UK 'doesn't want to go to party anymore'

Guillermo Jose, a 39-year-old farmer from Spain, with meringues at London's Borough Market. Photo / Washington Post
Guillermo Jose, a 39-year-old farmer from Spain, with meringues at London's Borough Market. Photo / Washington Post

Like millions of people around the world, Alejandro Majnoler was trying to make sense of a British exit from the European Union. He concluded that the ramifications of Britain's shocking decision may be especially complicated for immigrants.

"Britain is saying, 'We don't want to go to the party anymore,'" said the 28-year-old Italian immigrant, who moved to the United Kingdom two years ago.

Majnoler was working at London's Borough Market, a food lover's paradise. "Will I need a visa? Will it cost more? Immigrants will be disadvantaged for sure," he said, as he served customers raspberry licorice from Sweden and caramel twists from Denmark. "My friends in Italy are messaging me, 'Come back, friend'."

Immigration was one of the key battlegrounds in the EU referendum, with those campaigning to leave arguing that it was the only way to slash migration. Those campaigning for Brexit offered assurances that a new immigration system would not affect EU citizens already in Britain. But the exact terms of the divorce will not be known for some time. There is concern among the 7.5 million foreign-born residents about their future.

"Immigrants are treated as scum, even though no one wants to do their jobs," said Lucas, a 32-year-old from Poland running a coffee stall. Returning change to a woman who bought a flat white, he said, "Here are your English pounds. Tomorrow, we will have Welsh pounds, Scottish pounds and Irish euros." Lucas came to the UK in 2004 but he is considering moving to another European city. "I feel European and enjoy freedom of movement."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan sought to reassure London's Europeans with a speech at a gay pride event. "You are welcome here," he told the crowd, adding that he wanted London, which voted overwhelmingly to remain, at the negotiating tables with the EU.

Guillermo Jose, 39, from Spain, said that most of the Europeans who moved here came because of the chance to earn more money. "Seven years ago, there were no French here. Now, it's full of French. They may not enjoy the heavy traffic, the weather, the three-hour commute. . . but they are here because of the pound." If the economy tanked, he said, EU citizens here would move on to one of the other 27 member states. "This island may not always be full."

- Washington Post

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