‘I’m in shock. I feel lost’: Irish in Britain respond to Brexit

Readers express dismay and anxiety over vote to leave the EU

Irish people living in Britain awoke this morning to hear the UK had voted to leave the European Union. Irish Times readers have been sending us their reaction: below is a selection of the responses.

Lauren Costello (25), Hammersmith in London

I’m in shock. I feel lost. There’s a sentiment of anger in London today. The tube to work was eerily silent with everyone glued to their phones. I moved here three years ago but the UK I woke up in is fundamentally different to one I have grown to love. The results were so close in some parts. I can’t help thinking that the travel disruption in London yesterday had quite a big impact on people getting to polling stations.

My boyfriend (British) and I are trying to buy a flat in the Home Counties right now. All of that has been thrown into turmoil; not only due to future interest rates and price fluctuations but also our job security. We both work in infrastructure. This vote was a vote on immigration, not the economy or security or our rights as EU citizens. Sadly, it's been won by the people in Northern parts of England who are the most likely to be affected by the inevitable government cuts.

Jude Flores (41), teacher, Bedfordshire

I’m a secondary school language teacher and my faculty is comprised of English, Welsh, German, Spanish and Irish teachers. We got an email from our head of faculty at 6am saying he had never felt more ashamed to be British.


I don’t plan on staying here now long term. The campaign has revealed a rotten, intolerant xenophobic element in British society. When people have told me they were voting for Leave I’ve felt rejected. They’ve said “We’re full!” and “I don’t mean you (the Irish)” but I see myself as being Irish AND European. I don’t want to be around them either. Now to make a plan to move back to Ireland with my daughters. My youngest is 11 and wants to leave now. It’s the young people who were clearly in favour of remaining. They’ll be the ones stuck with the consequences of the oldies’ vote.

Lisa Byrne (33), project manager in NHS

My reaction is first shock and second devastation. I thought with Scotland and Northern Ireland we might win by a slight majority. Having just watched the scenes from outside Boris Johnson's house it is clear Londoners are very angry. London is a bubble. Diversity is the life and sole of this city and integration makes for a better country. The country now feels divided. Fear of being taken over by immigrants and a view that the country is full came across as a resounding reason to vote leave when in fact they/we contribute so much.

I fear the rise of the right and despair that even though three in four young voters voted Remain, the final decision on their future has been made on their behalf by a generation that won’t be here in 30 years.

Stephen Sheehan (34), Somerset

I moved to the UK in 2006 after serving in the Irish Army. The EU, for all its faults, was and is a great force for progression. The UK will now start the very difficult exit process and I do not expect easy negotiations with the 27 remaining members of our former EU family. What I do expect is a recession, Scotland to break away, a border again in Ireland and a fear of the Unknown. I hope I am wrong.

Dean Duke, public affairs consultant

There will likely be increased demand for the services of the company I work for over the coming months and years as businesses grapple with the uncertainty that lies ahead. Nonetheless, I feel shocked and saddened by this morning's news. The Leave campaign focused on immigration, and this feels like an unwelcoming country this morning. At least London, where I live, voted Remain - but it feels like the capital more than ever is at odds with what is going on in the rest of England and Wales.

The young people I work with are shell-shocked - at least I have a European passport. They’re worried for the future of their country, as well as their own prospects. My boyfriend is Portuguese and many of my friends are European. The uncertainty over their status is already having a psychological effect, even if no changes will be made today or tomorrow.

Helena Enright, drama lecturer, Bath

I am shocked and saddened by the result of the referendum. I have many friends and colleagues from Europe and the US who work both in Higher Education and also the arts. No one I spoke to in the run up to the election thought it was a good idea to leave. We have just received word from the university saying our right to work status will not be affected in the immediate future. At the moment there is a feeling of uncertainty and fear. English friends are saying they are ashamed of their country. It's a historic day but not for the right reasons.

Chalotte O’Toole (32), nurse, Manchester

I live in quite a bohemian area of Manchester, I voted remain. All my friends voted remain.

At the hospital everyone is shocked, it’s a strange atmosphere here this morning. People are asking me about job opportunties in Ireland. I do plan on moving back at some point but maybe sooner rather than later with the UK leaving Europe.

Seán Cooney (29), engineer, Aberdeen

I believed the best thing for Britain was to remain in the EU. But I voted leave. I did this for one reason alone, to spark another Scottish independence referendum which will someday hopefully lead to a referendum on Irish unification.

It is a scary prospect leaving the EU, especially now that I am in the middle of buying my first house. But sometimes you have to vote with your heart and not your head.

Student children’s nurse studying at University of West London, living in Reading

The NHS is comprised of educated immigrants working together to form a better health care system for the UK. I've no idea where I stand now as an immigrant in this country. My fees up till now have been paid by the EU. I will be interested to see how exactly this will all play out and what my future holds as an Irish immigrant.

Carmel Bowe-Saunders, medical recruitment, Bedfordshire

I voted to leave the European Union. I am delighted with the results, and my neighbours and friends are also happy to leave the EU. The UK now needs to govern itself. The NHS is struggling, there is not enough houses for the people who live in the UK. Schools are overcrowded. You have to wait two to three weeks for a GP appointment, and you only get five minutes. I am happy to see people like me come into the UK, and pay our taxes and work hard. But it’s time for the UK to take back control. The country we live in should be able to make and govern their laws, and not have these laws been made by bureaucrats in Belgium.

Sarah Newell (44), architect studio manager, Richmond Surrey

I’m devastated by today’s result and so is my British partner, for me it’s a step in the wrong direction. All my peers voted remain. I do feel that immigration has become the main driver for the leave campaign and people were fearful of this. Their “take back control” slogan proved very attractive and effective.

Britain is a wonderful, tolerant, multicultural, diverse society and is all the richer for it. I think that taking a first step away from this is a very bad move and almost gives a licence to those less tolerant to validate their position.

Aoife Mulderrig, teacher, North London

I have always felt welcome in this country, I feel lucky to have been surrounded by great, kind, accepting, welcoming people and I truly believe that these people are the vast majority. Surely most of the Leave voters didn’t realise the implications their vote has for those of us who weren’t born here and now face an uncertain and possibly unwelcome future here. For many, financial insecurities will make it impossible to stay here and I predict the Irish and other Europeans will leave in their droves - decent, hard-working members of society. The Leave side might be rejoicing about this fact, but when their children start losing their teachers, their hospitals start losing their doctors and nurses, their favourite restaurants and shops start shutting down because the people running them were “immigrants”, they may not feel so smug about their Leave vote.

Sam Harpur (34), project worker in health and social care, London

I am about to leave for an job interview where I was asked to bring my passport as proof of my eligibility to work in the UK. My passport is Irish, it’s European. Now I sit looking at the Harp and wonder if it will be the reason why I won’t get this job.

I moved to the UK in 2013 to continue my studies. I stayed because London has a lot to offer. Jobs that I couldn’t have dreamed I would get in Ireland; jobs that just don’t exist in Ireland. I left to travel and work temporarily in Canada. I loved my time there but after a year it was time to return to the UK and finish my studies. It felt like returning home, back to the hussle and bustle of London. I didn’t expect to feel unwelcome, but I do now.

I worked for an Irish charity (Mind Yourself) when I was here last; at that time I was asked if I faced discrimination in UK because I was Irish. I answered that I hadn’t. Which was true in 2013, but now in 2016 I am looking at my passport, the one that identifies me as different, as other. I can’t help but rethink that answer as I recall the many discriminatory experiences of Irish people in 70s and 80s in London. Only now it feels all Europeans aren’t welcome.

I hoped to complete my education with a PhD in Health Psychology but I don’t know if I can afford it anymore. As a citizen of a member EU state I would have previously qualified for home fees but now that isn’t clear. It’s the difference between £6,000 per year or £12,000 per year.

Sean Murray (24), editor in publishing, North London

I am a European as much as a Pole, a German or a Romanian is. The vote to leave is a rejection of the idea of unity and cooperation across the continent. The EU may not be perfect but what the UK have done is pull out instead of trying to make things better. I find it extremely worrying too, from an Irish perspective. I left home and came to London because of the economic climate for graduates. I miss Ireland terribly and have been keeping a close eye on things back home. The economy may be recovering slowly but Brexit has the potential to be a hammer blow.

I now live in a country that doesn’t feel so welcoming, and fear that its impact could have a damaging effect on the situation at home. And, from a purely short-term perspective, I wish I’d changed my pounds back to euros yesterday before my trip back to Dublin this weekend.

Alex Wilson (30), PhD student in experimental physics, Trafford

I live in Trafford, which voted remain but work in neighbouring Salford, which went leave. I'm sitting here in the office with the other students and the mood here has not been a cheerful one. We've all left our homes, in various parts of the UK, the EU and the world, to come to this office and learn from one another. The idea that the people just outside, in the neighbouring estates, would turn their back on that notion is just bizarre and confusing.

Perhaps it’s just me. Perhaps it’s just that I stayed up the whole night watching the results come in. Imagine the tension of the Ireland/Italy match but instead of 90 minutes, it’s stretched out over seven hours ... and without the win at the end.

An interesting trend that emerged from the results was the fact that areas with a high percentage of university education were most likely to vote remain. So being in education, somewhat sealed away from the outside world, the entire notion of a leave vote was unfathomable. Now we’ll be dealing with the consequences... or not, if we end up leaving this country as well. A part of me had always considered coming back to Ireland --- that part is more vocal today than most days. Some tough choices are going to have to be made.

Katie Grant (26), youth employment advisor, Newcastle upon Tyne

I live in the North East, a part of the country that voted Leave. I am ashamed of this. The North East is a part of the UK that has received a good amount of money from the EU. The programme I work on, to reduce levels of youth unemployment, is EU-funded. Although we are still guaranteed this funding for two years, my job is no longer stable. All of my colleagues understood the importance of the EU in keeping us and the North East in employment.

I am saddened to wake up this morning in a country that has voted to leave the EU. A union that has helped in the peace process in Ireland, an EU that was formed to promote peace between us all. This is just another border that will keep humans divided. I am sad that I have woken up in a country that is no longer part of the EU, whereas my family in Ireland have woke up in an EU country. I now feel further away from them.

Karl Cassells (50), IT consultant, South Herts near London commuter belt

I awoke this morning stunned to see the result of this referendum. In the office where I currently work it’s all everyone’s talking about. Emotions are spanning the whole gamut from celebration to gloating, bewilderment, fear, sadness and indeed full-blown anger.

This is bad for Britain. Farage and his cronies are heralding a forthcoming free and independent Britain, but even the term “Britain”, and what it means, is now up for grabs. Will all component parts of Britain even wish to remain together or will we end up with a free and independent England, with some of Wales and half of Northern Ireland thrown- in?

This was a protest-vote against the government and years of politicians riding rough-shod over the people more than it was a protest against Europe. There was a big socio-economic aspect also. Farage and the Trade Unions took advantage of it in working class areas by spinning all sorts of lies and propaganda and the Remain side didn’t do enough to counter it. The older demographic also seemed to generally vote Leave perhaps due to some romantic notion of a Britain of the past, knowing there was little consequence for them. Most are retired and will not be travelling to Europe seeking work anytime soon - unlike their grandchildren. The group I feel most sorry for is the younger voters who overwhelmingly voted to remain, but will have to suffer the consequences far longer than anyone else.

Ciaran Crudden (27), graphic designer, South London

Part of the reason I moved to London was to be part of a global talent hub, a place where you are judged on what you can do and not where you are from. A place where diversity is celebrated and encouraged, a city of the world, not just the UK. Or so I thought.

Coming from the north, I’ve grown up seeing first hand how division can hold a society back. However, in recent times there has been a definite shift in mentality, certainly in my age group, and a greater sense of unity has emerged. The post-Troubles, uber-connected generation have grown up with a forward looking sense of perspective and ambition - illustrated perfectly by the spirit of both NI and ROI fans at this year’s European Championships.

This morning’s result feels like a 30-year step backwards. All economic and political issues aside, what kind of lesson is this for young people? When the going gets tough... complain, quit and leave.

Hannah Creedon (30)

Despite the fact that Britain and Ireland have a common travel agreement, our right to live, vote and work here is also backed up by our EU membership. Now that that is gone, this leaves a lot of uncertainty. I have literally no idea what this means for my life here.

The government have given very little (if no) assurances of my ability to remain here. I feel that my English colleagues and friends are as, if not more, devastated than my Irish friends at today’s vote. There is a real sense here of “what have we done?”

My English friends and colleagues have gone out of their way to say to me today, WE want you here! I have been privileged enough as an Irish immigrant to never really feel like I wasn’t wanted here, but today I do. Today the UK cut off its nose to spite its face.

Deirdre Kilbride (27), marketing executive, Oxford

I’m based in Oxford working in academic publishing, a bastion of liberal views that employs many EU nationals. The mood overall is one of shock, fear and anger. I moved here just under a year ago having reframed the desperation of graduating into a recession as an opportunity for adventure. The results of the marriage equality referendum last summer, just before I emigrated, made me feel proud of how socially progressive Ireland has become in certain respects. Having voted in the second epoch-defining referendum of my life, I now feel like I’m facing the prospect of another recession in a more inward-looking and regressive country than the one I left.

Fintan Hastings (32), public affairs, North London

I've been living in London for a year and a half after spending several years in Brussels. I've experienced first-hand the positive impact that the right to move and work freely throughout the EU can have, especially as a young person forced to leave Ireland and seek work abroad during the economic downturn. Today is a sad day not just for Irish people in Britain, but for all of us of different nationalities who have chosen to make a home and a life here.

Teresa McIntosh (66), retired, Co Dublin

I am a British citizen living in Ireland for the past 27 years. My husband, myself and our two children came to live in Ireland in late 1990. My husband passed away in 1999 and we, particularly my children, had no desire to return to live in the UK, so I decided to stay and work and educate them here.

We all still have British passports which posed no problem while being in the EU. My son is worried about his residential status here as he has been living in the US for the past few years, having won a scholarship for university and subsequently working there to gain experience. He has no ties at all with the UK and regards himself as Irish and Ireland his country, and wants to return to live here in the future.

Today I feel shocked, disappointed, sad and strangely a little isolated. I think the people of the UK have not voted so much for in or out of Europe but against the domestic political parties and leaders and things that affect their everyday lives. If only they turned out to vote for this through the ballot box and not to show their discontent by taking the country out of Europe. What a mess.