Europeans in Britain worry about future after Brexit vote

A man carries an EU flag, after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016.
A man carries an EU flag, after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - The vote by Britons to quit the EU has unsettled many of the three million Europeans who have made Britain their home and raised questions about their future in a country where many have lived for years.

"I'm scared," said Polish national Ella Vine, 31, chief executive of a health-care charity, who has been in Britain for nine years.

"I don't plan any changes, but what can I do," she said. "I can do nothing. I don't know what will be the position of people like me - it's a disaster."

Immigration was one of the central topics of the EU referendum debate, with "Out" campaigners arguing that only by leaving the EU would Britain be able to control the number of new arrivals.

EU citizens living in Britain, as well as Brits living in Europe, will now have to wait, as the vote will trigger at least two years of divorce proceedings with the EU.

Among EU citizens living in Britain, only Irish nationals were permitted to vote in the referendum, giving Europeans a sense of powerlessness.

"I feel a bit more foreign than I did yesterday," said Carlos Ardid Candel, 32, a data analyst from Spain, who has lived in Britain since 2001. "It's like finding out what someone really thinks about you when you weren't expecting it."

Prime Minister David Cameron sought to reassure the builders, bankers, plumbers, lawyers, nurses, waiters and other types of workers from across the EU that there would be no immediate changes to their circumstances.

But his words offered little comfort to some, who felt a keen sense of rejection.


"(I feel) confused, angry and disgusted," said engineer Alkis Voliotis, 36, from Greece who has lived in Britain for over five years. "I feel sick in my stomach that a project I have believed in all my life might start to unravel."

London voted to stay in the EU and the city's Mayor Sadiq Khan told the almost one million Europeans there that they should continue to feel welcome.

"We value the enormous contribution you make to our city and that will not change," he said.

Romanian Raluca Cioroianu, who has lived in the UK for three years and works as a farm shop supervisor, said her future in the country would depend on how well Britain's economy can weather the impact of Brexit.

"I feel a bit insecure now," the 39-year old said.

"I'm more worried about being here from an economic point of view. In terms of employment, I'm wondering if I will have an opportunity to do better here or not. I will have to see."