I’ve felt European for most of my life, as the UK joined the EU back in 1973. Free travel and movement across borders, that grew from nine states to twenty eight, introduced a glorious period of open integration. Integration of trade and commerce and then, latterly, money and finance. The grand plan of the euro changed the landscape, and harmonisation directives were rife.
Then something changed.
The UK felt that the harmonisation efforts were too grand, and that France and Germany were taking over the world through rules and regulations. A federated world was developing, where poorer states like Greece could be decimated by larger countries like Germany. When Greece defaulted on debt, they were surmised as being the Florida of Europe. For those who don’t know, Florida is where rich New Yorkers live and retire – think Mar-a-Lago – because it’s sunny, cheap and avoids taxes.
The United State of Europe and its grand plans were off kilter. The Eurocrats were taking over and many, particularly those in the elder generations, felt let down. After all, we didn’t fight a World War for nothing, and now those blasted Germans were taking over through the back door. Namely, commerce and trade.
Something had to change. And so the Brits voted for Brexit, and left Europe. The unravelling of fifty years of integration has been messy to say the least and, as a Brit who lives in Europe, hits home every now and again.
Today was one of those days. I am travelling back to the UK and left my residency card for Poland in the hold luggage. The border guards weren’t happy. Where’s your entry stamp to Poland? they demanded. I explained that I have no entry stamp as I live here. Where’s your proof you live here? they demanded. In my hold luggage, I replied.
Phone calls and dagger eyes ensued. Finally, they stamped my passport – which is already too heavily stamped by countries outside Europe – and let me through. Thank you Poland. I am sure, if it was another country, it might not have been so easy.
In fact, we had the same issue a week ago when coming back from a UK holiday. My six-year old sons have UK passports and, on entry, there was a huge debate amongst the border guards as their last entry into Poland was in January, more than 90 days before. We explained we live here, with both parents having proof and documentation, and they let us through with a warning that they would not be so nice next time. Thank you Poland. I’m sure another country would not have been so easy.
Overall, I see lots happening across the EU landscape to punish the UK for its decision to leave. This ranges from banks that won’t support accounts for Brits living in Europe ... to France blocking the free movement of trade from the UK by making the Eurotunnel passage a pain in the ass ... most hospitality in the UK is struggling to find anyone to wait on tables ... and the NHS has discovered a huge hole in staff numbers as they cannot hire Europeans anymore.
These issues are not confined to the UK and Europe. After so many years of stability and ease, it seems the world is going crazy. Russia invades the Ukraine; China sabre-rattles Taiwan; Nancy Pelosi stirs up the fire; the Middle East has wars that no-one bothers to talk about; and Tijuana flares up in a wave of violent crime. Everywhere you look there are issues. Due to these wars, basic foods are in short supply, gas and oil is restricted, inflation is rife, and recession is actively discussed in all markets.
Thank goodness I’m a Brit in Europe.
For all of the world’s problems, I still have free travel thanks to my residency card. My Polish residency treats me as a European and gives me free access across the Schengen members. I pay tax in the UK but prices in Poland. There’s a difference. For example, I just stayed in a Polish 5-star hotel for around a quarter of the cost of staying in an English one. We have direct access to medical care, same-day when needed, under a private scheme called Medicover.
For all of my issues of living in Poland – a country that uses the letter J, K and Z far too often – I’m happy to be here and away from the madness of the UK and its crowded island.
Yep, I’m a Remainer. No doubt about it. Let the Brexiteers eat cake, as they are revolting.
Meantime, for everybody else? Well, that's life ...
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...