Brits in Austria 'numb' after UK opts for Brexit

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 24 Jun, 2016 Updated Fri 24 Jun 2016 08:37 CEST
Brits in Austria 'numb' after UK opts for Brexit

Following the decision by British voters to leave the European Union yesterday, British citizens in Austria have been left stunned and fearful of their future.


"To wake up on my birthday to the coverage of the referendum left me with a numbness that I have not experienced in a long time," said Mike Bailey, a financial investor who has lived in Austria for 16 years and was unable to vote in the referendum. He told the Local Austria that it hurt him "to have to be a bystander in the proceedings."

Check out reactions from expats in Germany with

"I had felt like the London I visited last week was not the place I used to know," he said. "While Leave will claim the spoils, neither side can really take pride in the fact that the campaign was fought on fear and many of the policy areas were not addressed."

Others reacted to the news this morning anxious about their future - as well as with fury at those who voted to leave. "A shockingly rash and ignorant decision by the British public," was how 27-year-old Helen Hemblade described it. "One a more personal note, I feel anxious and sad but most of all ashamed of the UK public who voted for this," she added.

Other Brits who have established businesses in Austria, say they are relieved to they made that decision, including professional development coach Gwyneth Letherbarrow who added she is also pleased her parents "are retired in Austria, in a cottage with no mortgage and enjoying life."

'Independence day'

She added, however: "I feel sad that the vote has gone this way and have no clue how the UK Government is going to deal with the result. Cameron needs to stabilize the UK, but the danger is that Farage and others who are celebrating the vote as ‘Independence’ will demand a General Election and create additional instability. 

"The next couple of years are going to be challenging for the UK – it reminds me of when Kosovo voted for independence.  There was a feeling that everything was going to be alright, that ‘independence’ was going to be the magic wand for all the problems.  But the next day the problems were still the same, and nine years later the situation is worse. I get the sense that those who voted ‘out’ believe something similar, that the EU was the root of many problems and that now everything will be alright. I think they’re wrong."

"What I find completely perplexing however is that this morning, watching the news from Austria and Germany, the ‘experts’ are shocked and concerned, and are talking about the need for urgent reform in the EU. Had those and other countries had the courage to say ‘yes David Cameron, you’re right, WE need to change’ a year ago, the vote might have been very different."

'What next?'

Liverpool-born Rachael Evans, who has lived in Vienna for three years, said her first reaction was thinking about Austrian citizenship: "I'm going to give up my passport. I don't care, I'm going to apply for an Austrian one if it's possible. I'm really fucking upset and disappointed."

She also expressed fears about her younger brother. "He's just 18 and I don't know what his life will be like if he stays in England."

With Scotland overwhelmingly voting for the UK to remain, Scots living in Austria say it looks likely the country will hold another referendum to leave the UK in the near future.

Assistant curator Ellie, from Aberdeen, said: "I'm very pleased to know that across Scotland the majority voted to remain. But of course this was not enough. I think its not unlikely now that the result to leave the EU will tear up the "United" Kingdom. There's hope that perhaps Scotland would be able to opt back in...but who knows right now everything seems to be a question mark, including how something as devastating as this could happen."

Expressing the majority feeling from Brits abroad, she added: "I honestly cannot believe's a sad and shocking result. What next?"

'Worst thing since Iraq invasion'

Joseph, a British expat living in Vienna, said: "I am dismayed at the result and think Cameron made a big mistake in letting there be a referendum in the first place. It is the worst thing to happen to Britain since Tony Blair decided to invade Iraq.

"I believe it will doom the British economy to years of turmoil and it strikes a divisive tone at a time when as Europeans we need to be more united than ever before, especially in the face of the multiple international crises we all face. I do not look forward to the prospect of having to apply for a visa for Europe, either."

'Pleased with the result'

Although the division within British voters is also evident in Austria, with some British people living in the Alpine Republic unconcerned by the news.

Vienna based Christopher Kennedy said: "I really do not understand what everyone is worried about. I have been in Austria 24 years. I came before Austria joined the EU and I will still be here when the EU has long gone."

Others said they are "generally pleased with the result", hoping it will trigger reform in the European Union. One long-term resident in Austria contacted the Local anonymously to say: "My feelings were that it would take a leave vote from a larger member to begin a process of meaningful reform as many Europeans are unsatisfied with the federal nature of EU development, feeling that it has become something that they did not sign up for."

'Political earthquake'

Meanwhile, Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz has described the #Brexit as a "political earthquake", adding that the EU needs rapid change to be more than simply the EU minus Britain.





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