A picture of Boris Johnson sitting like a child who had just managed to spell his own name correctly for the first time, flashing two thumbs up, adorned my Twitter feed. As I scrolled down my timeline soundbites jumped out at me. While I was wary that most of what you read on Twitter is rubbish, I felt my chest begin to contract. I felt suffocated. The UK’s deal with the EU was done. I long ago made a promise to keep this blog politics free. I intend to live up to that promise, so don’t see this as a party political broadcast, see it as a British man mourning the loss of some of his freedoms.
I don’t know about you, but I am not ready to re-learn how to ask what the wi-fi password is in a variety of languages. That is the position we are back in now. I can remember my first holiday when roaming charges were dropped, swinging my big, data roaming dick around Ocean Beach Club Ibiza, filming anything and everything, posting it to my Instagram story. I was that guy. My then girlfriend, on seeing said Instagram story sent me an angry text message. “You didn’t say there would be girls there.” I’m not sure what else she was expecting…
Ironically it was in Ibiza the year previously that I discovered the outcome of the Brexit vote. At the time I didn’t think I could be angrier about it as I was in that moment. Wrong. To tell the world my displeasure I had to wait to get back to my hotel to hook up to the wi-fi. Free data roaming wasn’t a thing then.
Free data roaming was also not a thing when I was lost at night in the middle of a snowy Budapest earlier that same year. I had two options. Turn on my data, fire up maps and get home, or potentially be taken advantage of by a Hungarian Horntail. When I got my phone bill I wished I’d let the Horntail have its way with me. Of course there are other facets to Brexit than the ones I’m damning here. But for the life of me I can’t see them being positive in any way. Particularly with randy dragons on the loose.
At a time where the world is becoming ever more accessible for most people, it is criminal to think that we have chosen to close that door for British citizens. Freedom of movement is a two way street. For all the illegal immigrants who a number of people wrongly thought their votes would keep out of Britain, their votes have also placed an unnecessary obstacle in the way of themselves and future generations of their families in terms of travel be it for holidays, studying, travelling or working. Pre-deal as an EU citizen it was possible to be within the EU to your heart’s content. Now it is 90 days within a 180 day period for British citizens. Less than half a year. And when you arrive you have to join that long ass non-EU passport control queue.
That last sentence was tongue in cheek. But we know how much as a nation Brits like to moan. It’s how we got in to this mess. I’m moaning about it now. See. Like a footballer not quite up to the standard of playing for England I have been sifting through my family history to try and find an Irish family member in the hopes of clinging on to an EU passport. All to no avail.
Realistically, 180 days is a long time to be out of the country (and in the EU) for. The most I’ve managed is 35, five weeks. But this restriction of movement is unnecessary. Trading in something good for the inferior option. Lockdown has opened my eyes as to just how much I love to travel, how much I need to spread my wings. I’m a peacock captain, you’ve gotta let me fly. I decided recently I would try and find a career that will allow me to work remotely and travel. Granted this decision came after the horse was out of the stable, we voted on Brexit in 2016. By we, I mean Britain as a country, I have, and remain, staunchly in favour of being part of the EU. Because this post didn’t make that clear…
Remote working can of course be done from within the EU still. But only for 180 days, whereas pre-2021 (or pre-Covid more accurately), it would have been possible to roam Europe visa free and without too many restrictions being in place for as long as you desired. Now the only option would be to find work for a company within the EU, although that would more than likely entail being tied to one place, just in Europe. Remote working? Not for you English boy.
The more I have travelled the more I have realised just how good it has been for me. Immersing myself in foreign cultures, learning about the places I have visited. Drinking exotic beers. These are enriching experiences and as a nation we have turned our noses up at them. From this perspective alone the decision beggars belief. Without going all Alanis Morissette on this bish, isn’t it ironic that the Erasmus scheme, championed by Welshman Dr Hywel Ceri Jones, will now be closed off to people born in Britain? It’s the free advice that you just didn’t take. And who would have thought it figured?
Sadly, my musings won’t change anything. We saw the iceberg in 2016. Unlike the crew of Titanic Britain had an opportunity to steer round it. Britain chose to plough straight in to it. At least the crew on the Titanic tried to steer around the disaster. If you need me, I won’t be playing my instrument and going down with the ship, I’ll be hunting high and low for a way to find an EU passport. The grass definitely is greener on that side.