As a mother raising two kids on the outskirts of London, today has been fraught with anxiety and uncertainty, as the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.
But before we get into that, let’s discuss how we even got here in the first place. Back in January 2013, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron promised the divisive Tory party that there would be a vote on Britain’s continued membership in the European Union (EU) — the union of 28 countries forged out of World War II in the desire for peace in a war-torn and divided continent. The war, I’ll add, that my grandfather served in — one that showed the true pride of Britain and the belief that a united Europe would be a stronger one. Cameron set this out in his 2015 election manifesto, and a date was then set for some time before 2017.
So there we were, yesterday, deciding on whether to “Brexit” or not.
My husband and I, along with 72 percent of the U.K., turned out to vote on the referendum of the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union, and I will tell you wholeheartedly that I chose to remain. Every friend I know, every colleague, every acquaintance on Twitter and Facebook — all voted to remain, bar one person. I went to bed happy and confident we would remain in the EU, and awoke to, quite frankly, a nightmare.
In the most historic event since World War II, the majority of voters chose to leave the European Union — with a 52 percent / 48 percent split. And now, I can’t be sure of anything. Our Prime Minister Cameron has resigned, there is no vote of confidence in the Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn, and no one really knows what this all means or who will lead the uncertain path as we untangle ourselves from the rest of Europe.
So all I can go on is what is expected to happen, and things aren’t looking good for my family, and others, here …
Traveling around Europe
My kids can no longer work in 27 countries, can no longer enjoy the limitless freedom that I’ve had in being European. Travel for them will be more difficult; we will need visas eventually just to jump on the Eurostar train and visit Paris (a mere few hours away), and more than likely we will have to apply for new passports. When I grew up 20-year-olds went inter-railing around Europe, working along the way — it was a rite of passage to adulthood. Those idyllic days are now gone for my own children.
Businesses and the economy
So many people I know, including my husband, work for companies in the European division that have headquarters in the U.K. If we are not part of Europe anymore, these head offices will surely move to Germany or Dublin; what then for our jobs? International companies previously had warned that the U.K. would become a much less attractive place to set up business if it left the EU, meaning potentially fewer companies will now come to Britain and offer work to U.K. nationals. So loss of job potential, loss of jobs … will likely lead to a recession.
According to The Guardian, the Treasury forecasted that a vote to leave the EU would lead to a fall in GDP of between 3.6 and 6 percent, a reduction in wages between 2.8 and 4 percent, more than half a million job losses, more borrowing, and higher inflation. That means petroleum, air travel, food, electricity — everything — will cost more, and yet we’ll have less income to pay it. Having just struggled out of a recession, I am gutted at the thought of going back there.
Moreover, a report released last week by PathMotion surveying HR managers and senior executives of 75 top U.K. graduate employers revealed 49 percent of employers said they were likely to lower their intake of graduates if Britain left the EU. So what will happen to my kids in the future? Will they have less job opportunities post-university?
The stock market and pensions
Our pensions? Well, the Financial Times Stock Exchange opened this morning and the collapse was monumental, plunging more that 8 percent, wiping £120 billion off the value of shares in the 100 biggest U.K. companies. If your pension was dependent on market funds, you will be hit — badly. Interest rates on our savings (what little we had), have been hit and are certain to drop further. All our hard earned savings decreasing in value by the day … I could cry.
The housing market
My family had hoped to move this year — get a house with a bigger garden, another bedroom. But those plans will almost certainly be put on hold because house prices are expected to plummet between 10 to 18 percent over the next two years. Henry Pryor, a London buying agent, warned that the average home in the U.K. will likely end 2016 worth £20,000 less than it was valued at in January. People do not take financial risks at a time of uncertainty and the last thing they’ll do is up their mortgages in case interest rates rise and they suddenly can’t afford the repayments.
The entertainment industry
On a personal note, I work as a screenwriter in TV. The EU funds so many films and co-productions here in the U.K. that will simply no longer exist, meaning less financial backing, fewer TV dramas getting made, and fewer jobs for writers. Pact, an association which represents independent producers in Britain, had 85 percent of its voters wanting to remain, no wonder …
Game of Thrones is filmed where I grew up in Northern Ireland, which, being part of the U.K., also is set to depart the EU. So what does this mean for our favorite fantasy drama? At first I was worried, because I knew in the past the show had been partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund — created to spur economic growth across the EU. But in a statement this morning, HBO told fans that they no longer use money from EU’s Fund, so they “look forward to business as usual.”
The National Health Service (NHS)
One in 20 National Health Service workers are from the EU — what for them now? And I am worried for the future of our healthcare system entirely if Boris Johnson becomes the Tory leader, as he and his Brexit cohorts have vowed to dismantle the NHS — the healthcare our taxes pay for. I was able to have two C-sections on the NHS; what for my daughter when she has kids? Will she even be able to afford to?
The future of the United Kingdom
My good friends back home in Northern Ireland are gutted: after years of peace in the province, will the old Troubles resurface with people wanting a “United Ireland”? Driving from Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland will now be fraught with border controls and customs checks.
Selfishly, I have loved being part of a United Kingdom. However, the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today a second independence referendum is “highly likely” in the next two-and-a-half years, meaning Scotland could soon vote to leave the United Kingdom completely. Similarly, Northern Ireland could choose to do the same, which means we’ll be less a United Kingdom and more England and Wales adrift. What worries me too is the fact that in leaving the EU, it must stand to reason that the remaining countries will be less willing to trade with us, if only to prove the point that the EU works and to leave it is a death knell.
Today, I am honestly ashamed to be British. I feel a country voted out of misplaced anger at the tiny proportion who own the country’s vast wealth. The majority of those who voted to leave were over 65 years old — baby boomers who have likely paid off their mortgages, have had educational and social mobility, and are afraid of the “threat” of immigration. To the 75 percent of those under the age of 25 who voted to remain, all I can say is I’m terribly sorry. The generation who’ve screwed this up don’t know what they’ve done to us — and lucky for them, they won’t be around to feel the huge impact of their choice.
A grave day for us all.More On