In recent weeks, we’ve gotten a lot of emails from people concerned about how the Brexit might affect their lives. As we face the final lead-in to the vote, here’s what we know.
In 23 days, Britain will go to the polls to decide whether it should leave the EU or remain within the union. Since the referendum date was announced, coverage has been fraught with conflicting, antagonistic arguments from both sides of the fence, making it difficult for people to make a clear-minded decision on the matter. Even voters who are certain of their position are feeling the strain.
Writing for the Guardian, comedian David Mitchell commented that the referendum “has made me feel particularly lost, baffled and afraid lately. Don’t misunderstand me, I know how I’m going to vote – I’m for Remain. I’m unshakable on that. I just don’t know if I’m right. And I also don’t know if the side I’m going to vote for will win. I fear the consequences of its defeat and, to a lesser but still significant extent, I fear the consequences of its victory. I’m not finding any of this much fun.”
Difficult as the decision is for Britons, people from outside of the UK are also watching proceedings with deep apprehension. For many EU nationals living on the island, the vote stands to deeply impact their lives, but they have no right to a ballot on the question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
For an explanation of what Cameron has negotiated in the event that Britain votes in favour of remaining, check out my earlier article, What the Brexit Could Mean for European Workers. However, if the UK votes to leave, the future is far murkier.
This lack of clarity has spurred on many people to send us emails asking what might happen. Although much depends on the negotiations that would ensue such an eventuality, I will try to answer some of the most frequent reader questions as well as I can.
I am a Romanian national who already lives and works in the UK. If Britain votes to leave the EU, will I be sent home?
It’s highly, highly unlikely. Granted, the Leave campaign has been running on a largely anti-immigration platform and there’s been a lot of scaremongering around the idea that people might be ‘sent home’ if Britain leaves the UK. However, the most affected will be those seeking to come to the UK after its exit from the EU. Those who are already resident in the the UK shouldn’t face any immediate repercussions surrounding their status.
Predicting the precise long-term outcome of a Leave vote is difficult, given that so much depends on post-referendum cabinet decisions that are likely to take some time.
I am from France but have been living in the UK for six years. Will I have to get a visa/work permit if there’s a Brexit?
Possibly, but not right away. Any decisions on visa regulations will depend on negotiations after the fact of the referendum result. These may take quite a while to wrangle, so things will likely remain as they stand for some time. You shouldn’t have to worry too urgently about sudden new restrictions.
I am from an EU state and am self-employed in the UK. Am I at a greater risk than someone who is an employee of a British company?
Unfortunately, it’s still hard to say. As I already mentioned, the fate of many people remains up in the air. In the event of a Leave vote, negotiations may go on for over a year so at least there will be no sudden changes.
As it stands each EU member nation maintains its own laws on self-employment, so the UK is already responsible for regulating those who are working for themselves. This may stand in your favour, as regulations may stay similar to what is already in place.
If the Leave campaign wins, will Britain leave the EU immediately?
No. In fact, the process could take a long, long, time. Article 50 of the European Union agreement inserted by the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, gives any country two years to negotiate the terms of its exit from the moment it notifies the EU of its intention to leave. The referendum itself doesn’t qualify as formal notification. Most likely, this formality will come six weeks after the final referendum result, as this is the length of time that must be allowed for legal challenges to the outcome. Here is a good explanation of how the exit process will most likely advance in the days, weeks and years following the announcement of the referendum decision.
Why are so many people weighing in on this debate? Is it really of such major international significance?
You will no doubt have noticed many prominent figures weighing in on the Brexit debate, from political and religious leaders, to scientists, to icons of pop culture. But why is it such a big deal?
One of the primary reasons people are so concerned about a Brexit is that they fear it might pose a threat to one of the most peaceful periods in Western history. Political instability might, some worry, encourage the gradual disintegration of the European Union, which is largely a positive force in global politics. The economic implications are also viewed as serious, and many fear that a Brexit would not only damage British growth, but might also stymy worldwide advances.
If the UK left the EU would UK citizens need special permits to work in the EU?
Like EU citizens that want to remain in the UK, Britons who want to work in EU states may have a long time to wait before there is a solid decision on this matter. Everything would depend on post-referendum negotiations with the EU, so there would be no major changes immediately. However, it is probably unlikely that a bruised EU would be too amenable to British demands. If Britain were to join the EEA (like Norway), UK citizens could retain the same employment and free movement rights they currently enjoy.
We have to wait for clear answers
Unfortunately, I can’t give definite answers to these questions as so much depends on political machinations. At the time of posting, opinion polls on the matter are fairly close: 46% Stay; 41% Leave. If you’re the betting kind, bookies are currently giving odds of 1 / 4 to stay, with 7 / 2 to leave. Take from that what you will.
But of course, it’s hard to rely on odds and polls to predict this outcome. As the last UK General Election showed, there’s no way to know until the final counts are announced. In the wee hours of Friday, June 24th, Britain’s people will have collectively made their decision. For the rest of us, we just have to wait and see.
For an excellent, simple explanation of what exactly is happening, see the BBC.