Brexit Testimonies

10 September 2019

Chris in Riga

"Our protest may have been small and quiet but I feel proud of all those who attended and I feel confident that the protests that have taken place all around the UK and Europe have helped to highlight the extreme concerns that people have."

I've been living in Latvia for the past five years with my Latvian wife and our 4 year old son. The referendum result in 2016 was a huge shock for us and created an immediate sense of worry. As I'm married to a Latvian I'm fairly confident that I'll be allowed to stay here if/when the UK exits the EU but at the time of writing no-one really knows what the situation will be for Brits in Latvia and no-one knows what steps people like myself will need to take. One of my biggest concerns is that I'll need to become a Latvian citizen. This may not seem like a big deal but to me it would be really sad to have to change my citizenship, I'm one of a shrinking number of Brits who still have some sort of pride in my nationality.

The main problem that we've personally faced since the referendum result however is the value of sterling. I run a company in the UK so effectively I'm paid in pounds which I convert to euros. The value of the pound has fallen by something like 15% (of course this constantly changes, but as a rough estimate) which means that in real terms my family's income has been reduced through no fault of our own. I'm sure that most families would struggle if their income was reduced in this way especially when you consider that the cost of living in Latvia is increasing. Myself and my colleagues in Riga are now constantly checking the exchange rate and trying to predict the best time to transfer funds. The fluctuating exchange rate which is now almost exclusively dictated by the progress (or lack of) in the brexit process is making life really difficult for businesses that trade within the EU and I'm sure people will lose jobs and businesses will go bankrupt in the event of a no deal brexit or in the event of a long chaotic withdrawal period.

My business involves booking musicians for events and as a former professional musician myself I know that it's a particular concern for those involved in our industry at all levels. The music industry has suffered massively over the past 20 years with the decline in physical record sales and increase in cheap/free online streaming. Live performances have become the main income generator and professional musicians from the UK rely heavily on easy, cheap travel to the EU. The British have always led the way in the creative industries and it would be a tragedy if our musicians and creatives are no longer able to perform in the EU. It may sound extreme to say "no longer able to perform" but for all but the biggest artists the profit margins involved in touring are so tight that even a small increase in costs would be catastrophic.

I've watched the various protests taking place in the UK with envy. If we were still living in London (where we lived before moving to Riga) I would have attended every anti-brexit protest that I could. After Boris Johnson announced his prorogation of parliament I couldn't sit quietly watching the news and doing nothing any longer. With just two days notice we planned our own protest at the British Embassy in Riga to coincide with similar events taking place in the UK. This involved getting official permission from the Latvian Government, arranging a police presence, writing and sending out a press release and promoting the protest on social media to try and drum up interest. We were very clear from the beginning of this idea that it would be a peaceful, dignified protest. We set up a picnic blanket with cups of tea and biscuits (we are British after all!) and decided quickly that there would be no loud speakers or chanting. Twenty like-minded people came to the protest. When you consider that Riga is a small city, we only had two days notice and it was the last sunny weekend of the summer in a city that literally empties every weekend during the summer (Riga is surrounded by beautiful countryside) we felt that it was a great achievement. We attracted lots of local media and were mentioned (albeit briefly) in almost every major news article about the anti-prorogation protests on 31st August 2019 (BBC, The Guardian etc). We've also been invited to visit the British ambassador here to put across the reasons behind our protest and the concerns of those who attended.

Our protest may have been small and quiet but I feel proud of all those who attended and I feel confident that the protests that have taken place all around the UK and Europe have helped to highlight the extreme concerns that people have. I'm sure we'll all survive Brexit and the world will keep turning but I firmly believe we are stronger as part of the EU and still hope that something will be done to stop brexit altogether or at least limit the damage by avoiding a no deal exit.

Earlier testimony
Lauren in Finland
Later testimony
Susi in Italy
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It has not been easy, especially for my wife, but we are slowly getting there linguistically.

Read David's Brexit testimony.