Irish in Britain on Brexit deal: ‘I have lived in England for 30 years. I feel like leaving now’

Irish readers on the latest deal negotiated with the EU, and where it leaves them

Demonstrators hold placards and EU flags as they take part in a march organised by the People's Vote organisation in central London last weekend. Photograph: Niklas Halle'n/ AFP

Demonstrators hold placards and EU flags as they take part in a march organised by the People's Vote organisation in central London last weekend. Photograph: Niklas Halle'n/ AFP

 

Despite a Brexit deal being struck between London and Brussels, there is little cheer for it among Irish people living in Britain, who remain uneasy about how the post-referendum fall-out has deeply polarised the place they called home.

While many are relieved that agreement avoids the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland, there is a sense of a still shattered confidence in a UK they felt they once understood, according to Irish Times readers who got in touch about their response to this week’s breakthrough.

The exposure of a lack of understanding among much of the British public about Ireland, the peace process, the actual impact of the UK leaving Europe, as well as Europe generally, is a theme.

Some who have felt at home in Britain for years say they are less free with their conversations for fear of provoking reaction from the other side of this most divisive of debates.

Others are so perturbed at the atmosphere that has emerged over the past three years that they have decided they will leave the country - deal or no deal. There is also a prevailing consensus that Boris Johnston’s deal is bad for ordinary Britons but not for Ireland.

Here is a selection of some of the views of Irish people in Britain who got in touch:

Neil McLaughlin: ‘Any deal is worse than remaining in the EU’

Not good because any deal is worse than remaining in the EU for Britain, Ireland and the rest of the EU. This deal is better than no deal but worse than Theresa May’s deal.  I’m really worried about the direction that England is taking at the moment. The EU is being scapegoated for a lot of self inflicted social and economic problems. When Brexit  doesn’t resolve these issues other scapegoats will be sought.  Future does not look too bright at the moment.

Orla Nolan, Bristol: ‘I've been told to go back home if I don't like it’

I hate Brexit and all that it represents. I've been told to go back home if I don't like it. I have lived in England for 30 years but I often feel like leaving now. I have good friends here and a happy enough life, but the idea that Britain wants to set sail to isolation is beyond stupid. I feel so sad about this and all the racism and ultra rightwing movements growing and gaining louder voices day by day. Bristol voted remain but we are in a minority in the South West. No Brexit deal is good for the country and I can't believe that anyone thinks it is. It's all a travesty.

Paul Buckley, UK: ‘It’s a monumental disaster for Britain… I don’t care as long as Ireland is unscathed’

I would suggest that most of my neighbours and friends are in favour of Brexit, even though they have limited knowledge of what that actually means. For me I think it is a monumental disaster for Great Britain geopolitically. People in general do not grasp the level of interaction with the continent economically and are clueless about the island of Ireland in general. There is also the sheer boredom with the subject and people do want to move on. I will be content either way so long as Ireland/Northern Ireland emerge relatively unscathed and there is no border.

An anti-Brexiteer holds an EU flag near pro-Brexit banners outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, central London on October 17th, 2019. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
An anti-Brexiteer holds an EU flag near pro-Brexit banners outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, central London on October 17th, 2019. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Karen Hautz, London: ‘I always felt at home in London but notice now we’re all treading more carefully in our conversations’

I have been living in London since 1987. What has become apparent is what little geopolitical understanding my many English friends share of Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Peace Agreement, which is really dismaying. Those who have voted to leave seem to have done so largely on an intrinsic gut feel. I have always felt at home and welcome in London but notice that we all tread more carefully in conversations with strangers and friends, gauging political leanings before weighing in.

Caroline Q, London: ‘Everyone is worse off’

No deal is as good as the deal Britain has as an EU member. Everyone is worse off. Brexit Britain is a place I don’t understand – and I’ve lived here for 16 years.

Georgia Hilton, Winchester: ‘This deal is awful for ordinary British people’

I have been in the UK for 20 years. I voted Remain and have been a passionate campaigner for a people’s vote. However, Brexit fatigue is setting in and I don’t think the country can sustain much more uncertainty. People are becoming very bitter. This deal is awful for ordinary British people, but if it goes through then I will make my peace with it, mainly because it seems to guarantee no hard border on the island of Ireland. I can live with that.

The hardest part about being in the UK has been listening to the anti-Irish propaganda spouted by some hard Brexiteers, including the government. I’m delighted that the EU has stood in solidarity with Ireland. Having said that, Britain is also my home now and I feel very sad for ordinary British people who are losing their rights as EU citizens. Britain will be poorer for it and I can see a point in the future where rejoining the EU, or at least the single market will become a political and economic necessity.

Pro and anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside Houses of Parliament in London on October 14, 2019, following the State Opening of Parliament. Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/various sources / AFP via Getty Images
Pro and anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside Houses of Parliament in London on October 14, 2019, following the State Opening of Parliament. Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/various sources / AFP via Getty Images

Darragh Crossan, Southampton: ‘Deal or no deal, I’m leaving here’

My family live near the border and I’ve often flown from Belfast airports so we were quite worried as to how this would affect us. The border region is already among the most deprived parts of the country and a hard border would have spelled the death knell for towns like Cavan, Clones, and Dundalk, so anything that avoids that will be a source of some relief there. The south of England where I live is a very “Leave” voting area and, predictably, there’s a lot of ignorance on the “Irish Question”, which has spilled over into a few comments here and there when they register your accent. It’s quite astonishing just how little a lot of people know about Northern Ireland, why there’s a border, and why a hard border would be a bad thing. Brexit has unleashed a very unpleasant undercurrent in a significant minority of the English. I had debated staying before, but now? Deal or no deal, I’ll move on when my commitments here are done.

Barry McBrien, London: 'No one here cares about Ireland and the Border'

I grew in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh in the 1980s and 1990s, two miles from the Border. I remember the army checkpoints. I remember the customs checkpoints. I am a remainer but a Brexit deal that means no hard Border in Ireland is great news. I live in London now. I have my own business here. No one here cares about Ireland and the Border. People are tired of it here. Personally, I think things in London will be fine. It will continue as normal. A deal will give the UK economy a shot in the arm albeit a short one. Once that subsides, I would be worried if I was located outside of London. Brexit as a whole is a disaster and I am of the opinion people here will realise that in the coming years. Brexit is a huge mistake - a backwards step in an era where progression and togetherness is more critical than ever.

Helen Kennedy, London: ‘I’ve few Brexiteer friends ... I don’t want to live with these sort of people’

I came to London after post degree professional studies for two years. That was 30 years ago. Before the dreaded Brexit, I considered myself a Londoner who is Irish and a European. Since the vote, I consider myself Irish first and foremost.My daughter is both Irish and British but she feels she’s from London and she always chooses to travel on her Irish passport without any bias from me. I am a supporter of a vote on the actual deal and have donated to the campaigns for a people’s vote. I believe Brexit is bad for Britain and bad for the EU. I voted to remain because of the security in Europe and the oneness which has come through the years of the EU.

It is true that the EU is not perfect but that’s the way with everything. I am concerned about my daughter’s future and that of her cousins (my sister’s children who also grow up in England). Whilst they have the benefits of an Irish passport, the environment in the UK will not be as dynamic as the past or as inclusive. For myself, I don’t want to live in a country that believes myths – that foreigners are the cause of all of the problems. I’ve few Brexiteer friends. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere which voted for Brexit – I don’t want to live with those sort of people. I believe a vote on the actual deal is the fairest, and I’ll accept the result of that without quibble.

Indeed, I think it is necessary to start bringing the country together and put the 2016 vote behind us. But the lies and deceit in the first vote as well as it being a vote on something nebulous and conceptual which negatively impacts the future generations, is worth fighting for. If there isn’t a vote on the actual deal versus Remain, I will continue with the political movement to rejoin (the EU).

Bill Nevin, Devon: ‘My hope is that we won’t leave the EU’

I came to the UK 51 years ago and have always kept an Irish passport. I faced some criticism over time because I remained true to my roots.   I voted to remain in the EU, I feel more European than Irish per se, but I now think having an Irish passport will enable rather than disable my links to Europe.  My hope is that we won’t leave the EU, but if we do then I’m feel I’m in a rather privileged position.

Alan, Shropshire: ‘I can’t see any benefits or negatives to the deal’

Ultimately I believe it will not make much difference. I believe the deal Boris Johnson and the EU agreed on is a soft Brexit deal where the general population will not see any benefits or negatives over the coming years. One positive impact that I may experience is that maybe there will be less negative talk regarding immigrants coming over to the UK. A lot of the time British people talking to me forget that I am Irish and am also one of these people they talk negatively of.

Simon Matthews :‘It’s an ok deal for Ireland. The down side may be that a future UK government (particular a future Conservative government) will either renege on the agreement or progressively drift further away from it.’ Photograph:Simon Matthews
Simon Matthews :‘It’s an ok deal for Ireland. The down side may be that a future UK government (particular a future Conservative government) will either renege on the agreement or progressively drift further away from it.’ Photograph:Simon Matthews

Simon Matthews, London: ‘The deal could see a United Ireland within five to 10 years’

It’s an okay deal for Ireland. The down side may be that a future UK government (particularly a future Conservative government) will either renege on the agreement or progressively drift further away from it. This would create difficulties. But the upside is that it damages the DUP and makes re-unification much more likely, though a timescale is hard to predict. (5-10 years?) I feel sorry for UK friends and family. They have been abandoned by both the main political parties and the level of political (and public) discourse in the UK on anything to do with economics, the lessons of the recent past and what the EU is and stands for (and how successful it is as a global bloc) is woeful.

Kevin Elliott, London: ‘Is this the future the British people have chosen?’

I’ve always been ideologically opposed to Brexit. I firmly believe that the Leave campaign was based on misinformation and illegal activity. Post-Brexit the Tories will implement their free market fantasies which will help the rich and hurt the poor. That said, my first concern has always been for Ireland and the peace process. If the new protocols protect that then everything else is secondary. I can’t control the moral compass of the Brits and I’ve never intended to spend the rest of my life here. If this is the future society they have chosen then so be it.

 

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