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THE LONG GOODBYE

Brexit day is actually an eleven-month twilight

Reuters/Hannah McKay
Time to go.
  • John Detrixhe
By John Detrixhe

Future of finance reporter

London

Today is Brexit day, when the UK officially leaves the EU. There will apparently be some celebrations, and a new coin. The UK’s 73 members of European parliament lose their seats in Brussels, and UK nationals will no longer be citizens of the EU.

It is by now clear that the Britain’s departure from the EU did not suddenly begin in 2016, and does not end at 11 pm on Jan. 31. British euroscepticism has always existed. The relationship between any island and the mainland is rarely comfortable, and there have been centuries of trade and conflict between regions of Europe and what is now the United Kingdom. Still, we live in the present, and there will be change.

And yet, for most of the 66 million or so people living on the island, life will go on pretty much the same, thanks to an 11-month transition period. The hard negotiations over the long-term relationship between Britain and the European bloc will kick off, determining critical trade agreements and immigration rules. In the meantime, UK citizens will be able to travel around the continent with the same freedoms as before, and UK businesses will have access to Europe’s single market.

Quartz interviewed six people in London about whether they think life in Britain will be better after Brexit. In many ways, the interviews say more about the big city than they do about the rest of the UK: the capital voted to remain in the EU, and it has the largest foreign-born population in Britain.

Even so, the people we talked to expressed a full range of emotions, from resignation and anger to optimism and pride. Some were keenly aware of Jan. 31’s significance because it is critical for their livelihoods, while one didn’t even realize the big date had arrived. Another said he had to keep reminding himself that it was, indeed, Brexit day.


Name: Sam Butterfeld
Country of origin: UK
Job: Advertising in London

Will Brexit change anything in the next year?

“No.”

“I’m so bored and disillusioned with politics generally.”

“It’s done, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. It’s depressing. As a remainer, I make the assumption that people were doing it for jingoistic reasons, and that may not be true.”

“Part of me is like, let’s wait and see.”

Will Brexit change anything in the next five years?

“I really don’t know. The fallout economically, I’m still of the assumption that we will be worse off.”

“I don’t feel like Brexit is going to turn us into a nationalistic, hateful country.”

“People are becoming more disillusioned with politics. It’s becoming more and more insular. What’s the point of voting, of going to marches.”  

“Part of me is like, let’s wait and see. It might not make as much difference to life in Britain as feared.” 

“I think we have bigger problems than Brexit.”


Name: Christella (declined to give last name)
Country of origin: UK
Job: Media technician
Will Brexit change anything in the next year?

“I don’t think this coming year will change anything. Everyone is finding their feet. Businesses aren’t sure about the impact. This year not a lot will change.”

Will Brexit change anything in the next five years?

“The next five years will be a huge change. I think we will see some amazing deals, things we didn’t imagine will happen.”

“The UK, throughout history, even though we make mistakes, we’ve always survived. We’re a nation of survivors.”

“I was on the fence about voting to remain and I voted to remain. But sometimes it works out for good. I just think we’re a really tough nation.”


Name: Declined to provide
Country of origin: Poland
Job: Mover in London
Will Brexit change anything in the next year?

“I don’t think so.”

Will Brexit change anything in the next five years?

“I don’t think it will be better after Brexit.”

“Who is going to do the work? Who is going to move houses? Who is going to work in the car washes? Some English guy who takes 2 hour breaks and works half the day on Friday?”

“They already had a great deal with the UK.”


Name: Alasdair Haynes
Country of origin: UK
Job: CEO of Aquis Exchange, a stock exchange in London
Will Brexit change anything in the next year?

“I don’t think anything is going to change in the next six months, nine months. I think negotiations are going to be extraordinarily difficult but not, as many people think, impossible.”

Will Brexit change anything in the next five years?

“You don’t run an exchange unless you’re an optimist. So unlike many people out there, I am pretty optimistic about the future. I think we will go through an 18-month period of negotiation. At the end of the day, I don’t think our lives are going to change a great deal.”

“I think the bigger issues in the world are much more to do with China, trade, the Middle East.”

“Yes, we will have incurred greater costs, yes we will have gone through a period where the economy may well have slowed down, but it’s done that now, not because of Brexit, but because we haven’t had any certainty. Politicians have forced a prolonged period of uncertainty.”


Name: Mirka Brondolin
Country of origin: Italy
Job: Head of global sales for a skincare company
Will Brexit change anything in the next year? 

“No. Because I’ve lived here for 11 years.”

Will Brexit change anything in the next five years?

“There are going to be complications. Anything involving import-export for sure.”

“It’s not going to be an immediate change, but I work in import-export and there will be new warehouses in different countries and other adjustments.”


Name: Stephane Dhelens
Country of origin: France
Job: Founder of fragrance company Richard James
Will Brexit change anything in the next year?

“Of course. It’s disastrous. I’m European and it’s affecting our lives already.”

“Nationalism is surging everywhere. It’s going to affect life here.”

Will Brexit change anything in the next five years? 

“The most important thing is that the European project is based on peace.”

“We talk about the economy and the deal. For me, it’s a danger. It’s isolationism and I don’t think it’s good.”

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