If I had to describe, in a word, how I feel about Brexit, the word would be “furious.”
I’m originally from Lithuania, and, right now, it so happens I’m a student at the University of Glasgow. I’ll be starting my second year of uni in just a little over a week from now; though I’ve been in Scotland for just one year, I love the place, and honestly, I think there are few places as beautiful and as welcoming in equal measure on this earth. I have barely, if ever, experienced anything but kindness from the people at university or the people of Glasgow in general. I feel privileged to be here. Truly.
And yet, there’s Brexit.
Brexit infuriates me, in an unbelievable multitude of ways. To list all of them would take a letter longer than this. I find the colossal arrogance of the entire affair the most infuriating thing about it, right after the casual racism Eastern Europeans have been flogged with for this entire sordid referendum campaign from beginning to end. I find it infuriating that Britain, a country virtually mired in nothing but exceptions from EU rules and privileges that no other member state possesses or even would find it rational to desire, apparently finds it within itself to stand up and yell at the rest of us, “WE’RE BEING OPPRESSED BY YOUR UNELECTED BUREAUCRATS” – a pithy line that betrays a complete lack of knowledge about how the EU even works.
This persecution complex, apparently endorsed by a narrow majority of the population of England and Wales, is so vast, that underpaid EU nationals in British workplaces somehow become not victims of exploitation, but invaders coming here to take British jobs, fisheries policy, drawn up to ensure a sustainable future for our seas, becomes Dark Lord Juncker somehow repressing British fishermen, and the Human Rights Act becomes a restriction of the GREATEST PARLIAMENT OF ALL TIME, Westminster, whose knowledge of every issue is vast and sooooo comprehensive and there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY any European knows anything better than the grand parliamentary tradition of Westminster – a set of political archaisms probably at home in the 16th century than the 21st.
Yet more infuriating is talk, Ukipper and Tory and Lexiter, of Britain’s “independence” from Europe. You have to be unbelievably privileged, unbelievably lucky to not know what the word “independence” means on that profound a level. My country, Lithuania, was occupied and illegally, after a rigged referendum, annexed, for fifty years by the Soviet Union, from 1940 to 1990. Not long before that, between 1795 and 1918, we had been under the rule of the Russian Empire for over 120 years. These periods of time have left long-lasting traumas on our society, stunted and often downright paralysed our political, economic and cultural development. A British Eurosceptic has not seen their family deported to freezing Siberia at the whim of a totalitarian dictator from another land, and they have not seen the declarations of independence peoples like mine have made to save themselves from that sort of thing. They do not have the right to use that word, as to become independent, you have to have been subjected and oppressed, and Britain is not oppressed. It, however, historically has oppressed other nations all over Africa and Asia and Oceania, which makes Brexiter claims to this word all the more disgusting.
I did not think this foolishness was as vast as it seemingly is. Britain always had its Farages and proto-Farages but frankly, I believed right until the referendum that no, even in England, this idiocy had not reached critical mass. I was wrong. And as a counterpoint to my anger, I’m also unbelievably afraid; not for myself, to be fair, I can always decide to go back home after my studies, as much as I’d prefer to stay. I’m afraid for the countless other EU nationals in this country. I’m afraid for members of my own family who live in the UK, for the increasing number of victims of racist violence, for Poles, and Lithuanians, and Romanians, and Bulgarians; all of those peoples denigrated by right-wingers as ‘scroungers’ and by Lexiters as ‘cheap labour’. We’re people, we live here, we work here and we have just as much a right to do so as anyone who was lucky to be born on British soil.
As a counterpoint to my feelings of fear and anger, I hope. I feel unbelievably grateful to Nicola Sturgeon, as First Minister of Scotland, for having stood up for those of Scotland’s residents who happen to also be EU nationals. And, as many of Scotland’s residents, wherever they’re from, I hope: I hope not for the madness and xenophobia of Brexit Britain, but for Scotland, independent in Europe.