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In May, I asked three British citizens living in Austria in favour of the UK leaving the EU for their thoughts about the referendum and also how things would be if the UK were to decide to leave the EU. Two replied back then, and now six months down the road, I asked them to say how they feel the situation has changed, how they found out the news etc. The first response came from a Briton living in Western Austria – their previous response to some questions I set is here. I also welcomed their comments on the situation in the Austrian Presidential election and the US Presidential election. The first response is here.
I voted in the Referendum. I was worried that the ballot paper wouldn’t come through in time, but they did. It was odd, voting before the event and then sort of sitting back and watching. When my vote was sent off, Leave were ahead, and then there was the dreadful tragedy about Jo Cox. I’d wondered whether they might delay the referendum, but quickly realised that that would not really have been realistic. I didn’t watch the coverage of the results on 23/24 June. I realised I wouldn’t need to as a few friends in the UK were getting quite vociferous on Facebook about which way it was going from a few days beforehand, and in the general rush to get to work early, hadn’t looked at my phone.
I was already at work when I heard. I went in early to be able to leave early to take my child away for a treat with friends for the weekend. Colleagues at work told me the news they seemed more disbelieving than I did, although I would admit that the realisation of what happened only hit home when I checked with friends on Facebook and most were cheering that Cameron had gone. I don’t think any colleagues realised for a little while that I voted “Leave”, until one colleague, who had seen the article in Der Standard (this one) from the previous weekend, asked whether I thought leaving was a bad thing and asked why I didn’t seem very upset by the result. To be honest, towards the end I was glad that it was all coming to an and. The coverage never stopped in the UK, when a friend came over and brought a paper with her for me in August, I skimmed through it and it was all there was in the news and politics section, even though parliament was not sitting and it was the holiday season.
Colleagues stopped asking after a while, because they saw that it was all very unclear, and now really all we know is that the UK will leave, but not a lot of details about the form. I’ve taken the approach of carrying on as usual.It doesn’t really impact my work much and work don’t seem worried about whether my job will be affected by it all. I heard about people claiming to lose friends over the result, but think that sounds rather extreme. Maybe I am not in touch with that many people, and not being very political (I don’t do petitions, surveys, groups on politics on Facebook) meant that most people thought I wasn’t bothered. I did go over to the UK briefly to see some family. I didn’t think it was much cheaper as a result, but the problems I had with the trains reminded me how good the infrastructure is here in Austria compared to the UK. I was glad when the Austrian Presidential Election was over as it went on for far too long and the US Election was similar. I was surprised Trump won, but think a lot of it was also because of the fact that he was up against Hillary Clinton, who didn’t seem to be the best candidate.
As far as how things have changed for me here since June to be honest I have yet to see any difference. Work is the same as it was before, but we are not really affected by Britain that much. Local people seem still unaware that the referendum result was as a result of recent governments failing the population as a whole. If I have two concerns from my family and circle of friends in the area where I come from in the UK, they are that Britain doesn’t manufacture enough goods (a lot of manufacturing in the is for foreign companies) and we depend on services too much and also a lot of our utilities are also foreign-owned. From having family members and friends who lost jobs when factories closed and struggled to get new jobs I worry a bit about whether new industries will really shoot up to get Britain back to work quickly. Some friends did additional seasonal labour on farms to get money to put food on the table for their families and were hopeful that there would be a change for the better, they did remark that they are the exception rather than the rule most of the others were from the Baltic or South East Europe, and they wonder whether the result will change that. I left the UK for my then boyfriend and to break the cycle. It took me a while to get into a position where I wasn’t living from one month to the next. My other concern is the continuing issues of the funding of the Health Service, I would feel betrayed if the promised increase of funding had been the only reason for swaying my vote to Leave. The summer has shown that the EU hasn’t really taken on board that not everything is as great as they make out. I also find their proposal of EU Associate Citizenship for UK citizens a desperate move, considering they seem so set on a Hard Brexit otherwise. I could see it as a good way to help UK citizens who want to take a different citizenship in their “host” countries but don’t qualify but I’ll not be taking it up unless there is no way I can work without it, and I reckon I’ll be fine in any case. Maybe I might need a work permit, but I think my track record and level of integration and having a child with joint British and Austrian citizenship will not hinder my chances, and I will have been here for 10 years next year so can get an Austrian passport then if I choose to.