexit. And I would sincerely hope that the majority of the whole of the UK has come to their senses and would vote for no Brexit. And if that happens I’m going to dance on the street.

 

 

“Brexit could kill me”

Sophie O’Riordan-Holzmann, 16, pupil

 

I was born in Britain, in Scotland actually, but my parents were both from other countries. My mother is German and my dad is Irish, and so when I was born I got a German passport. My mum said they had changed the law just before I was born and I couldn’t get a British passport. This means that when Brexit happens I won’t be a British citizen so it might become a problem for me to stay.

As a type-one diabetic I have the worry that I’ll stop getting NHS help. I rely on the NHS for my medication and for if anything should happen, that I can visit the hospital and the NHS would pay for it. If the NHS cuts me off then I probably won’t be able to stay because I can’t afford to pay for all of my needs as a diabetic on my own.

My medicines are life-saving so I am really scared that I might not be able to get my medicines. I need insulin 24 hours a day and if I don’t get it I’m going by ambulance to the hospital. So Brexit could actually kill me.

I think it took a while for me to understand what the real problem was. I knew from the referendum a little bit because I knew some facts and my parents told me a lot about it and why it was a problem if Brexit happened. But it didn’t really sink in as personally affecting me a lot till more recently than that. Last year maybe.

I think Brexit is awful, I don’t think it makes any sense and I think that people don’t really understand how bad it’s going to be, and that they think it’s not as big a deal as it is, which is another big problem regarding it.

I think that Theresa May is… wait, can I swear? I think that Theresa May is a bitch because she causes so many problems for so many people and she’s now causing this, and there is Windrush and everything, and it’s just awful what she gets away with doing to people.

 

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“Bad news every day” 

Vroni Holzmann, 47, composer & photographer

When I heard the result of the vote on the radio I cried. I felt utterly distraught. The problem since is that almost every day the news bring me more bad news. I find this upsetting and difficult to cope with. The Brexit vote was won with lies and fraud. It has to be repeated if democracy shall have a meaning in this country. The will of the people was not heard, and this can be corrected.

Brexit is a complex topic. In my opinion it can’t be separated from how the government has managed and changed its policies towards perceived foreigners in Great Britain. Theresa May has wreaked havoc in the Home Office since 2010 until she became Prime Minister. How her crimes went unanswered, with no court action and no resignation from her current position of leader of a nation, is a mystery to me. Documents were shredded to harm innocent citizens! It seems to me that politicians are not taken to responsibility for their harmful actions and just stay in power. There are a lot of things Theresa May has done people don’t know. If you didn’t happen to read one article then you just don’t find out about it. I think she’s done criminal things while she had the power to do them. In my opinion Theresa May should have had to resign as prime minister after the Windrush scandal.

I’m scared of what the politicians get away with at the moment. The lies! And with the hostile environment the government is just making it so hard for perceived foreigners that some people just give up and leave. The EU doesn’t run Britain. So, that’s a wrong perception of those who say let’s break away from a bunch of bullies. But Scotland is actually run by Westminster. In a bad way. Of course this doesn’t mean that a Scottish government would necessarily do it better. We can only try. But we’re hopefully more progressive.

With this whole Brexit idea people are working against democracy. Never has democracy been more in question in Britain. There was always a sense of democracy. Right now a lot of people question that. And people question it on both sides. I’ve got this feeling at the moment as if you have a country split in half, and both are unhappy with the result of a vote and both feel unfairly treated. So it’s like the strangest thing that happened here. Because some think, well we’ve voted and now we’re not getting it delivered and others are thinking Brexit was voted for because of lies and because of fraud. So right now no-one can win and everyone doubts democracy. And that is bizarre. How did they manage that everybody on both sides of the camp is now actually doubting the leadership of the country? It’s quite bad.

I didn’t get British citizenship at this point and the fact is, there is such a strong sense of me not wanting to have to go through this. If they just threw it at me, I would take it. But it’s a complicated application process and it costs a lot of money. I also find the life-in-the-UK test is actually against human rights. No-one should be asked these questions, which even British people can’t answer. Yes, they may have citizenship tests all over the world, but I still think it’s wrong that they would be the basis on which someone could stay in a country or not. But not having citizenship still makes me very worried, and its true the amount of anxiety you get through this is terrible.

This bus went round England with a big lie on it about money that could go to the NHS instead of the EU. I was so upset when I saw that. People believed this! I should have lain down in front of the bus with all the lies on it. I should have taken direct action to stop it from going up and down the country like a medieval jester, using deception to create hatred against an organisation that brings peace to all of Europe. That’s what I regret every day since the referendum. That I didn’t lie down in front of that bus.

 

As a wee remain nerd I made a little list of reasons not to leave the EU and why the government is bad:

Don’t leave the EU when you have no answer to:

  • The Irish border
  • EU citizens both in Britain and the rest of Europe
  • Racism and rise in hate crime
  • Your debts to the EU
  • Fraud committed during the referendum campaign

You are a bad government when you think this is okay:

  • Austerity politics causing a terrible economy and much suffering
  • The Prime Minister hindering the prosecution of a serial rapist
  • Hostile environment policies
  • The Windrush scandal

I feel this list is not complete. Any further suggestions just put in an envelope and ask your raven to take them to Westminster. But be careful. He may never return.

 

29 March 2019