It seems that the full consequences of the historic referendum decision will not be known for some time. British politicians are embarrassingly dragging their feet on triggering Article 50 proceedings on the UK leaving the European Union.
Maybe the result will bring about some much needed reform of the EU–Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel has already said that the 27 other member states need to take a hard look at how the union works and also improve how it promotes itself. And maybe in the long run the UK, or what is left of it in a few years’ time, really will manage to negotiate its own bilateral free trade deals.
But for now the result has as its immediate consequences domestic political turmoil and market upheaval. Coupled with the notion that it has emboldened unsavoury xenophobic, and some downright racist elements in England and on the continent to raise their heads above the parapets, it leaves a bitter aftertaste.
Disappointment and anger
The taste is one of uncertainty, disappointment and anger among the vast majority of British citizens living in Luxembourg. They are uncertain about their future, even if Bettel has said they will always be welcome in Luxembourg and their outgoing prime minister has reassured Brits living abroad that for the moment nothing about their status or rights has changed.
But in the long run, the legal status of British expats living in the European Union will be part of a negotiation that the UK will have to have with the 27 remaining member states. Social media on the Friday morning after the referendum result was awash with British residents pledging to begin application procedures to obtain Luxembourg citizenship.
The disappointment is in those of their compatriots who did vote for leave and in the politicians who so divided the country. They are ashamed of the rhetoric used by both sides of the campaign. Ashamed of the blatant lies that were peddled by the Leave campaign–and the unrealistic sloganeering, much of which they now seem to be reneging–to an electorate unfamiliar with the intricacies of the way the European Union works. Ashamed of the ineffectiveness of the Remain campaign.
Many are embarrassed by the shrivelling regard in which Great Britain is now held by some of their fellow Europeans–their work colleagues, team mates, friends.
Above all, a great number of long-term residents–those that have been away from Great Britain for more than 15 years–are angry that they were not allowed to vote in a referendum whose outcome would directly affect them. The final result was a million votes or so in favour of the Leave campaign, but a very substantial number of the estimated two million expat Brits living abroad in the EU were barred from voting under the 15-year rule.
And they are angry that all this came about because the Conservative Party was so divided prior to the last general election that its leader, David Cameron, played a dangerous short-term game in order to win votes by promising the referendum on EU membership. That short game has not only led to Cameron’s own demise, but has led to an irreversible decision by the British people that they, and others, may yet regret for generations to come.