Waking up to the news this morning that the UK had voted to Brexit and Leave the European Union, my stomach turned. It felt like waking up from a bad dream, only to discover that that dream was not a dream at all.
As a Brit living in the Netherlands for the last 6 years, you can imagine which side of the political debate I sit on. Whilst i’ve been very much aware of how close the opinion polls have been running, and that ‘Leave’ was ahead, I somehow believed that it would be ok, that people would see reason, and that we would not leave.
Why is this relevant for Travel? Regardless of my personal political opinion (which I am aware that others may not share), the UK’s decision to leave the EU is almost certain to have a huge impact on freedom of movement within the region. That applies to those looking to relocate and move to or from the UK, but it may also apply to travellers simply passing through.
It is also a decision, that I believe goes against everything that travel stands for.
As a frequent traveller I have benefitted from having an EU passport where I have been able to pack up my bags and been able to visit or move to any one of 28 countries that I felt like. That is pretty amazing. And that is no longer the future. I have benefited from shorter passport lines, e-gates for European Passports, and never having to worry about a visa.
So what you might think, lucky you. Welcome to how the rest of the world has to operate.
As a citizen of the UK and the EU I have lived a privileged existence.
With Brexit now certain I’ve become all too aware of how politics influences business, our money, the day to day bureaucracy of our lives but also has a huge impact on our ability to travel.
How often do we take a country’s political situation into account before we go there on our travels?
I would like to think that I am aware of political situations in countries that I visit, but I would likely not to take the decision to avoid travelling to a place unless there was an extreme issue (for example the former situation in Myanmar / Burma, the current situation in North Korea) or countries that are in armed conflict.
The fact is though, that there are so many places which have political problems, human rights abuses (they are just concealed far better in some places than in others), inequality, racism, the list goes on.
If there was any doubt before, I can now add the UK to that list of countries. I hardly recognise the country that I spent 27 years of my life living in.
The Brexit campaign has played up to and prayed upon peoples ignorance, xenophobia and above all fear.
The very things that travel challenges.
The best qualities of travel are that it teaches us to be open, to learn about and seek to understand other countries, cultures, religions; to be open to people of different backgrounds; to cast judgement aside. And if we can’t understand, to be tolerant and accepting of whatever happens and to understand that whilst we are different, as people, we are also essentially all the same.
The very qualities that it would seem are now in minority supply in the UK. The fear of immigration that has been displayed is heartbreaking. Refugee levels are at an historic high in the world, and yet people are concerned that there are too many immigrants arriving in their town and taking away from what they have. Really? Perhaps, if people had the inclination to travel to some of the places that people emigrate from, they might begin to understand. I’m not suggesting they travel to Syria—Romania or other parts of Eastern Europe would be a good start.
Perhaps, rather than looking at how political situations impact travel, we should be asking the following question: How much impact can travel have on politics?
I have the feeling that we would then be facing a very different Brexit outcome than today’s one.
Image: Chris Fleming/Flickr
What do you think about today’s news? What do you think about travelling in Europe going forward? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.