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‘I'll Stay as Long as the Queen Allows Me to Stay’ and Other Brexit Reactions From the Portuguese-Speaking World

Brexit. Foto: Pixabay/Domínio Público

Brexit. Photo: Pixabay/Public Domain

British voters decided to leave the European Union in a referendum on June 23, with 52% of the ballots supporting a so-called Brexit (Britain exit) over 48% for Bremain (Britain remain). British Prime Minister David Cameron tendered his resignation as this result.

The outcome has given rise to uncertainty about what will happen to EU citizens living and working in the UK (free movement of workers across member states is a central tenant of the European Union) as well as companies and organizations that do cross-border business. The stock market and the pound have fallen in the wake of the Brexit vote, and there have been reports of an increase in xenophobic incidents across the UK.

Around the globe, reactions to the vote in favor of leaving the EU have been diverse. Global Voices sought to find out what the Portuguese-speaking world are saying about Brexit.

Through Facebook, we talked to João Carvalho, who lives near London with his daughter and where he has worked as a mechanic at Jaguar for a year. He said he left Portugal, which is a member of the EU, to find a good job and because he considered it a failed state. In England, Carvalho said he found a higher quality of life and the possibility to provide a good future for his daughter.

He expected Brexit wouldn't have an impact on him and that it could “serve as a model for his own country”. Asked if he will remain in England even if the visa conditions become more difficult for European citizens, he replied, “I'll stay as long as the Queen allows me to stay,” and ended by saying that he had never personally experienced “any xenophobic sentiment by the British.”

On the other hand, Patrícia Soares, who has lived in Brighton since 2014 where she's completing a doctoral degree, said the number of xenophobic attacks since the vote has increased. “Most of the cases that I have heard is directed at Muslims, Polish and Pakistanis,” she told Global Voices. She added that she hadn't encountered any discrimination or hate and that “the day after the referendum, several British colleagues asked me how I felt and were unanimous in making it clear to me that it is not their position and were embarrassed with this result.”

Patricia doesn't intend to stay in England because her “goal was always a doctoral degree and return to Portugal.” The researcher acknowledges, however, that she'll need to change some of her plans: “We were exploring the possibility of continuing to work from Portugal and come regularly to the UK. Given the Brexit result, probably I'll have to think of other options. The funds will probably be more difficult to obtain and employers may not be so open to the possibility of paying someone from outside.”

The Brexit vote revealed a deep split between the four countries that make up the United Kingdom: Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to remain, while England and Wales went the other way. The difference in voting has stoked calls for independence, especially in Scotland. Regarding the possibility of the UK breaking up, Soares said:

O futuro do Reino Unido não está claro. No entanto, seja o que for que aconteça daqui para a frente ninguém poderá apagar estes resultados da memória dos cidadãos. Esquecendo as consequências políticas e económicas, o aumento da discriminação que o leave (“sair”) trouxe não poderá ser apagado. O país está claramente dividido e acredito que a Escócia vai fazer os possíveis para continuar na UE. Tendo em conta a história com a Irlanda, a Irlanda do Norte é mais complicado

The future of the UK is unclear. However, whatever happens from now on, no one can erase these results from citizens’ memories. Forgetting political and economic consequences, increasing discrimination that the leave vote has brought cannot be deleted. The country is clearly divided and I believe that Scotland will do everything possible to continue in the EU. In regards to the history of Ireland, Northern Ireland is more complicated.

‘The end of a beautiful dream’

From Brazil, blogger “Socialista Morena” (Tan Socialist) argued that it the Brexit issue wasn't clear cut between left and right-wing:

Confesso que estranhei um certo desespero, por parte da esquerda, com a saída da Inglaterra da UE, como se fosse uma espécie de fim dos tempos – até porque a esquerda nunca foi uma grande defensora do bloco, pelo contrário. Nestes 23 anos de sua existência, não se pode dizer que a UE tenha sido uma maravilha para as pessoas mais necessitadas da Europa – a pobreza e a desigualdade estão crescendo, inclusive – ou mesmo para os imigrantes, que aparentemente serão o maior alvo da extrema-direita agora (como se já não fossem). Para complicar ainda mais, os pobres da Inglaterra votaram em sua ampla maioria pela saída do país da UE. Diante de tantas complexidades, prefiro esperar para ver antes de automaticamente me afirmar contra o Brexit.

I confess that I found the certain level of desperation from the left wing with the exit of Britain from the EU to be strange, as if it were like the end of times — because the left has never been a great defender of the block, on the contrary. In these 23 years of its existence, it cannot be said that the EU has been a wonder to the most deprived persons in Europe — poverty and inequality are growing — or even for immigrants, which apparently are the biggest target of the extreme right now (as if they never were before). To further complicate things, the poor from the UK voted in their vast majority for the country to leave the EU. Faced with so many complexities, I prefer to wait and see before automatically assert myself against Brexit.

An analysis of the results reveals how divided the UK is on the matter. The remain vote won in regions with greater economic power, while leave won in regions with greater economic problems, meaning the richest voted to stay while the poorest chose to get out of the EU. Other data taken from the referendum results points to a clash of generations. Young people want to stay in the EU, but the older voted to leave.

Is the future of the European common project at risk of dissolving? From Portugal, Francisco Fortunato, wrote the following:

Não acredito que a União Europeia tenha aprendido nada com o terramoto britânico. Nem compreendido as angústias dos mais desfavorecidos, nem os problemas que a construção do projeto europeu às escondidas dos cidadãos provocaram. Cedo ou tarde, um acontecimento como o inglês ia acontecer. Para nosso mal, o nosso futuro europeu comum é cada vez mais uma miragem, um sonho bom que se está a tornar um pesadelo. A Inglaterra não será um contraponto – por pequeno que tenha sido – ao poder alemão, a França está tão frágil que a sua voz pouco conta. A reação dura – pedindo um processo rápido – dos decisores europeus à saída da Inglaterra da União Europeia não passa de uma ameaça aos outros países. Nada faz prever uma inflexão de rumo, uma aprendizagem com os profundos erros cometidos.
Provavelmente, teremos uma União Europeia cada vez mais germanizada, mais fechada sobre o seu pequeno círculo de satélites e os outros condenados a viver ligados ao soro alemão, que lhes vai permitindo pouco mais do que se manterem à tona, ou a uma rutura que os vai atirar para uma crise social e política de proporções dantescas. É o fim de um sonho lindo.

I do not believe that the European Union has learned nothing from the British earthquake. Nor has it misunderstood the anguish of the poor and the problems that the construction of the European project behind closed doors, away from citizens, caused. Sooner or later, an event like the British would happen. To our detriment, our common European future is becoming a mirage, a good dream is becoming a nightmare. The UK will not be a counterpoint — as small as it has been — to German power, France is so fragile that their voice counts for little. The harsh reaction — calling for a quick process — from the European decision-makers to the UK's exit from the European Union is only a threat to other countries. Nothing indicates a shift in direction [for the EU], that they’ve learned from the profound mistakes they’ve made.

Probably, we will have a European Union increasingly Germanized, more closed off within its small circle of satellites and others condemned to live off the German lifeblood, which will allow them little more than to stay afloat or will throw them into social and political crisis of Dantesque proportions. It's the end of a beautiful dream.

‘I fear the anti-immigrant feeling will grow voraciously’

In Africa, Mozambicans also reacted to the possible departure of the UK from the EU. Isalcio Mahanjane warned it wasn't an isolated “trouble”:

(…) Vale a pena dizer que estamos em face de um verdadeiro “sarilho”, para os British themselves (para os próprios britânicos), para o resto da UE e para o mundo, donde não escaparão a minha África e o meu Moçambique! (…)

[…] It is worth saying that we are facing a real “trouble” for the British themselves, for the rest of the EU and the world, where will not escape my Africa and my Mozambique! […]

Eduardo Matine replied:

(…) Nos moldes em que Bruxelas vinha gerindo esta união, tarde ou cedo, de algum lado se ia desintegrar! A crise da Grécia fortaleceu a Alemanha com conivência de Bruxelas, só para citar alguns imbróglios que o Reino Unido e outros tiveram que engolir porque devem respeitar diretivas lá da união! Essa união, que supõe-se que devia servir aos países membros, deixa-se guiar por agendas milionárias de grupos económicos financeiros ditando regras de jogo e sendo jogador e fiscal ao mesmo tempo! (…)

[…] In the way in which Brussels was managing this union, sooner or later, some side would crumble! The Greek crisis has strengthened Germany with collaboration from Brussels, to name a few of the messes that the UK and others had to swallow because they must comply with directives from the union! This union, which it is assumed should serve the member countries, let itself be guided by the millionaire agendas of financial economic groups dictating the rules of the game, acting as the player and referee at the same time! […]

From Angola, Márcio Cabral, who once lived in the UK, feared the rise of xenophobia:

(…) Não acho que o “Brexit” tenha sido uma decisão acertada do ponto de vista económico. Quanto ao ponto de vista social, este sim é o que me preocupa profundamente. Como frisou o meu colega britânico Gerson Emanuel, a motivação deste voto foi puramente xenófoba…e por isso temo bastante que o sentimento anti-emigrante venha a crescer de forma voraz nos próximos tempos naquele país. Quando lá vivi, ouvi bastantes vezes a frase “Go back to your Country = Volta para o teu País” e temo que os meus, que ainda lá vivem, venham a passar por situações de racismo e xenofobia. Por mais “britânicos” que eles se possam sentir…

[…] I don't think that “Brexit” was a wise decision from an economic point of view. As for the social point of view, this is what worries me deeply. As pointed out by my British colleague Gerson Emanuel, the motivation of this vote was purely xenophobic … and so I fear the anti-immigrant feeling will grow voraciously in the near future in that country. When I lived there, I heard quite a few times “Go back to your country” and I fear for mine who still live there, and will go through situations of racism and xenophobia. No matter how “British” they think they can feel …

Cape Verdean Herminio Silves believed that the exit of the UK from the EU will affect his country too:

BREXIT GANHA. E CABO VERDE COM ISSO?

Pelos visto nos vai afetar e muito. A saída do Reino Unido da União Europeia prejudica – sim prejudicar, porque é o nacionalismo exacerbado e a xenofobia que venceram – o principal bloco do planeta, pelos seus efeitos de contágio. A Holanda, a França, a Itália e a Turquia (esta quer entrar na UE) já cogitam avançar também com um referendo se permanecem na União ou se ficam para a manter firme.
Com os sinais vindos do Reino Unido, é crível que esses países se deixem levar pela mesma onda e preferir sair da UE. Com isso, pode estar por um fio a moeda única europeia, o Euro, como aliás, se defende na Itália. Roma vai começar a referendar primeiro a sua saída da zona Euro, antes de avançar com uma consulta pública sobre a sua permanência na UE.
A desintegração começa a sentir-se e é o cenário mais preocupante. Cabo Verde é um dos que perde com o desmembramento da UE. O país, que por via do acordo cambial mantém o Escudo preso ao Euro, poderá não aguentar as oscilações do mercado se a moeda única europeia for para o brejo.
Além disso, há acordos bilaterais (pesca, circulação), financiamentos e o protecionismo que nos foge, ainda por cima, nesta época difícil.
Curioso é que ainda esta semana o presidente da AN (Assembleia Nacional), Jorge Santos, esteve nas Canárias onde, juntamente com os Açores e a Madeira, Cabo Verde reivindicou uma participação ativa nas instituições da UE, no quadro da Macaronésia. Bem, se os tubarões estão em debandada, que será dos peixinhos?

BREXIT WINS. AND WHAT ABOUT CAPE VERDE?

Apparently, it will affect us a lot. The exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union undermines — yes, jeopardises because of the extreme nationalism and xenophobia that won — the main block of the planet, for its contagion effects. The Netherlands, France, Italy and Turkey (this last one wants to get in) have also set their minds on going ahead with a referendum to either leave the EU or to stay and make it stronger. With the signs coming out of the UK, it is believable that these countries could be carried away by the same wave and prefer to leave the EU. With this, the single European currency, the euro, is now questioned, as Italy is doing. Rome will start first, countersigning its departure from the Eurozone, before moving forward with a public consultation on their stay in the EU. The disintegration begins to happen and is the most worrying scenario. Cape Verde is one of the losers with the collapse of the EU. The country, which through the exchange agreement maintains its Escudo currency attached to the euro, cannot withstand the fluctuations of the market if the single currency goes down the tubes.

In addition, there are bilateral agreements (fishing, movement), financing and protectionism that we lose, moreover, in this difficult time.

Interestingly, this week the president of the National Assembly, Jorge Santos, was in the Canary Islands where, together with the Azores and Madeira, Cape Verde claimed an active participation in the EU institutions as part of Macaronesia. Well, if the sharks are in disarray, what will become of the little fish?

What's next?

The June 23 referendum is not legally binding The UK exit might not even materialise, although it is unlikely because disrespecting the will of the British electorate could be political suicide for any party that takes power.

Before resigning, David Cameron assured that the decision of the people would be respected and the other party leaders share the same opinion. It is now for the British Parliament to approve the referendum and ask the prime minister to formally invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that outlines how a state can withdraw from the EU. Once activated, the process can last up to two years.

Till then, Secretary of State of Portuguese Communities Abroad José Luis Carneiro told journalists in Lisbon:

Os portugueses com mais de cinco anos de trabalho no Reino Unido devem acautelar os seus direitos e requisitar a residência permanente naquele país, independente da saída ou não dos britânicos da União Europeia.

Portuguese people with more than five years of work in the UK must ensure their rights and request permanent residence in that country, regardless of the exit or not of Britain from the EU.

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