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EUROPEAN UNION

Europe’s press mourns Brexit vote

Europe's press was awash with gloom and doom over Brexit on Saturday, warning that it was a boon for nationalists while urging EU leaders to meet the challenge of their "rendezvous with history".

Europe's press mourns Brexit vote
Photo: AFP

A cartoon in the Dutch paper AD Haagsche Courat styled after Edvard Munch's “The Scream” showed the German, Dutch and British leaders howling in horror, holding their hands to their faces.

“It's not an exaggeration to call it a disaster,” Spain's El Pais daily said in an editorial about Britons voting to leave the European Union in Thursday's referendum.

It urged EU nations to offer their citizens “ideas, plans, real leadership,” adding only then could the EU “be saved from the dangerous abyss it has reached”.

“A black day for Europe – OUTch!” was the banner headline of the German daily Bild, while Spain's El Mundo ran a cartoon showing the Beatles crossing Abbey Road towards an abyss.

“The Brexit shock will have profound geopolitical implications,” said an editorial in Italy's leading Corriere della Sera. “The European project will not be the same and the role of Europe in the world will inevitably be reshaped.”

Calling the UK referendum result a “blow to Europe”, Corriere said it marked the end of a period of optimism and cooperation in European history that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“Europe is a common home that is on fire,” said Laurent Joffrin of France's left-leaning daily Liberation. “Its leaders have a rendezvous with history.”

He said Britons had voted with their pocketbooks and their disaffection was shared across the EU.

“The demographics of the vote leaves no doubt: the poorer and older you are in Great Britain, the more you reject the European project,” he said.

“Workers across the continent don't believe in it anymore. They are turning towards their national identities as the only credible rampart against the excesses of globalisation.”

Die Welt chastised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her role in fanning anti-immigration sentiment, saying she “contributed to it significantly with the times she went it alone with her refugee policy.”

Populism could doom several EU leaders facing elections, said Italy's Il Fatto Quotidiano under the headline “Now everyone is scared”.

“The anti-establishment wave risks sweeping away” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Spain's elections on Sunday, it said.

A “chain reaction” could follow that would doom Italy's Matteo Renzi in an October referendum as well as the French and German leaders, who face elections next year, the paper said.

But Austrian daily Die Presse warned against lambasting political elites in the aftermath of Brexit, which journalist Rainer Nowak said was seen as a “new victory of the underdogs over the decadent establishment”.

“Things cannot work without elites at a decision-making level,” he said. “(Rejecting) experts, universities, high culture, thinkers and debate… would be bad for everyone… not just Europe.”

Many editorialists saw the break with Britain as a watershed, with Jerome Fonglio of France's leading daily Le Monde saying it should prompt “deep thought about what (the EU) should be and the direction it should take”.

Italy's left-leaning La Repubblicca called on the youth of Europe to revitalise the European project.

“Europe belongs to you,” said a front-page headline. “Don't let the peddlers of fear win.”

Philippe Gelie of France's right-leaning daily Le Figaro slammed EU leaders for failing to plan for a possible Brexit.

“The crisis sparked by the British divorce requires sang-froid and intelligence,” he said, while warning that the bloc has become too unwieldy with 28 — and soon 27 — members.

In the end, wrote Herve Favre of France's La Voix du Nord: “Maybe one day we will thank our English friends for delivering the shock treatment that resuscitated the European patient.”

BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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