We asked young people in Madrid how they feel Brexit will affect them
‘It has already made me feel like a stranger in my own continent’
On 23rd June, as we all know, the UK reached the decision to separate from the European Union with 52% voting Leave and 48% Remain. More than 30 million people voted and both England and Wales acted in favour of leaving, whereas Northern Ireland, Scotland and London remained supporters of remaining. Equally important, despite their vote to remain in the EU, young people could not beat the older generations who strongly defended the move to separate from the EU.
The question now is how will the Brexit outcome influence both young people in the UK and young people all around Europe. It is Spain that perhaps will result in the biggest economic drawback, since the country’s been facing extreme youth unemployment rates in the last decade, which continues to be a pressing matter.
Pablo, 23, originally from Gran Canaria, Spain
Coming from tiny Gran Canaria, Pablo was more than happy to move for his media studies course to the capital of the country six years ago. He’s just graduated and he feels quite uncertain about the future of UK, even if his previous visits to London has left him with a good impression of the English people.
He said: “I have visited London twice and I liked it a lot. It’s not the best city in the world, but it is certainly different – the food, the architecture, the people. I was even lucky to have sunny weather both times!”
Pablo explained that he feels sad and disappointed from UK’s decision to leave the EU, since he believes that it’s better to keep the borders open in Europe: “A country doesn’t necessarily lose its identity if it belongs to something greater. It is when a country aspires to be overly independent that it goes beyond nationalism and patriotism and reaches racism.”
Having previously considered traveling to England to study and work, Pablo is no longer sure that’s a good idea. He is pessimistic about what the outcome of Brexit might mean for Spanish people: “The UK’s decision to leave will definitely influence young people who won’t be able to travel to the UK and find jobs that easy anymore. As you know, the unemployment remains a big problem here.
“When I went to London, it was full of Spanish people, but I think that’s going to change in the next few years.”
Max, 24, originally from Trowbridge, England
Originally from Trowbridge, Max currently resides in Madrid where he moved to in 2014 for love. He quickly found a job teaching English and recently began working for the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism. He was first introduced to Spanish at the age of 11 but was truly fascinated by the Hispanic culture after his gap year in Chile.
When it comes to his opinion of Brexit, he says it is “a terrible decision, the stupidest decision the UK has made in decades, in fact. It just shows that the English race is made up of racist people. I am definitely less keen to go back to the UK now and like many others, I am considering getting a second passport and a Spanish citizenship.”
As to whether the outcome of Brexit will affect the rest of the EU countries, Max said: “Before Brexit no one questioned the EU, or at least, no one questioned it publicly, and now I think each of the countries has equal chances of bringing up the subject of a referendum, including Spain”.
Sofie, 20, originally from Vienna, Austria
Media Management student, Sofie, is visiting Madrid for a journalism seminar. Originally from Vienna, she feels primarily Austrian, and then a citizen of the world, but not quite European. She believes Brexit to be a dramatic step, and above all: “A democratic decision which in a sense is a good thing, because maybe this represents a sign for the EU that it’s time to make some changes.”
She explained that she does not feel European because the EU focuses way too much on money and the economic aspects whereas the social aspects remain overlooked, but then adds: “It is only when you leave the continent that you realise what it means to be European, where you don’t need visas or even your passport to travel to most countries.
“The EU is first of all an union and everyone should be and feel included. It’s easy to judge as a normal citizen without realising how much work needs to be done for the union to be working. Perhaps Brexit was simply provoked by UK’s lack of belonging to the EU in general. After all, UK has kept their own currency and that itself is a factor for separation, even if it’s not the only place not to convert to euro.”
Sofie believes that the Brexit outcome will introduce a serious problem to young Spanish people since the majority of them choose English as a second language and UK has long been established as an attractive destination for work in Europe. “I don’t see an optimistic future and I see the economic situation remaining problematic. I myself have always dreamt of working in London, but I have no idea how things are going to work out at this point. Brexit has certainly made me feel less European, like a foreigner in my own continent.”
Borja, 29, originally from Seville, Spain
Borja who’s visiting Madrid, and whose photo I was not able to obtain, is one of the many who believes Brexit to be a bad idea. He said: “The European continent had many conflicts along the 19th and 20th century, and I think the EU is the best solution to making the European countries work together instead of fighting one another. That said, Brexit will definitely make this project weaker.
“In the economic field, I think it’s good for the UK to have access to the single market and all the advantages that come with it, like selling their financial services or industrial products to any other European country as well as having the chance to move freely between all the EU members. Also, in my opinion, the EU is stronger with a country like the UK among its members.”
As to whether he has ever considered moving to the UK for work, Borja replied that he has – much like with any other EU country – and that his opinion has not yet changed. He is not quite sure how Brexit will change the situation in Britain but in his view UK’s decision to leave the Eurozone will definitely affect young people.
Alberto, 21, and Zulema, 18, both originally from Madrid, Spain
Alberto, who has planned a trip to Dublin later on this year, considers Brexit to be complete nonsense: “They just manipulated the common people and confused the population with complicated statistics.”
Having only visited Scotland where he has family members, Alberto hasn’t yet given up on the possibility to move to the UK for work one day. Zulema, on the other hand, who has previously traveled to London, says she has no intentions to move to Britain either for studying, or work, even if she enjoyed her time in England.
Whether the Brexit outcome will affect young Spaniards, nobody can tell with certainty, but both Alberto and Zulema agree that the EU will endure a sense of loss with UK out of the picture.
Amaia, 28, originally from the Basque Country, Northern Spain
“I know I’m European, of course, but in terms of identification my culture is Basque,” says Amaia and wonders whether there remains such a thing as an European identity, “I don’t even know if anybody knows what the EU stands for today.”
Currently visiting Madrid for a holiday with her boyfriend, she can usually be found in the Basque territory of Spain where she works as an English teacher. Amaia believes that young people should be encouraged to study languages and seek for success abroad if their own country cannot provide them with enough opportunities. She says she has spent some time studying in Berlin herself, and it is precisely the time abroad that taught her to work hard for everything she wants to achieve.
She is worried both about Spanish people already in the UK and those who are considering traveling to seek for jobs, since it’s not clear if work visas will be introduced in the near future, and most importantly, if the borders will remain open for everyone.
“There are people from the UK here as well, I know many British people living and working in Spain. You know, the older you get, the more you want to spend time in sunny places, such as Spain, and just enjoy life. I wonder what the consequences will be for them, too.
“Perhaps Brexit will stand as a reminder that the EU is not perfect after all and that it needs revision, because its main goal should not be money, but its people.”