Bargaining chips, deficiencies… what next?

This blog has settled a bit of dust, because, quite frankly, I find it hard to keep up with the pace at which the UK has kept shooting its own feet over the last months. It’s difficult to articulate thoughts without resorting to strong and explicit language. This will be a very long and very personal read. Feedback welcome; trolls not so much.

It’s hard to balance being a “guest” with the criticism I want to express towards politics and media. The (very easy) common response to my criticism is: “Well, if you don’t like it here, be on your way already.” Most people simply do not get how a person or family could move into another country and then criticise things, not because they don’t like it there, but because they actually care; perhaps more than many nationals do, who got away with “grin & bear” for most of their lives.
I tend to just brush that aside as lack of experience; people who have barely ever left their communities (never mind countries) to actually live elsewhere, cannot possibly know what it’s like (nothing wrong with that per se!). If any of my readers feel offended because my opinion differs from yours, let’s discuss your point of view. If you feel offended, just because I have an opinion on what you think is your country, and yours alone, let me pre-empt that with the phrase that you understand best: you can fuck right off.

So, with the small talk and niceties exchanged, let’s go a couple of years back; around ten years more precisely. That’s about the time when I decided to move to the UK (from Germany). I told my business partner that I intended to leave Germany for at least a year, potentially longer, and was looking for a job in London. I handed over my shares in return for a few months salary. I had no interest in ripping apart the company (employing three other people) or cause any trouble to them, because the decision to move was my very own, and they couldn’t possibly understand why. To be honest, I simply needed a new challenge; language, new environment, different culture and approach to doing business and viewing the world, from village to metropolis… I thought even if I didn’t stay in London, it would benefit my future to have that kind of experience under my belt; professionally as much as personally.

I was lucky to land a job before I even came here. Only had to fly in for a second interview, went straight on to sign, and three weeks later, I started work in Battersea. From running and part-owning a business in Germany, to being full time employed and living in a flat share in South London (as I didn’t know how things would work out financially), within three weeks. Yeah, I know, hardly anybody would understand that, but it felt like the right thing to do at the time. Having said that, being in full time employment wasn’t a long term goal. It’s hard to report to others when you are used to running your own business and have previously enjoyed a career as an officer in the armed forces; in other words, people had been reporting to me for well over 10 years. But in hindsight it was a wise move and helped to get my bearings straight and work out my future plans.

Well, by plans I mean: General idea how life might be going. Truth is, sometimes life plans your future for you; it just happens. So does love. Moving on two years from when I came to the UK, I found myself sharing a rented flat (already the third) with my wife, who I’d met just months after my first steps on these islands.

So far, so good. EU citizen, married to non-EU citizen, living in London. Pretty normal situation at the time, really. One of the things I loved about the city was its incredible diversity. People from literally all countries in the world and all walks of life in one vibrant city; great when you’re in your thirties. Job (in the meantime I had become a contractor) was great, too, and well paid. Everything was honky dory as they say, and not for one second did either of us feel not welcome. Anyway, why would anybody object to us being there? I paid more corporation tax each year than Facebook did in 2013 and 2014 combined. Sure, neither of us was a doctor or scientist, just an IT contractor and an aspiring accountant, but we didn’t ever ask for anything. We were net contributors (and still are); but these terms would only start to matter years later – I’ll get there. So nothing to worry about surely. Life was fine.

About four years ago, we moved to rented accommodation number 5, a small house in the north-east of London. That was intended to be the last place we’d rent before buying a house and having kids. Consequently our focus was on saving up more for a nice deposit on a mortgage. Since I had been contractor without any gaps and my wife employed without gaps until then, everything was going exactly to “plan”. Pretty normal life for a normal couple. (We didn’t know yet, that we weren’t a normal couple; that people would soon see us as a burden, objectify us as bargaining chips. We didn’t feel unwelcome, yet.)

Wait a minute, this must be around year seven now? Didn’t I talk about going to London for about a year or so? Well yes, life, plans, love… as I said: things sometimes just happen. Not for a second did I think about going back. Even when I went to Germany for the normal family visits, I always felt like it wasn’t “my country” any more. I felt like a stranger, and to be honest, my spoken German sounded strange by then too. 🙂

In other words, Britain became my home. When exactly that happened, I don’t have a clue. It’s a gradual process, and while I chose to come here, I did not ever really choose to settle or feel home. The first few times you go back to your country of birth, it feels home there. Eventually that feeling reverses; you feel home when you return to where you live; the UK in my case.

So there we were, still in rented accommodation, planning future and family. And by then we of course also had to jump through the hoops of permanent residence. Strictly speaking, I didn’t have to at the time, but in support of my wife’s application, the solicitor recommended doing that, since I had to provide tons of documents for her anyway to prove that she qualified and I could support her.

What a nightmare that was! No human being should be forced to be put through so much scrutiny. The documents submitted, including the forms, which were about 70 pages each, if I remember correctly, weighed several kilograms! Now the first solicitor we had was useless; some moron in the Home Office rejected our application, because they found about a month or two gap in my documentation, where it wasn’t clear to them whether or not I had been exercising treaty rights. If they had looked a little bit closer (or had given me a ring to clarify), they would have noticed me sending invoices during that time and paying taxes for that timeframe too (VAT more specifically). But they didn’t. Instead they rejected our applications. The letter to me stated that due to EU laws, I could of course stay, if I exercised treaty rights now. The letter to my wife was less lenient: She got an ultimatum of about two weeks to buy herself a flight ticket, send that to the Home Office and then meet them at the airport, where they would then return her passport and wave her goodbye for good. Our daughter was about to be born.

A different solicitor (I went for one of the major firms in the UK, at a significant cost, of course) then performed a sterling job with buying us a little bit of time and re-submitting a new application. In return, my wife had to report monthly to the Home Office Immigration Enforcement. Like a criminal. At the first visit there, our daughter was only weeks old, and it took hours, where even I – her husband – was not allowed to stay with them; I had to wait outside in the cold, not knowing whether she’d actually come out again or would be locked away in the detention centre (plenty of cells, by the looks of it, in the same building), because some other idiot might just make another mistake. Luckily she emerged after almost three hours!

Fast forward five months or so, and we finally got our permanent residence cards. In the meantime, while our application was processed, laws had changed here: Now EU citizens must have permanent residence before they can apply for a British passport, if they wish to do so. (Before it was good enough to fulfil the requirements for permanent residence, but you didn’t actually have to get the card.)
If you don’t have five years or more without inexplicable gaps under your belt, forget it. (In case you wonder about the price: The cards don’t cost a lot, because they are based on EU law, but without solicitor we wouldn’t have been successful. That set us back several thousand pounds.)
Funnily enough, because we qualified much earlier, and had apparently acquired permanent resident status before our baby was born, even though it wasn’t formally documented and the first application failed, our daughter was British by birth. We got her passport within a week or so after we applied for it.

Did this ordeal make us feel home less or welcome less here? Not really. It appeared to be a genuine fuck-up by the Home Office (and Capita as their bringer of bad news and executing arm). We were angry, anxious, in some situations close to a serious panic, lost a good amount of money (no point appealing), but we didn’t take it personally. (Stuff like the Go Home Vans etc, we shrugged off. Maybe we had adopted “grin & bear” already, who knows?)
I only realised later that ours wasn’t just an isolated case. Apparently there was a sinister intention behind it: All these hoops and potential costs are meant to be a deterrent. And to be honest, anyone who has had more than one employer in the last five years, or who had even a week gap, will probably struggle with those forms and the compulsory sickness insurance (yep, that’s another fun aspect, which they are now pushing for). If you’re a contractor, forget about doing this without a solicitor. You may be lucky; or you may not be. Evaluate the risks vs. costs for yourself. (I’m not in a position to give legal advice, nor am I up to date with the latest changes.)

 

We’re approaching 2016 now. The year where everything changed for EU citizens and their families (regardless of the spouses’ nationalities).

Over night, all the closet bigots and racists have surfaced. An overall very welcoming country – with very few exceptions – has turned into a xenophobic beast. You might think this description is over the top. I think the Polish guy killed in Harlow and the 20% raise in hate crime in the UK (or England and Wales more precisely) speak volumes. And probably you should feel at least a tiny bit ashamed for your fellow countrymen, too, if you don’t at least speak up against xenophobia.
It wasn’t too long ago that the main media here was picking on Germany and its rise in hate crime (about a few 1,000 per year at the time, if I’m not mistaken). Well, in England and Wales there were >50,000 recorded hate crimes in a year. Think about this for a moment. Well over 100 every single day.

My wife and I have been lucky. As a German I don’t usually get any abuse until my accent becomes apparent; and I wouldn’t call ever so boring jokes about Hitler and the war abuse. It’s a poor attempt to be funny. And honestly, if you ever made such jokes in public, or even saluted “Heil Hitler” style: you’re a pathetic fool – for everybody to see.
“Grin & bear”… there it is again. That said, some Germans do take this stuff seriously, because we have learned from our history and we are still made to feel guilty about what happened generations ago — from a relatively early school age. That very dark chapter in European history must not be forgotten. I’m not sure how much of it is taught in British schools; but apparently it’s not enough. Even if you weren’t the perpetrators, many of your lives were lost in the war, too; you owe it to your fallen soldiers not to forget what xenophobia can lead to, and not to ever let that happen again in any country, including your own.
As for my Asian wife: She’s thick-skinned and apart from occasional remarks has mostly been spared.

Anyhow, 2016: EU Referendum. The worst political gamble in Tory party history, carried out on the shoulders of a nation, and at their expense. I’m not going to go on about how much has changed since the referendum (not a lot) and how much is exactly the same (a hell of a lot). But I do say this, and I’m sad to do so: None of the news we read about Brexit/EU/UK these days come as any surprise. None. Brexit will be a gigantic clusterfuck. Britain will be poorer, lose its influence on the world stage, and citizens and workers will lose many of their rights so that corporations can have lower taxes and responsibility = more profit. Banks are fleeing the country (or planning to); the little amount of production left in Britain will suffer from EU supply chains; everybody will be surprised about their food bills, never mind costs for holidays if they still can afford them (tumbling Pound, much more expensive flights) . Those pesky experts have said it before the referendum; and those bastards were right. Sod them, eh? You haven’t seen anything yet. Things will unfold brutally around this time next year and shit will really hit the fan in the year after Brexit (spring 2019). Mark my words; or those of experts, who you should pay more attention to anyway.

So there we were, gobsmacked on the morning after the referendum (when I went to bed that night, Remain was ahead; we all know the score in the morning after). Absolutely nobody, including the Brexiters, who remained in hiding for a while, could believe what happened. And after a while of thinking “what the fuck have we done” they slowly emerged and announced that a 2% majority was good enough to plough on with the “will of the people”. Even more so, it became clearer by the day that only the hardest of hard Brexits seemed likely. Politicians, including our PM, who had previously been on the Remain side, suddenly became the most vicious and ruthless drivers of an extreme Brexit.

But it got worse, for over three million citizens here and another 1.4 million or so citizens abroad: The lives of all EU citizens and British citizens in the EU were put on hold. We had officially become bargaining chips. It was ok for us to be in the UK, for now. Nobody wanted to cut down EU citizens’ rights, the Tories said; but equally nobody wanted to commit to protecting them either.

Now if I go back to the fact that I’m a net contributor: My taxes every year would easily cover a nurse’s take home pay. I’m in a fortunate position at the moment. But I’m also aware that it may not always be like it. I worked my arse off to be where I am. Likewise, EU nurses and doctors work their arses off, doing double shifts, saving your lives – whether you be Brexiter or “Remoaner”. They are heroes. (As it happened, an EU doctor delivered our baby in a hairy emergency situation and saved my wife’s life in the process. No idea, if he’s still in the UK; I wouldn’t be surprised if not.)

In any case, the vast majority of EU citizens are net contributors, be it by their tax payments, be it by the kind of work they do. We’re not stealing anybody’s job. If there wasn’t a shortage in certain fields, EU citizens wouldn’t come here to begin with. Nobody moves to a foreign country without at least some level of confidence that they will be needed.

Did any party or the media acknowledge that? No. Not in England anyway. Maybe with warm words, but not one party put the money where their loud mouths were. All the Brexit legislation was waved through without much problem. Even Gina Miller’s heroic effort to achieve some scrutiny was ultimately rendered void, by MPs who represent nobody but their own agendas.

Now, there was one exception, as Scots know: the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon was like a beacon of hope. As we were in a place to be able to afford a house in the second half of 2016, we considered several places, including Scotland. You know already how that panned out: We live in Scotland since September 2016. Brexit obviously was a driving factor; or, more precisely, the prospect of Scotland coming to its senses and going down the route of independence. All the indications were there at the time; hence the decision to purchase here. (Also, if Scotland was to become independent, Edinburgh, Glasgow and the central belt would be booming!)

What has happened since we moved here? Not a lot. Apparently some idiotic Prime Minister shot her own foot once more by calling a general election which went pear shaped, and all English parties including their Scottish branches continue to make fools of themselves. Brexit negotiations haven’t lead anywhere yet, other than the realisation that the clusterfuck is much bigger a clusterfuck than all deniers combined care to admit. In other words: The “strong and stable” government has found the magic money tree and made itself hostage to 10 nutcases from Northern Ireland; Labour wants a different kind of hard Brexit, which is equally undefined as the Tories’; Honorary Colonel Tank Girl aka Ruth Davidson tries to deflect all the nonsense her head office throws her way and adds a considerable amount more to it; Labour in Scotland continues its identity crisis (a miracle that Kezia Dugdale hasn’t been challenged yet; my guess is they lack politicians with backbone altogether).
Meanwhile the SNP cracking on with the day job splendidly while lobbying for Scottish interests in the EU and elsewhere. Performing better than all other parts of the UK on health, economy, jobs… it’s still “SNP bad” in the media as usual.

So yeah, very much all the same still. At least as far EU citizens and British citizens in the EU are concerned (no, nothing personal, but I won’t call you expats, thereby somehow elevating your importance over ours).

Anti Brexit voices got louder, and there appears to be a swing in public opinion. Brexit might not be such a great idea after all. Who would have thought? But that doesn’t seem to concern the UK Gov much:

They delivered the bombshell today, and that’s probably an understatement. The UK Gov, realising that Great Repeal Bill might sound cheesy and maybe isn’t all that great, have published the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Explanatory notes here. I’ll borrow the highlighting from The 3Million’s twitter thread: (if you aren’t following them yet, you should; if you haven’t donated yet, please consider doing so, too!)

DEnnA5QWsAEmo2K

Theresa May has drawn a red line for the European Court of Justice before; in short, she wants them to no longer have any power over domestic law at all. This was already bad news. Very bad news, indeed. But this new bill takes it a huge step further: It openly states the intention and power to change/remove EU citizens’ rights. According to these explanatory notes, the condition would be a No Deal scenario. Now, we all know that despite not having the faintest idea what No Deal would actually mean for the UK, the government has argued “No deal is better than a bad deal” quite openly before. And with hardening red lines around ECJ, Freedom of Movement and EU citizens’ rights, No Deal might become a real possibility. And then we are – excuse my language – fucked!

There will be no guarantee whatsoever that our crazy overlords don’t just turn around and say: “Sorry, you’re going home. It’s the EU’s fault.” (And by home they do not mean where we feel home, but what our passports say. And by sorry, they mean, well, nothing really. And of course everything is always the EU’s fault.)
Suddenly, the permanent residence card (which is based on EU law in our case) might not be worth the plastic it’s made of, let alone the sweat and tears and money spent to get it in the first place.

We were planning to get a British citizenship or ideally some day a Scottish citizenship if all goes well. We love Scotland. Currently we cannot imagine a better place to live and raise our daughter (2nd birthday coming up). It feels more home than anywhere we have ever lived before; and as I can only speak for myself, it also feels more home than Germany ever has.

So what’s holding us back? With permanent residence in our pockets, it should be relatively straight forward to get British Citizenship. Relatively. The thing is, there’s no right to gain citizenship. A good chance, but no right and no appeal.

Also, Germany accepts dual citizenship only with EU countries and a select few others. There we go again; yet another area nobody has considered: If UK leaves EU, I will likely have to pick one of my two citizenships. It would be a no brainer under normal circumstances until about 2015, but EU citizens will have more rights and better protection in 27 other countries any day now. Eleven years ago, I didn’t know I’d end up in Scotland. So who knows, we may still be here in eleven years, and that certainly is the plan. But we don’t know. I’d like to keep my options.

What we also don’t know is whether or not Scotland will be independent in two years time. If not, we will be part of Brexit Britain. We will lose a lot of money in the process as house prices and the Pound will tumble. If we had a British passport then, we’d be stuck. (I know, from a British citizens’ point of view, this must sound a bit harsh; but truth is, nobody would voluntarily forfeit the rights and possibilities they have. It’s not about me being selfish; it’s mainly about the future of my child. Your fellow Britons who live in the EU can probably relate to this.)

Suddenly, thoughts like moving to Norway cross my mind. (Pretty much everybody there speaks English fluently, or even German, from what I hear.) Not even a year after we bought this fantastic house in Scotland. It tears my heart out that a right-wing agenda could be powerful enough to make a whole country head down the cliff, with open eyes, and ruin millions of lives. Or as LBC’s James O’Brien quoted one listener: “I don’t care if we starve; at least we’ll be free from the EU.” How is that even possible? It’s a very deep state of denial for sure; those people will be the first to complain once everything gets more expensive, healthcare falls apart (or is sold off to the US in lieu of a desperately needed trade deal; any deal!), and real wages fall even sharper than they already have in the last years.

The only hope we have now is a successful second Independence Referendum. But that still doesn’t answer whether or not to apply for a British passport, since Scotland might be at least briefly outside the EU, which could still render our EU-law based permanent residence invalid, at least for a while, and could be a pricy gamble.

It’s a nasty situation to be in. And it’s much, much worse for all those EU citizens here (and UK citizens in the EU), who don’t even have a choice, because they haven’t been here (or there) long enough to qualify, or because they simply cannot easily afford thousands of pounds to apply for citizenship (that money could be lost, if not accepted). And then there’s of course plenty of us who simply don’t want to stay if they’re not welcome. A sentiment I would have shared until I started feeling home here.

I don’t know how to end this way too long blog post. I don’t despair easily. It’s not easy being an optimist right now, though. I guess we’ll stick around and see how it pans out,  hoping that the UK and/or Scotland wake up before it’s too late. I mean, there’s still a chance that the writ formerly known as Great Repeal Bill will be defeated in parliament. Yeah, as if. I know…

 

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Make Britain Great again my Arse

Obviously, I am a little bit late to write about the Conservative Party Conference (CPC for short in this article) and its immediate aftermath. Quite frankly, I shouldn’t write about it all, because it fills me with rage and disgust. But I have to get it out. Apart from the headline, I will try to keep it somewhat civil.

Most of my Twitter followers and the few readers of this blog will have heard the masterpieces of political brainfartery that have transpired from the CPC. To me personally, the current Tory government has lost the last remaining (albeit tiny) shred of credibility. The very same can, and must, be said about the mainstream media. (We can now see what you did in New York when you met your new buddy Rupert, Theresa.)

So here we go then: The Tories claim the new centre ground, is what we hear and read. When -since Germany in the 1930’s- has the centre ground been so far to the right that a right wing politician -Nigel Farage no less- would claim credit for Theresa May’s speech, and that a UKIP MEP could contemplate joining the Tories? Side note: He subsequently got assaulted by a fellow UKIP thug, though that’s obviously not the Tories fault.

I know, the keen observer will have noticed that I’m not doing this in chronological order at all… To be perfectly honest, too much dangerous nonsense has been spouted at the CPC; keeping that in perfect order -and anger in check- isn’t an easy feat.

 

For whatever it’s worth, a step back then… Theresa has kicked off the CPC hinting at a very hard Brexit. We’ve heard that before; but so far we haven’t heard any date or plan. Now we have a date, March 2017. A plan, you ask? Who needs a plan when we can be a world leader in free trade, right? Yeah, never mind.

While the Brexiteers were drooling on the short boost of the FTSE100 (which says little about the strength of the UK’s economy), all those who gave up wearing rose-tinted glasses long ago noticed that the Pound Stirling hit rock bottom again… The lowest of lows in 31 years against the US Dollar; and a 5-year low against the Euro. The markets did not like the lack of plan or the time-frame within which Article 50 is going to be triggered.

Now I hear the ones who still do wear rose-tinted glasses (nice look there mate!)… Low Pound is good for export. Yes, it is, if -and only if- no part of your export product has any components that have been imported. And to put it on a wider scale: An economy such as the UK which is a net importer (meaning that we import more than we export, mostly because we don’t really produce much these days), will lose if the Pound goes down. Also, any money owed to foreign entities, suddenly becomes much more expensive to pay back.

Now let’s add to that the exit from the Single Market. In practical terms, this means we will at least initially -for however long it takes to negotiate anything different- pay tariffs on exported goods. That makes all British products more expensive abroad. It offsets, or even negates, any perceived benefit the devalued Pound may have.

On top of that, economists worry that some 80,000 jobs and close to £40bn may be lost early in the process. Most of the jobs are obviously in the service sector, which the UK so heavily depends on. And they require passporting rights, which will soon be history.

You still wearing those glasses? Man, you’re hopeless. By the way, Britain is no longer the 5th strongest economy in the world. Almost immediately after May’s speech, it dropped to rank 6.

 

So let’s move on from a complete lack of economic strategy (or even hint of a grasp) to what Brexit apparently really is about: Bloody foreigners! (Mind, I can call them that with tongue in cheek, because I am a foreigner myself.)

I think Jeremy Hunt, probably the worst Health Secretary in British history, made a start suggesting that all EU doctors be replaced by home grown doctors in the near future. But it would be okay for EU doctors to stay until then. Well isn’t that generous? Those doctors have saved lives in Britain! You should be fucking grateful and welcome them with open arms; instead you make them feel tolerated, at best, until their time is up. It’s absolutely outrageous. On top of that, you are sending a signal not only to doctors, but to all EU citizens: If even doctors are merely tolerated, who work their arse off under terrible conditions, thanks to you Jeremy; what about any EU citizen doing less “noble” jobs?

Oh, of course, according to Liam Fox (former GP, later disgraced Defence Secretary, now somehow all clued up on international trade), EU citizens are merely bargaining chips. How could I forget. How do British citizens living in EU countries feel about that? The 300,000 in Spain for example, a majority of whom are retired? Spain has already asked for the UK to shoulder the bill, and damn rightly so, if we’re all just “cards” to play with. Presumably you don’t want to bring them back, because a) they won’t vote for you ever, b) they will want pensions paid, c) they will make use of the NHS, which will then be even shorter of doctors. I wonder why no politician has even mentioned them yet?
EU citizens in Britain currently enjoy the same rights as Brit expats in the EU. Limit rights in one country, and the other will retaliate. If it really comes to that point, it should be interesting to watch more than 1.2 million British voters return; voters for any party but the Tories then, obviously.

In other news: Amber Rudd just weeks ago praised Theresa May as the most successful Home Secretary the UK has ever had. It’s completely unclear to me by which measure, because the Tories’ own net immigration target for 2015 was missed by some 330,000 under her watch. Not that I care. Not that anybody should care, because EU immigrants in particular are net contributors to the UK economy, meaning they pay more in taxes into the Treasury’s coffers than they take out in benefits or healthcare, whereas for British nationals it’s apparently the other way round. Given Amber Rudd’s track record in business (several companies she ran and owned owed millions when they were closed down), she’s obviously not referring to numbers. I’m guessing she found the hugely offensive “Go home” vans a success. Or maybe she just felt like licking May’s arse for no reason.

Oh numbers… Yeah well, as I pointed out, they are not Amber Rudd’s strong suit. No surprise then that she wants to “crack down” on the number of foreign students in the UK. The lack of income from tuition fees would then probably be paid by… no, I’m not going to mention the #VoteLeave bus. Nope.

Another absolutely fantastic plan, which Adolf Hitler would immediately approve of (in fact he did have something very similar in place), is that all businesses should be reporting the number of foreign employees they have. Why, you ask? To “encourage” -name&shame to you and me- businesses who don’t employ enough Brits. Let that sink in for a moment. No honestly, think about it. For me personally, the lunch was almost on its way out where it entered my body minutes before, when I heard that. Absolutely disgusting and disgraceful!

Unsurprisingly, a huge number of businesses were in arms as well and essentially told Amber Rudd to fuck right off. They were not going to comply. As far as Scottish businesses are concerned, Nicola Sturgeon has said today that she would support any business that didn’t comply, too.

It doesn’t really matter that Amber Rudd attempted to row back saying “it’s not something we are definitely going to do” in an interview. Well I’m not sure what that statement actually means. Probably not a lot. Anyway, the damage is already done. Unfortunately, it’s not just her, who has revealed a deeply racist mindset. Somebody in the Department of Education, by order of the government apparently, has requested already (some time last week or so) that all pupils be profiled by nationality and -wait for it- country of birth. Parents are receiving letters from schools to do just that at the moment.
What is the legal basis for this shit? Profiling for nationality is a bit rich already; but profiling for country of birth? You can’t be fucking serious. Tomorrow, we (all foreigners that is) will be wearing tags? Front doors are marked? And then what? Seriously, where is this heading?

Hitler would be proud of you. And this is not a comparison I draw easily, because being German myself, I have been exposed to more than enough education about our gruesome  history. It must not be repeated; not in Germany or anywhere else in the world! How politicians and news editors, who are usually relatively well-educated, can use racist language and actively incite hate, is beyond me.

In 1920/1930’s Germany, it started exactly the same way. The vastly simplified summary: Economy hit rock bottom; all strangers were blamed; simultaneously Germans declared themselves superior to everybody else. Slowly and steadily it became the norm to hate Jews, and anybody opposing it would be considered not patriotic, or a traitor even. Then it became a crime to support Jews in any way, shape or form.We all know, hopefully, where that ultimately led to.

Racism and xenophobia develop on a sliding scale. The EU referendum got the slider into motion (as a surge in racially motivated hate crime confirms), and it keeps moving to the far political right, if we don’t speak up against it. All of us!

Any form of racism and xenophobia must stop. Right now. Especially in politics and the media!

 

The question is how the fuck we got here? I have no answer to that.

The UK has problems, no doubt: A widening gap between the rich and the poor; declining NHS performance in England; unaffordable housing (too much demand, too little supply); to name only a few. None of that is the fault of immigration, though. If you want to put the blame on anybody, take a close look at policies of Austerity. Take a look at how money is wasted on completely useless nuclear weapons. Take a look at foreign mega corps who, in some cases, pay less corporation tax in the UK than most one-man Limited company contractors. Take a look at how the Tories have managed to increase the deficit. Take a look at how foreign investment, like Hinkley Point C, benefits nobody in this country. Take a look at how British banks have spectacularly burnt taxpayer’s money. None of that has anything to do with the EU or immigration. It has everything to do with putting the blame on somebody else to deflect from issues and mistakes.

 

Please, Scotland, let’s get out of this! Remaining part of the UK means that Scotland will have its voice heard, and then brutally trampled upon. With 59 seats, we can never get a majority. Westminster knows that. The Tories, who currently have no actual opposition in the House of Commons, know that. They won’t take Scotland’s opinion seriously, ever.

“A country that works for everyone” is never going to happen. Westminster will drag us out of the EU, whether we want it or not (and we don’t). They will dictate the terms of Brexit for Scotland, whether we like them or not (and we won’t). They will make us part of a country that isolates itself in the world and lets xenophobia take the new “centre ground”.

Does that sound like a Union anybody would want to be part of? Bring on Indyref2!

 

Scot by Choice – First Impressions

Since I mentioned our move-in-progress from within M25 Essex, England, to West Lothian, Scotland, on Twitter, I had a couple of people asking me to jot down my first impressions. I’m quite happy to do that, but before I begin, let me just recap how we got here.

If you remember, it wasn’t particularly long ago that I first pondered the idea of moving to Scotland. I think the proverbial final straw was probably Brexit. It’s hard to mention Brexit without getting carried away and starting a massive rant; so let me just say this: I cannot understand how a whole nation could be fooled into the idea that retreating from one of the worlds strongest trading blocs and keeping its residents out (who are net contributors to the UK economy) could somehow be benefitial for a country which operates on a export/import deficit and is reliant on banking and services (in other words: doesn’t actually produce a lot). It just doesn’t make any sense, and it just isn’t going to work. Scotland realised that and therefore voted to stay in the EU; and now there’s a reasonable expectation that a new independence referendum might take place and Scotland might stay in the bloc. So yes, even if this wasn’t the main reason for us to consider moving to Scotland, it definitely did contribute.

Let me go back in time a little bit. Ever since our daugher was born (14 months ago), my wife and I found it increasingly undesirable to live in and around London, where we had been living as tenants for 7 years. While it may be a good place to work, it is a terrible place to live once you’re past your early 30s, even more so with a little child. Polution, traffic, cramped public transport (or alternatively free parking on the M25 and all major roads twice a day), long commutes, very expensive (yet low standard) accommodation are just some of the things you have to put up with. Or, do you? That really was the question, which started to nag louder and louder in recent months.

We decided that it was time to move on, and armed with a nice credit score and a handsome deposit, we should be able to afford a decent house. Not in or near London, of course, because we were not willing to pay back our mortgage until the age of 75, and we sure weren’t going to stay there until that age!

So we were now facing the tough choice of where to move to. Of course we still needed a place with a big enough job market (or demand for contractors, as far as I’m concerned). Good infrastructure, schools, not too rural and not too urban; maybe an airport nearby (for frequent visits to and from Germany and potentially for future contracts). So we narrowed it down to three areas, essentially: somewhere near Birmingham (West Midlands); maybe around Manchester? Or, indeed, the Lothians with good links to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Well, as you have gathered, we chose Scotland; more precisely West Lothian. Reasons are (in no particular order): schools, health care quality, nice countryside (mountains, sea side, lochs and what have you in driving distance), short links to two big cities (both via train and car), proximity to an airport with links to all major cities that matter for me as an IT contractor (London, Amsterdam, Dublin, to name a few; not that I want to go there every other week, but it helps to have options if need be).
Furthermore, we have experienced Scots as extremely welcoming people in the past; my wife has some relatives in the area; and the overall quality of living is much better than any of the alternatives mentioned earlier. Oh, and you can still get fantastic houses for a somewhat reasonable amount of money!
Can I also mention Brexit and the possibility of Indyref2 again? My gut feeling just tells me that if Brexit made Britain’s economy take a fall (and it bloody well will!), an independent Scotland would likely become much more interesting to companies looking to set up camp in the EU. Scotland might benefit from Westminster’s mistakes. So that’s another reason why buying in Scotland made more sense to us.

Consequently we decided to take a trip to Scotland for an extended weekend in late July, and arranged 10 viewings plus a visit to a local solicitor (just in case). What can I say; one of the houses we saw ticked literally all the boxes: 4 bedrooms; 13 years old; completely refurbished only two years ago; huge modern kitchen and nice garden to keep the wife happy; sun room extension (no, not just a conservatory!); double garage; good choice of schools nearby; train station in short walking distance; Edinburgh airport roughly 20 minutes by car; M8 only minutes away; yet a quiet and clean residential area. Anyway, it was quite literally exactly what we had dreamed of, although we never expected to find and be able to afford such a great match.
And for the price: An old two-bedroom flat in London, with drafty windows and an EPG rating of Z (if it existed!), which we used to rent years ago, recently sold for nearly 20% more than this particular very high spec 4-bedroom house.

The brilliant news (for us) was that our verbal offer was accepted. We got the call from our solicitor on the way back home! So between the viewing tour and our holidays, we had just a week to finalise the mortgage application and prepare the letter to our landlady (to be posted once the solicitor advised it was safe to do so). Half way through our holidays, we did get the call that everything was in order and the house would definitely be ours. Best holidays ever, with news like that!

So anyway, to cut a rather long story a bit shorter… Our house viewing trip to Scotland was two months ago to the day. And today we have been in our new house for a week already. So that’s about seven weeks between viewing and picking up the keys, which is not a bad pace. That said, I was supposed to write about our first impressions. So let’s see to it…

 

The very first thing that I noticed was the amount of traffic (or lack thereof) and the -on average- much better road conditions. It may obviously depend on the region you move away from and to, but where we used to live, you couldn’t even say “wh-aa-aaat the bloo-oo-dy he-eeeee-llll” without biting your tounge, even in a big and comfortable car. That’s how poor the road conditions were. Add to that the sunken manhole covers and the countless seriously criminal potholes, and you might aswell just kill yourself. I really do appreciate the better roads around here!

The next thing you notice, once you get out of the car, is the friendliness of people (apart from the occasional odd one out, of course). English people mostly want to be polite, sometimes overdo it a little, and then seem rather fake. Occasionally I found that very difficult to deal with. As a German (or Fishhead, as fellow Germans call people who come from the northern parts), I am used to very direct way of communicating with each other: we don’t make much fuzz and don’t do the beating around the bushes business. We typically mean what we say, and if we feel particularly considerate, we shut up rather than pretending to like somebody or agree to something if in fact we don’t. Sometimes we don’t even try to conceal disagreement or antipathy.
Now for the Scots, I think they are in a way similar, except that they are more welcoming and friendly than the majority of northern Germans. In any case, they come across very genuine and honest.

Talking about welcoming… I should definitely mention that our closest neighbours showed up at our door while the removers were still unloading the truck; armed with cards and drinks they welcomed us to the neighbourhood. Now how cool is that! That’s quite a different world compared to London (and south west Essex), where even after years you only know the neighbours’ names, if you had to take a parcel delivery on their behalf  at some point because they weren’t in.

What else can I report after just a week? Oh, yes, the accent(s) of course! They will definitely take some time to get used to. We had a plumber here the other day, and I could literally only understand every other word and somehow make sense of the overall context, albeit after a lot of “sorry”, “can you say that again please”, “pardon” and so forth. Felt a bit like when I first came to the UK and my “listening comprehension” wasn’t particularly great. Poor chap had to repeat himself so often! But he did a fantastic job fixing that tiny leak and was about half as expensive as it would have been in London.

That brings me to overall costs. Car and motorbike insurance: down by ~40%. Utility bills apparently down by ~25%, according to calculations by Scottish Power based on previous consumption in this propery, even though the property is more than twice as big as the house we lived in before. Plumber, as mentioned before, about 50% cheaper. Mortgage 10% cheaper than our last rent, not to mention the fact that we’re now investing in our own future, not in somebody else’s pension. For food and other day to day stuff I would need to ask the wife, although I don’t think that would differ much.

What I very much like here is the water quality. You can actually feel the difference when you take a shower. That really is a big plus in my book. The same goes for the air!
In fact our little (or more appropriately: wee) daughter had a lot of excema before and needed strong cremes do keep them in check. They have almost vanished in just a week with much lower dose of the creme. She sleeps better too. As any dad (or mum) will confirm: when the little ones are happy, so are the parents!

That’s it for my “week one report” I suppose. I’m sure we’ll discover many more very positive things about Scotland (or the area of Scotland where we live). We are super excited to be here.
(I write this as the winds blow through the big trees outside, which very much reminds me of my childhood. I love wind and the sound of it, even more so with the underfloor heating on!)

It was a big decision to move from within the M25 all the way up to Scotland and buy a property straight away, but I’m sure it was a good one!

 

Captain Theresa, HMS Titanic

At the moment I’m having a really hard time not to burst from anger whenever I see or read about any Westminster politician (or, indeed, certain opposition party leaders in the Scottish parliament, too). All of them produce incredible amounts of hot air: May, Davis, Johnson, Fox; Smith; Dugdale, Davidson. Whatever they say these days is either completely meaningless (but wastes time and avoids having to answer actual questions), blatant lies, ill-informed, or really badly timed; or combinations -if not all- of it. Oh yes, and then there’s those whose opinion have a half-life of about 1 day before they change into the opposite; yes, I’m looking at you, Owen. Brilliant turncoatery there re indyref2.

Anyhow, let’s focus on the main players. I simply have neither the time nor the nerves to plough through all the bullshit that politicians sling at us these days.

What the fuck was the cabinet doing before they finally had a “brainstorming” session this week? Judging by BJ’s folder contents: sod all. Yes, really, in case you didn’t see it: Boris showed up with an empty folder. I was lost for words when I saw that. And my jaw only dropped further when I learned what their brainstorming produced: sod all, again. Although there’s no photo evidence for that on the web, the statements are pretty clear.

Can you bear hearing some from Theresa again? Let’s see… She likes to use the words, “I want to be perfectly clear…” Well, truth be told, you are not, Theresa. Not a bit. All she produced were platitudes like, “Brexit means Brexit”, “Britain is open for business”, “global leader in free trade”, “Brexit needs to work for everyone”. None of that means anything at all. But it gets worse.
When quizzed on various topics by Andrew Marr, just before she set off to the G20 summit in China, she spent altogether about 15 minutes saying nothing. Yes, she was speaking, but she didn’t really answer any of his questions. We are none the wiser. It’s a pity that Marr was rather timid. But hey, the BBC is a Tory mouthpiece after all, so not terribly suprising.

For example, asked whether she would endorse or block a second independence referendum in Scotland, she had this to say: “it’s not a question of when there could be a referendum; it’s a question of whether there should be a referendum.” Given her known stance (Scotland had its say in 2014), I read her answer as: “I don’t think there should be a new referendum.” Of course that would still not be an actual answer. Frankly, you could read into it whatever the hell you want. That is intended. It’s deliberately ambiguous.

Before you call  me naive: I am of course aware that politicians do this all the time, so that they can change their minds if they have to, and the spin doctors won’t have too hard a time wording the U-turns. But, and this is a supermassively huge but: It’s been ten weeks since the Brexit referendum. It is about time that we get some actual answers. Without, it just seems that the new government haven’t really figured out anything at all yet. And that is just… [please fill this space yourself; you know… anger management]

So, armed with (I’m guessing) empty folders, May went to China. Always a good idea, by the way, to piss off the host of a summit before hand by putting deals with them on hold, and evading questions on that subject. I’m sure the Chinese will be thrilled to welcome her, uncertain as to whether she wants their billions or not. I’m sure it was a genuine mistake not to offer Obama a red carpet on arrival; they confused his plane with Theresa’s RAF Voyager (Airbus A330 to you and me).
I’m sure the Chinese were also very pleased about Theresa’s dithering when she was asked about the relationship she envisaged with China. Now, you can think whatever you like with regards to Chinese involvement in something as sensitive as nuclear power plants. That’s not the problem. The issue at hand is that she’s claiming to “make Britain a world leader in free trade” on one hand, and on the other hand shows very poor diplomatic skills. Taking all evidence into account and then making decisions is not a bad approach in general, but dithering about for weeks is not exactly showing strength or decisiveness. If she wants to be a leader and make Britain a world leader of any kind, she will need both.

Anyhow, let’s move on to the first couple of blows that transpired this weekend. Let’s start off with the US-UK trade deal, which the new government assumed to be a piece of cake. Well it’s not. It’s sour grapes at best. Obama has said that the deal is not priority. Their US-EU deal (TTIP, TTP and what have you) come first. That made of course big headlines, although those who don’t suffer dementia will remember that Obama has said pretty much the same thing before the EU referendum. Scaremongering bastard, eh? So yeah, no surprise for anybody, really.

What was much more surprising and in a way really shocking was the next blow, offered by Japan. They shared a document which outlines what Brexit could mean for them (hey, look, they have got a better grip about Brexit already than HM Gov!)
In a nutshell, they said in no uncertain terms that a hard Brexit would force them to relocate a lot of business from the UK to the EU. End of. I don’t know if any of you have ever worked with Japanese or know anything about their culture, but let me just say this: They might generally need a bit of time to consider various options and come to a conclusion; but when they finally share it, they mean it. The Japanese don’t beat around the bush, and they don’t bullshit. So, in other words, if the Japanese say they will be forced to relocate their various businesses, if they don’t have continuous and unfettered access to the EU market from within the UK, they will do it. If I was working for Nissan et al, I would be starting to look for a new job right now, because the Japanese will not wait until the last minute either. They aren’t gamblers.

So, to finish this little rant about bleeping obvious things seemingly not being so obvious to Her Majesty’s Government, and cluelessness all around, there’s one thing May said that I do agree with: “it’s not going to be plain sailing”. No, indeed, it bloody well won’t be. Once all the current trade arrangements and tariff-free access to the EU market cease to exist, it’s going to be sailing Titanic style: All businesses which can relocate and need the EU will be leaving the ship; right now they are holding out as long as reasonably possible, hoping that the hull can be fixed and ship is not going to sink. But realistically, Captain Theresa does not seem capable to prevent the disaster.

I hope an independent Scotland will ultimately be our life boat.

 

 

I feel much safer now! Not.

Westminster politics are currently jumping from one major what-the-fuck to the next. The one I’m hugely upset about right now is the Trident renewal, which was endorsed with huge majority in the House of Commons tonight.

After the SNP leader in the Commons repeatedly asked the question about the total cost of the renewal, he eventually got an answer: £179bn. Yes, one hundred and seventy-nine billion!

There are shed loads of better options to spend such a ludicrous amount of money on: NHS; keeping a war chest for when Britain actually exits the EU and sees its economy tank; pot holes on British roads (which probably cause more injuries and fatalities than any terrorist attack on British soil ever will); education; science & research (projects already on hold after Brexit vote); and many many more.

Instead, a completely dysfunctional so-called opposition has supported the government on the Trident renewal. After watching large chunks of the debate in the Commons live, my impression was that the opposition has mainly voted in favour of it, because Corbyn did not. It’s another abyssmal failure of Westminster, and another example of politicians caring more about whatever questionable agenda they may have, than they care about the country. (This is further supported by the fact that for large chunks of the debate, hardly 1/3 of MPs deemed it necessary to attend.)

The main argument is of course that Trident is supposedly keeping us safe, because we could retaliate against nuclear strikes in a like-for-like fashion, or an eye for an eye. That’s also the reason why one of the submarines is at sea at any given time, in an undisclosed location. The UK could strike back, even if the whole country was wiped out. Sealed orders for such a scenario are on board the sub.

Now, let’s think about the usefulness of this scenario for a moment, which is also the only possible scenario, because the UK will certainly not ever use Trident as a first-strike measure.

Let’s say a country like North Korea, which is quite likely the only country in the world stupid enough to take any chances, would send nukes to Britain (assuming they even had the capability and their nukes don’t fall into the ocean just off their own coast). We will be obliterated. End of. Trident will then do the same to North Korea. Great. Take that you bastards! Problem is, we won’t be around to celebrate it. So what’s the fucking point?

Some may say they will never attack us because we have Trident; that’s the idea of a deterrent… deterring them. Of course. But we are also in the NATO. Any act of war against the UK will automatically turn the NATO against the agressor. The US, also in the NATO, are more than happy to teach the Norks a lesson. They are also more experienced in the art of obliteration by nuclear means. Let them do and celebrate it. It makes absolutely no difference for — then Fallout 4 landscaped– Britain. The combined force of the NATO is a way more effective deterrent than any single nation’s nuke will ever be.

So in short, Trident is a complete and utter waste of money. And if it’s about jobs related to its production and maintenance, affected workers can very easily be re-skilled and put into jobs elsewhere. There’s a lot of good things you can do with £179bn.

It is also worth noting that the PM, Theresa May, was touting unionist rhetoric only days ago. Yet, the Trident renewal has massively fuelled the fire that is Indyref2. 58 out of 59 Scottish MPs in Westminster have voted against the renewal. But parliament has spoken, and unless Scotland becomes independent, it will always be outnumbered and trampled upon.
If I had any say in the SNP (I’m not affiliated with any party), I would push as hard as possible for Indyref2 now. Westminster has never been more helpful in enabling it.

 

 

 

Get On With It!

With Westminster in turmoil and the UK overstaying its welcome in the EU by the day since Brexit, there seems to be a strange agreement over when to trigger Article 50: No rush. While I can, to an extent, understand that the Tories want to get their own shit together and have a new PM in place before hitting the button, I absolutely do not understand why the Brexiters want to wait. It’s the “we have no plan” thing again, I guess.

The argument has been mainly revolving around this way of thinking: We are in no rush, because we can now dictate the terms of our exit. We would be in a better position for negotiations.

Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I don’t think that is true at all. First, let’s have a look at what happened in just two weeks since the referendum to our economy:

  • Bank of England makes available immediately huge amount of funds to essentially preempt having to bail out our banks a bit down the line
  • Pound vs USD falls to record lows in 30 years, and keeps tumbling
  • Pound vs EUR is just cents away from reaching its record low since the EUR started trading
  • EUR vs USD on the other hand started crawling up again, today
  • A few major property funds suspend trading, because too many oversees investors want to pull out their money simultaneously and immediately
  • Financial times reports 700,000 job vacancies being withdrawn from job market
  • Major financial entities in the City eye up (and are actively being lobbied by) other European cities to relocate to (Just remember that London is the most important financial hub in Europe, for now, and employs shed loads of Europeans who pay stellar amounts of taxes in the UK)
  • Interest rate (at a record low of 0.5% already) expected to be cut to 0.25% later this summer, according to Reuters

In other words, an economy which is already under immense pressure cannot afford to sit and wait. How this would benefit Britain’s position in negotiations, is beyond me, but maybe an economist can explain that to me. All I do here is to apply my common sense.

For the argument that we can take our time and should negotiate before kicking off Article 50: Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have heard the news that many countries (and the EU) have dismissed the possibility to negotiate a bloody thing before hand. This also includes countries like Norway, which so many Brexiters aim to replicate.

You can have all sorts of fantastic ideas, but the truth is that you cannot make any concrete plans without talking through the options with other countries. A trade deal is not something that can be unilaterally decided on. So how is this going to happen if nobody wants to talk to Britain before Article 50 is on the way?

Now, to make matters worse, Britain is not allowed to negotiate with anybody as long as it’s part of the EU, no matter if the other country is inside the EU or outside (if the EU has a trade deal in place with them). To quote EU Trade Commissioner on BBC News:

Under EU law, the bloc cannot negotiate a separate trade deal with one of its own members, hence the commissioner’s insistence that the UK must first leave.

It is also against EU law for a member to negotiate its own trade deals with outsiders, which means the UK cannot start doing this until after it has left the EU.

So there you go. Britain is stuck in its status quo until it formally gives notice to the EU (invokes Article 50).

Meanwhile most EU countries are showing their frustration about Britain dragging its feet. Sure, the Brexiters may find that amusing. (Just like their fallen hero found this amusing.)
But if you want to negotiate favourable deals, this doesn’t help a tiny bit. Around 45% of British exports and more than 50% of British imports are done with EU countries. We cannot afford to piss them off.

So, please, even though I am very much against exiting the EU and believe the campaign was based on lies, and none of those responsible for this shit will be available to be held accountable for it… The people have decided. So get on with it! Trigger Article 50 ASAP. Sticking our collective heads in the sand and pretend it didn’t happen, won’t help. The world doesn’t stop turning, just because the wheels in Westminster are stuck.

 

Brexit – Irresponsible Gamble

Even now that the dust has begun to settle after the impact of the Brexit bombshell, I am still stunned. What the hell, Britain? It has been less than two weeks since the Brexit referendum, which will enter history books as one massive political gamble gone wrong, for all major parties and a number of politicians who used Brexit to further their careers. If Brexit has had one good outcome, it’s the fact that a number of politicians showed their true colour in its immediate aftermath. A costly revelation, and to anybody following Westminster politics not entirely unexpected; nonetheless rather appalling. Brits like to gamle, but for heaven’s sake: Gamble responsibly! A small number of politicians have done the opposite; now the future of the country is at stake.

We will see, or are already seeing, political and economical instability, increased abuse against foreigners (regardless of their origin; EU or otherwise), and ultimately even a possibility that the United Kingdom may no longer be united.

How The Hell Did We Get Here?

Let’s try to recap what happened over the last weeks. First, the claims of the #Leave and #Remain camps:

  • #Leave have demanded Westminster take back control to make Britain great again (the carbon copy of Donald Trump’s slogan is shocking). What they meant is that they wanted to control (read: significantly cut down) immigration and have more authority over their borders. Also, they claimed, leaving the EU would leave £350m per week in Blighty’s pockets, to be spent on the NHS, for example. There were some other claims made, but these were in fact the dominant arguments across all media.
    Experts’ opinions and any suggestion that Britain would head into the unknown were dismissed as scare mongering, because, according to #Leave, Britain could of course somehow stay in the EU’s Single Market, without accepting free movement of goods, services, and people. All of these promises were ditched by #Leave the day after the referendum. They must have set a world record for the time it takes to break promises made during any election or referendum campaign. The sad thing is that the majority of Brits actually believed them.
  • #Remain have instead cautioned that an uncertain economical and political future might lie ahead, and that it would be easier to try changing the EU from inside, as part of it. Obviously, it would be very much impossible to have influence on the EU, if Britain decided to leave the table (ceases being a member).

The main campaigners for #Leave were UKIP’s head clown Nigel Farage (though, technically he was running a different campaign with similar promises), ex-London mayor Boris “Bike” Johnson, Michael “Let’s ignore experts altogether” Gove, and Gisela “I used to be immigrant myself” Stuart.
On the #Remain side we had dream-team “Call me Dave” and “Austerity” Osborne, and probably the vast majority of MPs, who did not really campaign though. A number of high profile business men such as Lord Allan Sugar and Sir Richard Branson have created videos and letters, but calling them half-arsed efforts would probably be a huge overstatement. (I got one from Lord Sugar. And as a EU citizen I wasn’t even entitled to cast a vote.)

The thing is, #Leave was mostly based on lies, which have largely been debunked before the referendum; #Remain on “scare mongering”. #Leave won, because Boris Johson was a popular and somewhat entertaining figure (got to give him credit there), and news outlets like The Sun were backing #Leave. On the other hand #Remain learned that facts alone don’t get you anywhere, even if provided by experts. Nobody likes smart-arses. Interestingly, absolutely nobody seriously expected #Leave to win; nobody in politics, that is. This includes the front-runners of the #Leave camp.

The Mo(u)rning After

On the morning of 24th June, everybody woke up in disbelief as to what had just happened.

  • Johnson never wanted more than a close defeat, because that would have put him into an excellent position to become David Cameron’s successor before the next general election, but without the responsibility of an actual #Brexit. Bashing of the EU to distract from domestic issues could have happily continued as usual.
  • Gove wanted to be part of Johnson’s cabinet then. Other than that, he was barely more than Johnson’s shadow.
  • Farage, well, he has lost any purpose now that his main goal -to leave the EU- has become reality. Of course he had to rub it into all MEPs’ faces, with a most disgraceful performance in the European Parliament.
  • David Cameron expected a win for #Remain and consequently resigned after the defeat, effective October, but more likely happening in September. He’s been critisised for that, but quite frankly: Why should he stick around and be in charge of something that he never believed in? Surely the Brexiteers would have a plan? (Sorry, I’m feeling sick… give me a second.)
  • The Pound tumbled
  • FSTE 100 and 250 dropped
  • Banks were the heaviest immediate losers; for some of them trading being temporarily suspended to avoid free fall
  • Bank of England was reported to be considering lowering the interest rate to zero or negative (How that is supposed to work, I haven’t got a clue. Pay the banks for savings?)

Indeed, Britain’s future looked very bleak very quickly. Absolutely nobody had a plan, because nobody actually expected or even wanted this to happen. And instead of rolling up their sleeves, Westminster immediately turned into a tollhouse.

  • Boris Johnson doesn’t even show up to post-Brexit debate in House of Commons, being ridiculed by members of both parties in absence (Cameron: “I have many responsibilities as a PM. Making sure that the MP for Uxbridge is present, isn’t one of them.”). He vanishes from public view for a couple of days, and then emerges to say that he won’t run in the Tory leadership contest. Yes, hard to grasp indeed: He championed the #Leave cause, but won’t be unavailable to take responsibility for delivering on all those awesome promises. I can’t say I was surprised. If he had a plan, he wouldn’t wait for Cameron’s resignation in October; he’d push to immediately take over, pull his plan out of the pocket, and get rolling. The fact that this didn’t happen showed he didn’t want to run for PM and didn’t expect to win the referendum, because he knew he couldn’t deliver.
  • Gove, on the other hand, after saying that he is neither willing nor capable of being a PM, suddenly turns around with a sharpened dagger, stabs Boris a few times, and throws his hat into the ring. After being a close friend of Boris for more than two decades, he realised literally over night that Boris isn’t the right man for the job, but Gove is. At least we know that he’s got mighty media support; Rupert Murdoch no less, and that his wife (a Daily Mail columnist) pulls the strings of this dangerously crazy puppet (Gove, that is, not Murdoch). Yet, if Boris wanted to go for PM, Gove wouldn’t have stood a chance against him; so let’s not make Gove the sole scapegoat.
  • Labour’s shadow cabinet launched a carefully orchestrated coup to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as their leader; so far without success. This happens in a moment where strong opposition in Westminster is vitally important for the country. Yet again, personal gain put before the well-being of millions of citizens. One person of his shadow cabinet cries in an interview, pointing out how hard she wanted to support Corbyn, but just couldn’t; and a week later she challenges him as Labour leader. Righty.
    I lost track, but did Corbyn actually manage to fill his shadow cabinet again? Probably doesn’t matter as he has no support from his MPs and therefore by definition is not really a reliable opposition to the government. I expect his MPs to abstain or vote against Corbyn in the House of Commons, rendering Labour as a whole useless. If Corbyn keeps clinging on, that is.
  • The SNP leader in Westminster has a go and asks Speaker of the House of Commons to be formally recognised as the opposition leader and sit at the dispatch box, because, reasons. Cheeky! Well, to be fair, he does have more MPs on his side now than Jeremy Corbyn does. Unfortuntaly Mr Speaker rejected that request.
  • Theresa May eventually seems to be heading the polls for new Tory leader. Apart from May and Gove, there are three more candidates who want to have a go at it, including one who has a wopping amount of three months experience in the cabinet and is apparently homophobic. The choice between the five contenders will be to pick the least of all evil. May seems to be ahead of the others, and like at least one other candidate, she refuses to give any assurance to EU citizens already living in the UK. I can’t possibly tell you how great it feels to be a bargaining chip! Thank you very much. (Update: she’s the leading of three remaining contenders after first round.)

Who Has Taken Control Of Anything?

Meanwhile the only person with a clear vision and focus to do the best for the people who have elected her is Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland. Within days she managed to gain support at Holyrood (the Scottish Parliament), and have meetings with high profile EU politicians, including Mr Juncker. It appears that she might just be able to hold a second referendum for Scotland’s independence in the very near future. Clearly the Scots do want to stay in the EU, as the Brexit breakdown has shown. Currently -of course that may change- everything seems to point to: EU membership possible, but not as part of the brexiting UK. It was a clever move to put #Indyref2 “very much on the table” and even have chats in Brussels, while Westminster is paralysed and incapable of sending any consistent signal to its people. Getting ahead of the game, is how you get into a good position for negotiations.

In other words: Nicola Sturgeon takes control of Scotland’s future, and has a vast majority backing her, by the looks of it, while the clowns in Westminster are in control of nothing and no-one, including themselves.

What’s a “Bargaining Chip” Supposed To Do Now?

That brings me to the question how we, a mixed-“race”, multi-national family with permanent residence in the UK, can make sense of this situation. The political gamble in Westminster has put my baby daughter’s future at stake. Until Westminster gives guarantees to EU citizens such as myself, who have been living in this country for years, this is a very unsettling situation. And even if we are allowed to stay, what will Britain be like in two, three, five, ten years time? Nobody knows for certain, except that not a lot will change politically in the next two to three years, until Britain might actually leave the EU. No European will be forced out before that. (Not feeling particularly welcome at the moment, is a different story.)

Believe it or not, but I’m actually an optimist. With that in mind, my personal best guess is this (you may still find that gloomy if your Brexit bubble hasn’t burst yet):

  • Not much will happen now until we pull the trigger (Article 50)
  • For the next two to three years after that, the British economy will see further negative impacts, but will eventually stabilise when it becomes clear what kind of deals Britain will be able to negotiate. Uncertainty is removed, one step at a time, and economy stabilises; it’s quite simple. I expect the British economy to take a hit overall nonetheless, in comparison to pre-Brexit.
  • EU citizens who are already here for a while will be able to stay (Told you I’m an optimist!). Otherwise more than one million Brits have to sell their properties abroad and return to Blighty. None of them will vote for whoever makes that decision. Also, many of them would be pensioneers, while EU citizens’ taxes (they come to work here, not solely to retire) would end up in other countries’ coffers, if they have to leave. Ponder about that, the NHS, pension funds etc.
  • Come the next election, the government will want to present “easy wins” which resonate well with the electorate. Expect difficult issues to be shelved until after the general election in 2020.
  • Who ever will become PM by October ’16, will not be PM after 2020. Brexit’s aftermath could best be described with “There be dragons!”
    It’s impossible to come out on top of this, since the true fallout of this gigantic mess will only become visible after the actual exit. A lot of shite is going to happen or come to light before the next election, which will paralyse Westminster in about 3 years from now, when campaigning starts.
  • Racial abuse (even though the EU is mainly of caucasion ethnicity) will be on the rise, no matter how often Westminster expresses its contempt. I know and appreciate that it’s just a tiny fraction of Brexiteers; but the other day was the first time my wife had to endure it, after 18 years in this country. It doesn’t matter how tiny the number of xenophobes is; if you are at the receiving end of it, the effect is the same. Every single racist is one too many.
    What has my wife’s asian ethnicity got to do with the EU anyway? Did you vote to leave the world, dickheads? Be on your way then! (Again, I know it’s just a tiny number of Brexiteers who now feel encouraged to let their bottled-up racism run wild.)
  • And for Scotland: If the UK really leaves the EU, I expect Scotland to be independent and stay in or re-join the EU swiftly. I believe that the majority of Scots genuinely mean it when they say that EU (and other foreign) citizens are very welcome there. We have only ever felt very welcome up there!
    They, too, will have a period of struggle while they morph into a sovereign nation. But being a member of the EU and embracing the advantages it brings, I believe Scotland will come out as the winner here. Scotland will also be one of two nations who are English speaking and part of the EU; Ireland being the other one. This can be rendered into a massive advantage. If they manage to attract foreign investment, the remains of Great Britain may look very sorry and anything but great in comparison. (Keep in mind that the UK currently is very reliant on its services industries and banking. Both are sectors that can be moved into a different country rather quickly in order to stay in the EU, if they choose to, unlike any business that actually manufactures anything.)

Since we were planning to buy property in the UK (well outside the M25), where do you think we’re moving? Scotland, that’s right.

Yes, it may be a bit of a gamble, but so is staying in England. If my own assessment proves right, property we buy now in Scotland may increase in value by a significant margin over the next 5 years or so. If my assessment is wrong, we’d be in the same boat with the rest of the UK. So it’s almost a no-brainer for us.

If we weren’t about to become citizens and had permanent residence cards already, I would be even more concerned about the future right now. I sure know that a number of co-workers and friends, who have been here less than 5 years and therefore don’t satisfy the requirements for permanent residence or citizenships, are extremely worried. Some of them own property here, have children in school, and are very much involved in local communities.

So, to close this lenghty article, I would like to thank Boris Johnson, Michael Grove, and Nigel Farage for ignoring all experts and common sense, and spreading lies instead; and David Cameron for promising to hold the referendum in the first place. You have put at stake and potentially fucked up our future.

I’m off to buy a T-shirt saying “I’m a bargaining chip” or something to that effect.