A Brexit Guide For Third Culture Kids

So, June 23 is the big day. After months of speculation, bickering, outright racism, and misinformation, the UK people will vote on whether or not Britain is better off leaving the European Union. (Too) much has been said on this topic, but we feel we have one small question to add: What about Third Culture Kids? What about those of us that feel British, but not only British. Do they care about Britain’s membership even if, say, they’ve got two spare passports to get out of there at any point? We asked a few Third Culture Kids for their opinion.

How did we get here?

Let’s start by giving you the low-down. Britain has been a member of the EU since 1973, making it the first member – together with Ireland – to join the club after it was founded as the EEC by France, Germany, Luxemburg, The Netherlands and Belgium in 1957. Since then, the core member states (except the UK) have always been pushing for a so-called “ever closer union“; This led to the creation of the common currency, the Euro, for some states. Not for Britain, which strongly held on to its GB Pound. Since 2011 things haven’t been going too well for the EU. Shortly after the 2008 worldwide recession, it had to deal with the double whammy of a monetary crisis and a refugee crisis.

Looking at the European continent from the British Isles, more and more people started wondering, “do we actually need these muppets?” Leader of the British nationalists, Nigel Farage, voiced that feeling ever so eloquently, when he called the European President out for having the “charisma of a damp rag.” David Cameron, in his campaign to become re-elected as prime minister in 2015, felt he had to ride the waves, but ended up beached somewhere he never wanted to be. So now we have the referendum, and nobody knows what’s going to happen.

©CC-BY-2.0 David Holt
©CC-BY-2.0 David Holt

Now what?


Let’s have a look at a few arguments and options. The Leave campaign put its claims into a simple slogan, “Let’s Take Our Country Back.” One way to interpret that slogan is to say the EU is an undemocratic institution, and the UK should make sure its officials are accountable. Taking the power away from the faceless functionaries in Brussels would make Britain a more democratic place. As Oliver, a pro-Brexit TCK, told us: “The problem with the EU is that you can’t influence any policy. The national governments know this and they use the EU to sidestep any popular pressure. You don’t want an institution like that around.”

Another way to see the Leave slogan is the argument of immigration. Many who will vote Leave do so because they want to take back control of the border. They see the refugee crisis Europe is dealing with, and they’d rather… not. Whether or not this is possible is another question. Firstly, for Britain to take control of it’s borders, it’d have to strike a deal with France over the Calais border crossing. At the moment, the British border, by the Eurotunnel connecting both countries, lies on the French side of the Channel. If France decides to cancel that arrangement –which some have argued for– Britain could see the whole Calais Jungle move to its own shores.

Secondly, Britain will want to block the door for migrants coming from the EU itself. Most of the anti-immigration votes for Leave come from your man-in-the-street who sees Polish and Romanian workers “steal the jobs.” Problem: in order for Britain to keep its trade with the EU intact, it’ll have to settle for a deal similar to what Norway and Liechtenstein made. These countries chose to partake in the European single market, but this arrangement includes, yes, free movement for EU citizens. Hoping that Britain may secure a better deal is dangerous. The EU won’t take kindly to leavers. In order not to encourage other member states to do the same, they might not be so eager to cut Britain much slack in the matter.

©CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
©CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Or remain?

For those who wish to stay in the EU, called the Remain campaign, the economic future seems to be the main argument. Britain’s economy is hugely intertwined with that of other EU member states. 45% Of British exports goes to the EU, and membership ensures that no tariffs and less taxes have to be paid. In order to get the same benefits, Britain would have to renegotiate its trade deals, and as said before, the EU won’t be very nice this time. This can lead the UK to become a weaker force in the world, making it harder to negotiate deals with major powers like China. So what does that mean for TCK’s? Well, a weaker economy would mean a weaker currency, something that affects anyone with any assets or interests in the UK.
“As things stand, Britain does very well out of its relationship with the EU, and is also granted an amplified voice on the world stage.” Says a TCK working in finances in Edinburgh. “To leave the EU would be to make a great sacrifice, for little return, and a huge amount of uncertainty; Particularly during the years or decades which lawyers would spend untangling our current position. I might consider leaving the UK again.”
Another argument for TCK’s is the element of working in an international environment. Clarissa, who works in the film industry, mentions that “Britain leaving the EU could have disastrous effects on its film industry. It’s already hard to find funding, but with EU funding out of the question it’ll get a lot harder. We’d have to miss the likes of Carol, Shaun the Sheep, and the Oscar-winning documentary Amy; All made in Britain with EU funding. And then there’s the convenience of having the whole of Europe and all it’s scenery at your disposal. Permits might get a lot harder to come by.”

©CC BY-SA 2.0
©CC BY-SA 2.0

Not only does the EU guarantee us TCK’s to be able to live and work in whatever member country we feel most at home in. It also allows our partners and children to do the same. In an article in Belgian newspaper DeMorgen, a British-Belgian couple describes how in the case of Brexit, they will have to face the choice of where to raise their son. In the current situation, their three-year-old is raised bilingual, and his nationality isn’t really an issue. If Britain chooses to leave, they’ll have to consider the costs of education and healthcare in each country. The chance to enrich the boy’s life by raising him in two cultures will become unlikely.

What does Europe mean to you?

We asked our TCK in Edinburgh (who wished to remain anonymous): “I think that the EU has a mostly positive impact on both the world and European citizens. With pooled resources, the EU is better able to tackle emerging problems, and influence the global approach to these issues. As citizens, we benefit individually from freedom of movement, greater access to funding sources, and – particularly in the UK – access to much better food!”

©CC-BY-2.0 Tomek Nacho
©CC-BY-2.0 Tomek Nacho

Tian, currently living in Hong Kong, agrees: “I grew up experiencing and benefiting from a united Europe, where I learned about different cultures and met all sorts of different people from around the world. Aside from the great economic benefits of remaining, it would be sad to see Britain shifting to an insular and narrow existence on the world stage.”

Even though he grew up in a very pro-European background. Oliver believes a Brexit might bring necessary change to Europe: “I still believe in the European project. I remember at school being taught about the EU for the first time by a Dutch teacher who showed an umbrella with the EU flag on it. He explained how each star represented a member state. Even our school anthem was compiled of several song fragments in different languages. But I started to hate how undemocratic it is. I think that the EU as a project needs a kick up its arse.”

Whichever way the referendum swings, British PM David Cameron is facing troubled times. “A debate like this clearly reflects the fact that there is an unhealthy imbalance within the UK,” Tian says. “It’s a strong indicator that more significant issues should be tackled by the UK government, once the vote is cast.”



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