We read a lot about Poles coming to live in Britain. Well, I am an example of the reverse phenomenon, Brits living in Poland. I am now applying for Polish citizenship. Having lived here for over 25 years, I didn’t even get a vote in the referendum.
I want to be citizen of an EU country. I now have rights and freedoms to live, work, trade, study and travel as a result of Britain’s EU membership. I want to keep them after Britain surrenders them.
I want to be fully part of a country that shares my European values, to make a statement that I am fundamentally against Britain disconnecting from Europe and to show how disgusted I am that loyal British subjects living abroad have been disenfranchised.
I am internationalist in outlook. My Britishness is important to me, but not my defining characteristic. I was happy being in a Europe where barriers were coming down and nationality was becoming less important over time. My decision to apply to become Polish is an emotional reaction against the architects and leaders of Brexit. I feel saddened, ashamed, infuriated and/or repelled, by them. Whether they are holidaying in Switzerland or playing cricket the day after the vote, I just can’t identify and feel close to a country led by such irresponsible people.
I want Britain to be a decent country, treating other countries’ citizens and British people with respect. Repeating “Brexit means Brexit” without saying what it means is anything but. Real people and lives are affected. Millions of foreigners in Britain and British people abroad live with unnecessary uncertainty about their residency rights. I did not always agree with Tony Blair, David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher, and other British leaders – but I never felt they clowned around, playing word games with topics that impact people’s lives.
Taking away our children’s future
International contacts and diversity benefit British culture. Rejecting intolerant faiths and ideology requires knowledge and understanding. Reducing the number of British people who know the rest of the world and foreigners who know the British will do lasting harm.
We will never be able to fully quantify the loss of experience that the Brexiteers are imposing on foreigners and British people alike. It is heart breaking. My six year old daughter once told me: “it’s not what you have – it’s your experiences that matter”. Brexiteers are stealing future experiences from our children.
Wealthy, well educated and successful people will find ways to get second passports, visas and escape the stagnation, isolation and poverty that awaits. The Brexit leadership will be mostly OK, and better able to afford a cut in their living standards. For the poor and less well connected, being stuck in Britain will be much worse. There will be much less tax revenue to alleviate the many problems that Brexit will cause.
Alexander Bett and Anand Giridharadas gave excellent talks at the TED Summit in the last week of June 2016, and they spoke for me. I join them in recognizing that the reasons people voted for Brexit were real. Those leaders in politics and the media who misled the British people are responsible. If they see the error of their ways in years to come and work together with those who want to lead Britain out of isolation and poverty back to Europe I will be happy they changed their minds. But Brexiteers, it is you who leading this doomed project. You are responsible. It is going to be hard to forgive, and impossible to forget.
Richard Lucas is a businessman with companies in Poland, Britain, Hong Kong, and the US
Edited by Hugo Dixon