This was my very first blog post, which I first published on my LinkedIn-Profile.
And there it was: the Brexit. It hit me unexpected. I didn’t expect Great Britain to vote against the EU. Why not? Because I didn’t think they would take this risk. I didn’t expect them to deny their young people a future full of possibilities. This is how a young European experienced the EU referendum in Great Britain.
I grew up in Germany really close to the Dutch border. I have never experienced borders. Going to the market in Holland with my grandparents was a totally normal thing. Going on holidays with my family to Spain or Greece – totally normal. I learnt three European languages at high school. We had school exchanges with the Netherlands, Sweden and England. In grade 11 I lived half a year in Spain. After graduating I went to study in Nijmegen, a Dutch city just across the border. In my third year I went to Spain for an internship and to Sweden for study abroad.
My parents aren’t cash cows. My mum is a nurse, my dad is a mechanic. I’m the second in my family to go to university. I’m from a working class family. But I still got all those opportunities: internship in Spain, study abroad in Sweden. Without the EU this wouldn’t have been possible. Erasmus opened so many doors for me and brought me so much luck and happiness. I got the opportunity to develop myself, to get independent, to learn, to get to know so many amazing people, to fall in love. And not only for me:
On Friday I was sitting with my Dutch boyfriend on the couch in our tiny, lovely apartment in Apeldoorn where we moved to a year ago. We were having a tea while watching the news. The Brexit was everywhere. Suddenly it hit me: “Without the EU we wouldn’t be sitting here right now”, I said to my boyfriend. We hugged each other really long. There it was: the realization how privileged we are. How privileged we grew up. We have never experienced borders. And we took it for granted.
I totally understand all these young British people: 72% of young voters between 18 and 24 (my age) chose “remain” and now feel disappointed by their parents and grandparents. Because they saw the many possibilities the EU can offer. Of course, the EU is not a perfect world. It’s too much bureaucracy and not enough democracy. But we young Europeans are willing to work on this. And we also know, with rights come duties. It’s like a family: If one struggles, the others help out and support. You probably won’t be able to do so right from the start but you will grow into that role.
Right after the results Geert Wilders (the leader of the anti-european movement in Holland) brought up the possibility of a referendum for a Nexit. Soon we will discuss the Frexit, the Bexit, the Dexit, the Öxit, the Grexit … Dear PVV, dear AFD, dear FPÖ, dear Front National and all other anti-european parties: You’re making politics for the present while you are supposed to make politics for the future. And it’s gonna be us, the young, who will have to live in the world you want to create. A world with borders. This is not the world we young people want to live in. You gave us the privilege to grow up as Europeans. You gave us the privilege to grow up in a world without borders. And no, we are not willing to give back this privilege.
“We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied”, said a young British voter to the Financial Times. I am sure that our British counterparts aren’t willing either to give up these privileges. As soon as the result was clear, the young generation started protesting against the Brexit. I think Britain’s next chapter hasn’t been written yet.
PS: How do you think Britain’s next chapter will look like? Please feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading.