Like many other people I know, I really didn't believe Brexit was going to happen. My (quintessentially British) boyfriend and I assumed the vote would be close, but "Team Remain" (the good guys, in our opinion) would prevail in the end. Truth be told, that seemed to be the general vibe on my social media during the days leading up to the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum.
On Thursday, my Facebook feed was flooded with pictures of ballots clearly marked with an "X" in the "Remain" box. I should note that my (Facebook) friends are largely made up of "City" (i.e. London) professionals, creative-types, entrepreneurs, and people from all walks of life that call London home. Some of them are born and bred Londoners, and some moved from smaller towns to the city in their early adulthood. Some of them are from other European countries or hold dual citizenship with a European country (like yours truly); others had immigrated long ago, but are now proud British citizens.
Almost all of them are under the age of forty, degree-educated and were optimistic that, by the end of the week, the United Kingdom would still be part of the European Union.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. While Londoners overwhelmingly voted for the UK to stay in the EU (along with Scotland, Gibraltar and North Ireland), the rest of England and Wales weren't as enthusiastic. The boyfriend and I were right about it being a close call; however, in the end, the call was not in our favour. Forty-eight point one percent of the British population voted to remain in the EU; fifty-one point nine percent voted to leave.
On Friday morning I woke up and realized my future in the UK was totally fucked.
I am Canadian-Italian: Canadian by birth, but also Italian due to my mother's heritage. I applied for my Italian citizenship when I was nineteen and was granted an Italian passport when I was twenty. I didn't think having dual citizenship with a country like Italy would play a large role in my life until I had the opportunity to go to London on a modeling contract in the summer of 2012. Having a European passport made working and living in the UK (and all over Europe) easy. After applying for a National Insurance number (the British version of a Social Securities Number) once I arrived in England, I was good to go.
Being an EU citizen I could (and still can, at this present moment) legally work as a model in the UK. I could also hold down a part-time job when I needed the extra income (London is expensive!) and intern on the side to gain "real world" experience. I was able to open a British bank account, have access to free health care, and even scored a "real" job with an amazing pop-up events company earlier this year (however, at the current moment, I am taking a leave of absences and am now back to being self-employed). Best of all the pound was strong (compared to the Canadian dollar), the British economy seemed pretty stable, and traveling to other European countries was inexpensive and easy. I thought I had it made in the UK.
Now that's all gone to shit, quite literally overnight.
The economic impact of Brexit has shaken international economies all over the world even, potentially, leading to a British recession in the near future. I easily weathered the financial crisis of 2008. At the time I was enrolled in university, had the support of my family and a decent part-time job to pay for my (minimal) expenses. Back then, I was fairly optimistic that the situation would improve itself before I reached full-blown adulthood. I can even remember feeling grateful the recession was happening during my late teens, as opposed to later on in my life, when financial commitments like mortgages and babies would be in the picture.
Now the thought of having to go through another economic crisis, especially in my late-twenties, and at a time when I should be financially embracing myself for the future, is really unnerving. Who knows how long it will be before the British economy stabilizes itself? It probably won't be before I decide to have children.
Finding work in the UK will be harder for all individuals in a variety of industries. Whether you are a new university graduate looking to start a career, a self-employed "creative" like myself, or an independent contractor that works in construction. A shitty economy equals tough times in the workforce. For all the idiots who were so concerned about migrants taking their jobs and voted "Leave" because of it, how do you expect to make a living when there is no work and no one is hiring because you voluntarily voted for a economic recession?
In terms of deportation, I'm not too concerned about it at the moment. The UK will have two years once it invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to actually leave the EU (and, therefore, two years at minimum to figure out what to do about the free movement of British/European citizens across its borders). Worse comes to worst, the boyfriend and I get married if I really want to stick around and be guaranteed unlimited work/living/health care privileges in the UK (although I think he's finding my Canadian citizenship more and more attractive by the day). Most likely, because there are so many British expats living in other parts of the EU, the immigration and free-movement issue will be a very complicated one to deal with.* Nevertheless, the idea of possibly having to apply for a work visa, to earn a living in a country I have called my home base for nearly half a decade, is very depressing.
For us creative-types, applying for work visas can be a bit of a pain in the ass, especially when your income is sporadic and you don't have an employer sponsoring you (although models typically have their agencies involved with the visa application process). Using the American O1 visa as an example, bearers of this kind of visa are only allowed to practice their "extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics " in the United States of America. This means a foreign actor may not supplement his or her income with "unskilled" part-time gigs like bartending or serving.
If the UK implemented similar visa regulations and work permits for European nationals — especially for those who would potentially be on a visa for their "extraordinary abilities" and talents — not being able to hold down a part-time job for extra income could be a massive issue for many actors, performers, models, artists, writers, and designers looking to work a second job until they "make it big" their respective fields in the UK. This could also be a huge issue for many British creative industries as well because European individuals with talent would be less inclined to try their luck at cracking the UK markets.
But it's cool, nobody actually knows at the current moment — including many political leaders all over the UK and the EU — what is going to happen on the migration/free movement of labor front. Britain has actively elected to jump into the unknown, and the only thing we DO know right now is that the British economy will probably remain fairly shitty throughout the next few years. Everything is up in air, except for the pound.
There are so many other rotten things that could possibly happen as a result of Britain leaving the EU. I've only scratched the surface here. For example, Scotland will push for another independence referendum, and would probably vote to leave the UK, as they seem pretty keen on wanting to be part of the EU (so much for being a "United" Kingdom, Britain). And never mind the fact that Brexit caused the pound to plummet on Friday, falling to the lowest its been in about thirty years. But the worst thing about the "Leave" vote winning, in my opinion, is realizing just how many uninformed people there are in the country I love so much, the country I now call home but might not be able to much longer.
So, xoJane readers, I am officially fucked. The country I love has been screwed over by ignorant "Little England" thinkers. The economy has literally gone to shit overnight. And I may no longer be able to earn a living without a work visa, if I can even find any work at all in the UK.
So much for being great, Britain.
*I should note here that "Team Leave," despite convincing "Leave" voters that Brexit would give the UK back full control of its borders, have admitted (to essentially lying) that free movement of labor (and, therefore, migrants) will most likely continue to exist, after Britain leaves the EU.