Irish in Britain on Brexit day: ‘I don’t regret voting Leave and I’m full of hope for the future’
Irish readers living in the UK have their say on how they feel about impending Brexit day
Britain’s Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage drinks a beer on the sidelines of a European Parliament plenary session in Brussels on Thursday. Photograph: John Thys/ AFP/Getty Images
It’s almost here - the day the UK leaves the European Union. It has been three and a half years since the referendum. On Friday a clock counting down the last hour to 11pm will be projected on to No 10 Downing Street.
We asked Irish people living in Britain how they feel about Brexit day. Here is a selection of the responses:
Adam Harrison, London: ‘As a food business owner, we’ve felt the impact of Brexit’
It feels like the shine has been taken off London since the Brexit vote. Once it felt like the most exciting city in Europe, but now it feels like the lights are dimmer, the country’s confused and the “welcome” sign has been taken down. As a food business owner in London, we’ve felt the impact of Brexit in the form of a harsher trading climate and much fewer non-British people coming through the door looking for a job. If I hadn’t put down deep roots here (house, partner, business), I’d likely pack my bags and move somewhere sunnier with the hope of returning once sanity had returned. The weight of Brexit on people’s minds and moods really has been too much for too long. It’s a sad time for all people living in the UK.
Rob Charles, London: ‘I’m full of hope for the future’
I voted for Brexit as it was an opportunity to break one country away from the undemocratic EU. How the EU has treated its people during the economic crisis, migrant crisis and even “dieselgate” shows that corporations matter more than people. I don’t regret it, and am full of hope for the future. The EU is a failed project and it refuses to change.
Pat Murphy Thomas: ‘I’m devastated by this bloody nonsense’
I’m Irish, having lived most of my life in the UK, and I’m devastated by this bloody nonsense. I’ve been abroad for the last couple of years but I come back and forth to the UK, and I’ve seen and felt a huge difference in the country - and not in a good way. I can honestly say, to me, it felt like being back in Belfast during the Troubles with everyone afraid to talk about certain subjects as it would then identify “which side you were on”. As a teenager coming to London in the 1970s, that was the greatest feeling - not having to be careful what you said or who you said it to. I think it is the definition of freedom and freedom of speech, which is no longer in the UK. In pubs we visited in the UK, as soon as we mentioned Europe, there was an atmosphere. In one hotel where we stayed outside London, a Dutch couple struck up conversation with us and were quite loud. Honestly, the whole bar went quiet to listen to our conversation - it was creepy and frightening. Brexit has done irreparable damage already and I fear for the future.
Emmet Faherty, Bedford: ‘I’ve very lukewarm feelings towards Brexit’
Ironically, I will be travelling home on the evening of Brexit day but only for the weekend. It will be interesting to see whether there will be any difference travelling back on the Sunday night with the UK officially out of the EU. I moved to Bedfordshire from Dublin a few weeks after the Brexit vote in 2016 to work as a secondary school teacher. Personally, I’ve very lukewarm feelings towards Brexit, as long as I am not negatively affected financially, politically, or travel wise I don’t really care for it. Despite this it will be interesting to see what changes Brexit will bring to the UK, how the government will react to it, how much it will influence future policy, budgeting, trade and foreign relations, particularly with the Border question. Whether it has a positive or negative impact, it will be interesting times ahead for everyone living here.
David Lawson: ‘I feel good about Brexit’
I’ve been here since the 1970s. I see Brexit as a constitutional issue, getting out of a Franco-German superstate. Britain has always had an ambiguous attitude to European powers. Britain fought many wars to defend its own interests, particularly to avoid being dominated by European powers. Historically, Britain places more emphasis on the individual rather than the state. So I feel good about Brexit for the reasons above, but even more so for ordinary people who have stuck it to the remainer whiners.
Patrick Bowe: ‘Things will never be the same for me again’
I moved to the UK in 1982. I was 20 years old. I am a gay man and the move to the UK was a release from the stifling and restrictive attitudes I faced in Co Clare at the time. I’ve done well and the UK has been very good to me. I’ve been a barrister for 20 years. I have loved my time in the UK and it has allowed me to fulfil my potential. My partner is a Spanish and Argentinean national. Sadly, the Brexit vote, the debate leading up to it and in the years following it has brought into sharp focus an unspoken and hidden racism in English society. Furthermore, I have been saddened at the levels of ignorance and disinterest there has been in the very real and serious impact all of this might have on Ireland and Northern Ireland. I have experienced very hostile reactions when I have tried to engage on this issue. More shockingly, I have encountered a degree of smouldering anti-Irish sentiment. This has left me very sad indeed. I’m leaving for Portugal on Friday morning for the weekend. I expect that much of the harm done by this will dissipate in time but I don’t think that things will ever be the same for me again. I am struggling to see England as my home long term. It’s very sad. Modern Ireland stands in very stark contrast to all of this and the call of home may be too strong to resist.
William McDevitt, England: ‘I’m thinking of selling up and moving back to Dublin’
I’m gutted. I’m worried about the £200 billion damage to the UK economy and the future pain to come for Ireland and England, not to mention the European political instability it may cause. I’m thinking of selling up and moving back to Dublin as a consequence despite living here 21 years. All avoidable but people are buying tea-towels saying “Got Brexit Done” already without the first iota of the arduous next steps that will take years to negotiate.
Kathleen Shorte, London: ‘Really looking forward to it’
Really looking forward to popping a cork or two. No longer need to prop up other countries to the detriment of UK.
Catherine Stow, England: ‘It will be a sad day for me’
I’m 81 years. I’ve been an ex-pat since 1960, living the majority of that time in various parts of England. I’ve lived in New Zealand and, more recently, spent more than 14 years in France. I returned to England in 2015. January 31st will be a sad day for me. I love the European Union and all it stands for. Despite the reforms it needs to make, it’s the “ties that bind us,”, both culturally and economically, that are so important in this turbulent 21st century. As an ex-pat I’ve been very proud of my country’s progress since joining the EU and also the recent constitutional reforms (abortion, equal marriage and more) but Ireland also needs reforms to look after the less privileged and the disadvantaged. Think I’ll blot out the 31st. A bottle of wine will be needed!
Dermot O’Grady: ‘I’m broken-hearted to be honest’
As a second generation Irish Londoner, born in London to Irish parents, l feel devastated that Brexit has empowered the racists over here to publicly air their grievances about “”foreigners”. I’m broken-hearted to be honest, and I’m seriously thinking of moving to Ireland. While I know Ireland is not without its own problems, I have lost so much respect for this country in which I was born . I work in construction, and be under no illusions, the majority of my peers voted leave.
Georgia Jones: ‘I’m not sure if I’ll stay after my degree now’
I’m deflated. I think all Irish people are sick of explaining why this is about so much more than a customs union. Most people my age here don’t even know what the Troubles were. It was always a losing battle. I moved to London for university two years ago. On my first night in halls, one of my new roommates was in absolute shock as I explained Ireland is indeed a separate country with its very own passport and language to boot! This mind you from a girl who had actually chosen to study Northern Irish history as an elective module for her A levels. She has since proven herself to be a highly intelligent friend. In the British education system, colonial atrocities are repackaged as the golden age of trade before they swiftly move on to Henry VIII and the Tudors. I had always planned on staying after my degree, but now I’m not so sure.
Kathleen Kennedy, Northamptonshire: ‘A bigger and better Great Britain’
I’m Irish living in the UK. I’m looking forward to a bigger and better Great Britain.
Joshua Sowunmi, Bradford: ‘I’m not sure whether I’ll stay or go after my degree’
I’m in first year of university in Bradford and originally from Navan. I hear about this uncertainty people have around Brexit, but you really don’t know what it is until you experience it yourself. All EU students were summoned to a meeting during freshers’ week to discuss the schemes we will need to apply to, and I remember looking around and seeing a lot of worried faces. It did dampen the mood on what is an enjoyable week. Surprisingly even though Bradford voted to leave EU, there seems to be no events marking Brexit day. I’m not sure whether I’ll stay or go back after my degree, but I hate to say that there’s seems to be more opportunities for people of colour to excel in a career in law in England than Ireland.
Peter Benson, London: ‘A very difficult and emotional day’
This has been the saddest week of my life living here in the UK with a deep sense of embarrassment that as an Irishman in Britain we are relatively unscathed by this Brexit decision. Moving here more than 36 years ago was a fantastic decision, but now I am just feeling the same sense of despair and depression that so many other anti-Brexit activists are feeling this week. This Friday the 31st will be a very difficult and emotional day. In my view an avalanche of lies, clever slogans, media manipulation and a failed political system has brought us to this departure date. The UK is still as divided as it was despite the huge Tory majority in parliament won by just a 1 per cent increase in vote share. For anti-Brexit activists the fight to rejoin will continue.
Mark: ‘Leaving the European Union is something I’m proud of’
I live in Northern Ireland and always have. I love Ireland and I’m Irish, but I love being part of Britain and leaving the European Union is something I’m proud of. The people trusted in democracy, and despite all the obstacles in the road we won. I only hope that Ireland will leave soon, although the EU would probably make us vote again.
Mike McDonnell, York: ‘There are very good reasons as to why you would vote to come out of EU’
I’ve lived in this part of the UK for most of my life. I left the west of Ireland as a young man to pursue my career in the motor trade. I’ve worked for 40 years in the industry. I welcome that the UK is coming out of European Union. I feel one has to live here and experience the very good reasons as to why you would vote to come out. What has gone on in the motoring manufacturing side and closures of factories, which have been moved out of the UK to countries that work for lower wages. There’s also a number of people coming into UK for less wages and impacting the National Health Service, which is one of the finest health services in the world.
Mary Farrelly: 'I’m totally disillusioned with Brexit and the UK'
I’ve been living in UK for five years. After a few years in London we bought a house in Surrey and commute into London. I’m totally disillusioned with Brexit and the UK. We’re only staying here until house prices improve and we can afford to sell up and move home.