Three Prime Ministers and 1,317 days later, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland left the European Union to the jubilant scenes in front of the Parliament in London last night. The Brexit core of Nigel Farage led celebrations. At the same time, Conservative party MPs celebrated in their constituencies, and for fear of further strife, Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained inside 10 Downing Street.
Throughout the day, Brexiteers were wearing hats and suits adorned by union jack looking forward to getting back their “independence” while the Remain camp serenaded the staff at the EU’s London headquarters. The country was truly divided last night, but this morning the noises of yesterday had died down as Johnson’s government prepares for 11 months of trade negotiations before the UK properly divorces the EU, officially.
But let’s examine how we get to this point?
The EU was created right after World War II had ended to prevent European countries from going to war with each other and to form a better economy for the block. Naturally, many European countries wanted to be part of this new superpower. To join, a country had to have the right GDP and fulfill obligations and rules to be a member state. To enter, all member states had to agree. The UK applied to join in 1963 and 1967, and both times it was rejected by French President Charles de Gaulle who stated:
"a number of aspects of Britain's economy, from working practices to agriculture," had "made Britain incompatible with Europe" and that Britain harbored a "deep-seated hostility" to any pan-European project.”
In 1969, de Gaulle relinquished power, and in 1973, the UK became a member of the European Communities as it was known then.
But with the outset of the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, the EU was seen as not speaking with one voice and refused to interfere even though the war was in their back yard, even when after WWII, they said, “Never Again.” It was this war that changed the EU who went from economic power to political movement overnight. It became an almost dictatorial institution that was in dire need of reforms but had ignored all the calls for that. Brussels went on some crazy march trying to make the European Commission in charge of every member state’s national parliaments and delegate what countries can and cannot do. There was no democracy, only dictatorship the European way by unelected commissioners. Yes, there were so many advantages to the EU, but there were equally so many disadvantages too.
The EU operates under the Singe Market meaning open borders, free movement of people, and free trade amongst the member states. However, it is the free movement of people that rubbed the UK the wrong way. But they were not the only once that saw this as a problem, so did Germany, and some Scandinavian countries like Denmark. With this rule, it meant that a person from any EU country could move within the EU and receive benefits even when they have not paid tax in that country. That was most prominent in the UK, were under the Labour party, EU immigrants could come and claim for everything free, including dental. If one parent worked in the UK, and his child lived in another country, that child was entitled to child benefits for which British taxpayers had to pay for even when the parent was not in the UK long enough to be allowed to have those benefits.
Many Eastern European students, in particular, Polish and Romanians, took out university loans they were supposed to pay back. Instead, they returned to their home countries after graduating without returning a penny. Some of the worst cases were people with criminal records, especially those from Lithuania and Latvia coming to the UK unchecked because of the open borders. They would carry on with crimes - one murdered a teenage girl after raping her, the other a Polish man, brutally beat a professor on his front door. The crime spree shot up like never before.
Soon before the 2016 EU Referendum, Prime Minister (at the time) David Cameron traveled to Brussels to ask for the freeze in benefits for those immigrants and for immigration to the UK to be curbed. Yet countries like Lithuanian and Poland who were living off of British and other Western EU money blocked the UK in that request, with Lithuanian President at the time, Dalia Grybauskaite, saying:
“We will give him [Cameron] what we want,”
She was enraging the British public further, especially against EU immigrants. Cameron returned to London and soon after issued a referendum.
It was unfathomable that Brussels would tell another member state what and how they should run their daily affairs. The City of London's financial services was the most significant contributor to the EU coffers. It was this contribution that helped build Eastern European countries who should not have even been member states because their economies were not ripe for memberships. But it was not just Eastern Europeans, but the collapse of economies in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece meant they all headed for the UK, where they landed jobs moment they entered even when their English language was not at an appropriate level. But they got those jobs because their countryman already working in those companies handed it to them. Soon after, young British students could not get even a summer job or newspaper delivery jobs because EU immigrants had them.
This mass immigration caused massive pressure and a burden on public services. Doctor appointments or hospital places became increasingly difficult to get, and public transport was overwhelmed, school places for children became difficult to obtain, there was massive pressure on housing, and salaries remained unchanged since 2008. Immigration should have been means-tested. It should have been best and brightest, not 1,000 Italian and Portuguese restaurant staff who did not speak English or Spanish retail staff who responded in Spanish because they could not form a sentence in English.
I have traveled to the South of France for holidays five years in the row, and never have I seen anyone else but French working there. I remember going for an investment bank post-graduate three-month training and being interviewed at my university by a Czech woman whose English was appalling and who had no experience in what she was interviewing me for. She turned me down and gave the traineeship to her countryman, who suffice to say lasted less than a week in the job. Many of us with British passports were side-lined by immigrants from the EU in the country where we had citizenship.
Britain alone was not allowed to trade with any other country, not even their Commonwealth states. The trade deals had to be created by the EU as a trading block. Yes, the UK will lose out of being a member of one of the biggest trading blocks, and if no deal is reached, it will lose out on passporting rights. These rights give EU member states the opportunity to trade with each other without any further authorization from the country’s financial services authority. That could put a dent on the financial hub of the City of London. The EU will suffer financially with the loss of the UK and vice versa, but if the EU chooses to ignore calls for reforms, it will self-destruct, and I cannot see it existing in twenty years if it does not take reforms seriously.
I am also an immigrant in the UK and a dual passport holder, and I did not vote in the EU referendum. I support immigration from anywhere - I am open to brightest minds coming to the UK to work in important sectors like science research, cancer specialists, engineers, professors, doctors, nurses, and in jobs where the UK needs more people. The immigration should be points-based, like in Australia. But it should not be free for all that the EU has poorly envisioned.
The free movement of people combined with Middle East migrant crises has seen a rise in the far-right, especially in Germany, Poland, and Hungary, and it is the fault of the EU for allowing it to become a problem. Even Hungary has objected to taking orders on immigration from the EU.
I have had the pleasure of working in the European Commission, and it was one of the best times I spent abroad. I have gained friendships with many nationalities and gained invaluable experience, and it is this opportunity, I am sad to say is a loss for younger generations. Afterall not everything is terrible with the EU, but it is in dire change, a change that must come from within because it cannot continue to operate in this manner. It cannot and should not tell other countries how to run their affairs.
I am European, and no one can change that for me, not Farage nor Johnsons’ government nor EU countries that will choose to make my life a nightmare next time I travel to that side with my British passport if I decided to travel with that passport. But it will not help anyone to be antagonistic, and Farage did not need to be hostile towards the EU last night. Britain should have divorced amicably not spitefully. Now, there is a massive pressure on Johnson’s government to deliver what he promised.