I am pro-Europe, and although I understand some concerns about immigration – regarding types of jobs, integration, the impact on areas with a struggling economy – my (idealistic) impulse is that we should stay together.
I know that Britain is not putting up an iron curtain, a Berlin wall or Trump’s barrier (material tbd), and I know countries like Switzerland can step outside the EU while remaining part of the European community.
However, the anti-EU rhetoric is not just about jobs or parliamentary sovereignty. I feel like my country – members of my family – are shutting down options and shrinking futures of British teenagers. The UK has wonderful opportunities and is full of forward-thinking people. The idea of living and working abroad is like an additional luxury.
The reduction in language studies in British schools puts weight behind the idea of the UK’s superficial interest in “The Continent”, which is good for holidays, food and a bit of sophistication (cars, furnishings, fashion).
Nobody knows the outcome of this fiasco. We will probably leave. The economy will take a hit. In the long term – over the decades – there could be an economic advantage (miracles do happen). But my own journey back to languages is one example of how attitudes could be changing for this generation.
We are consuming media from all over the world, we have friends from more countries, the streaming platforms are creating shows which are subtitled for millions of international viewers. The older generation chose Brexit.
My grandmother associates the EU with Germany, and therefore with Nazis. She has never met young Germans and she has not seen the country’s attitude of atonement, which has created a largely open and centrist worldview. The younger generation voted to remain open, to travel and work and to share cultures as well as life experiences. Curiosity will win out in the end.