Next Thursday the UK will vote whether to remain in the EU or leave.
As a non-British citizen, I’m not allowed to vote although I’ve been a UK resident for 17 years and I pay my taxes here.
Neither the Leave nor the Remain side has run a campaign rooted in sound reasoning and factual information. Instead, there’s been a lot of political posturing on both sides of the divide.
It’s perhaps difficult to predict what the real consequences of Brexit will be as there’s no precedent. Still, it’s unlikely to be anything like the rose-tinted future, reminiscent of the glory days of Rule Britannia, that the Leave campaign paints.
It’s no secret that I am an ardent supporter of the Remain campaign and until recently I couldn’t imagine that a majority of British citizens would seriously vote to leave the EU.
But the most recent poll ratings indicate that the Leave campaign is in the lead, and I brace myself for the prospect of waking up next Friday to the news that isolationism and xenophobia have won the day, at the expense of openness, solidarity and cooperation.
How, then, will a potential Brexit affect me?
I’m a Swedish citizen but have lived in the UK since 1999; I am married to a Brit, and we have two children with dual citizenship.
While I don’t purport to feel British, I do identify myself as a Londoner – a Londoner by way of Sweden.
Truth be told, national identity has never been of much personal significance to me. Mostly, I feel Swedish only when England plays Sweden in a football match and even then my momentary burst of patriotism is mainly to spite my husband.
I last lived in Sweden in 1993, two years before Sweden joined the EU. These days, when I go back to Stockholm, my hometown, I don’t have a feeling of coming home; I feel very much like a visitor, and I can’t imagine moving back to Sweden for many years to come, if ever.
I barely manage to keep up with Swedish news, I’ve got no clue who’s who on the Swedish music and entertainment scene, and I’ve not celebrated Swedish midsummer in a long, long time. I don’t even think my children know what it is. In other words, I’m not a very good Swede.
The reality is that London – and by extension, Britain – is my home and now that my husband and I have bought a house here, we’re unlikely to move anywhere else until the children are grown up and have moved out.
“Of course, we wouldn’t just kick you out,” my British friends tell me when I voice my worries for a post-EU Britain.
“Oh, thanks,” I say, not sure I feel that grateful for their assurances. For what they’re thinking, even if they won’t admit it aloud, is that it’s not the Swedish immigration that bothers the Brits, or the French, Italian, German or Spanish immigration. It’s the EU citizens from Eastern Europe they’re not so keen on. If that’s not an expression of xenophobia, then what is?
Even if I am given leave to remain in the UK post-Brexit, which I have to assume would be the case, I have to ask myself; will I want to stay here?
Will I still feel a sense of belonging in a country that has turned its back on the rest of Europe because it considers some Europeans more worthy than others?
I can’t vote but some of you can, and I hope with all my heart that you will vote for Britain to remain an integral part of Europe.
In an interconnected world, we are surely stronger together.