On Monday, the good folks at Silicon Allee put the BBC World Service in touch with us to get our take on the impact of Brexit in Europe, and the potential effects, both positive and negative, that it might have on Berlin.
We had already seen the effect in a small sense, as some simple, informational articles – the most popular being, What the ‘Brexit’ Could Mean for European Workers – that we published on the potential impact of a Brexit had sent our traffic soaring. People were clearly confused, and hungry for real information.
We welcomed journalists Sarah Treanor and Joe Miller to our roof terrace in the centre of Berlin to discuss the potential impact of the UK’s decision. Looking out over the Berlin rooftops, with famous landmarks like the TV Tower looming in the near distance, we stood at the heart of the city’s international startup scene, that had gained so much from being part of the EU.
As we talked about Berlin and entrepreneurship, it quickly became a more personal conversation when Joe asked: “Are there any negatives for you, from what happened last week?”
Hessam answered: “For me, it’s more of an emotional thing because I would say I’m kind of a child of the EU. I’m a first-generation immigrant, moved to Sweden, studied there, and took advantage of all the things that the EU had for us. Having a country voting itself out of the system – for me, it’s hard to understand.”
Today, Hessam was moved to elaborate on what the EU really means for him:
Yesterday I met with BBC World Service to give my opinion about the effect of Brexit. What I told Joe is that I’m a child of the European Union:
The EU allowed me to leave an oppressive regime and start a new life in Sweden, it protected my human rights and gave me equal rights to anyone else. It also gave me the opportunity to educate myself and the chance to become anything I wanted.
Because of the possibility of free movement I was able to move to different countries to live and work. I lived in Ireland where I made friends for life with many fantastic people from all over Europe. I am married to a German who I met when we both lived in Ireland. Our son grows up bilingual.
Again, thanks to free movement, I now live in Berlin, where I started several businesses and can contribute back to the society. I have hired and worked with an amazing group of people from across Europe. My coworkers come from 12 different countries.
These are just a few of the reasons I feel incredibly grateful for.
But it’s become obvious to me that many EU citizens have been left behind by the progress that others like me have gained from. Although we live in prosperous times, xenophobia and fear have led to feelings of anger and perceived injustice. This I fear will become even more obvious in the coming general elections in Germany, France, Sweden and elsewhere where far-right groups will continue to prosper.
Schadenfreude: As much as I’m sad to see the negative consequences of Brexit on the UK, I hope it will act as a stark warning to others across the EU (and world) about the consequences of leading with fear and anger instead of logic and reason.
Image: Hessam Lavi, Sarah Treanor, Carrie King & Joe Miller on the roof of Jobspotting