How has the Brexit vote altered your view of Britain?
For me, the Brexit vote has been a disappointment in direct democracy. Reading some statistics about Leave voters made it abundantly clear that for many this was a protest vote aimed at addressing a pervasive feeling of powerlessness and being hard done by, which I can absolutely empathise with. But Brexit makes austerity worse, not better, and ultimately it will hurt those who voted for it perhaps even disproportionately.
It also became clear that direct democracy doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Misinformation through tabloid media causes immeasurable harm. We are vulnerable to it, and to the hateful bile of populist politicians, because of an education system which fails to prioritise teaching responsible citizenship based on ethics, compassion and skills in how we evaluate information and its sources.
It also seems that xenophobic views were a major motivation for voting Leave for many. This isn’t exclusive to Britain however – in Germany (where I’m from) the anti-immigrant AfD has substantially gained votes in the last local elections. Across Europe and elsewhere, people seem to forget the lessons we ought to have learned whenever and wherever scapegoating and fear of the ‘other’ were on the rise throughout history, but especially in times of economic insecurity. I see the Brexit vote as a symptom of the kind of fearful, insular mindsets which we urgently need to overcome.
How has the Brexit vote altered your view of Scottish independence?
I was allowed to vote in the independence referendum, unlike in the EU referendum. I voted for Scottish independence, and Brexit hasn’t changed my views on the matter. However, I hope that Brexit makes Scottish independence more likely, because more people in Scotland can recognise that a Yes vote supports open-minded outward-looking politics, rather than insular inward-looking mindsets. The contrast between Westminster politics and the Scottish Parliament’s response has been even more staggering than usual since Brexit, with Westminster becoming even more right-wing and anti-scientific. The only way to free ourselves from toxic austerity politics is to vote for Scottish independence. As for the consequences of Brexit on a potentially independent Scotland, I hope that there won’t be a need for an actual border between Scotland and rUK – I suppose Ireland faces the same dilemma – but I hope that there’d be direct ferries from Scotland to mainland Europe once again.
What are your fears about what will happen as a result of Brexit?
The UK will leave the EU, and a second Scottish independence referendum fails. Then my fellow EU citizens and I will need to apply for permanent residency or British Citizenship. My fears around the social and cultural landscape of the UK are that it will become more xenophobic and closed-minded. The slogan ‘Make Britain Great Again’ undermine a process of coming to terms and repairing the UK’s imperial past in the long run.
Of course there are also other more concrete worries, such as less funding for vital institutions such as the NHS, and rising unemployment as the economy takes a shock. I’m from a country with no free public health care system. I hope that fewer people will take the NHS for granted and fight to save it – or to evoke Joni Mitchell, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone!
Would you support Scotland to remain a member of the EU?
What are the consequences for you, your friends and family?
Currently, the consequences are mainly psychological. For the first time since I moved here in 2003, since the Leave vote I’ve been feeling like an immigrant. While we need to establish positive associations with that word, my shifting identity has left me feeling shakier around the notion of ‘home’. In the future, I worry that the rights I have been enjoying since moving here, and the rights that British citizens currently enjoy in other EU countries, will slowly be eroded and stripped away. Brexit means living with uncertainty, and with a high probability that some of us will need to move away from the UK as a result.
However, I hope that Scotland will become independent and remain in the EU, so we have a chance to build a more equal, fairer society which is interconnected, European and global in its outlook. Bringing back a Department for Climate Change would strengthen Scotland’s commitment to such a vision. Then we can join our European brothers and sisters in the protests against TTIP and for more transparency in the EU, which is far from perfect after all. This vision gives me hope, but it’s up to the Scottish people and the Scottish Government what happens next.