Romanian residents in the UK are right now running scared as the Brexit polls put EU leavers slightly in the lead.
What happens if the British do vote themselves out of the EU? Will Romanians already here but without British nationality be asked to leave? If so, when? Immediately? Next year? Within the extraction period of 5 or 7 years? Will this only apply to new post June 23rd 2016 arrivals? What about Romanian students – will
their fees go up to equal those of non-EU students? Will they be allowed to complete their half-finished course? Will they just be asked to leave? Will anyone receiving benefits from the state be stopped overnight? or when? Will they have to take their children out of state schools?
These are all questions to which no one knows the answer. There is no Exit plan in existence – or certainly not one that anyone appears to know the details of. No country – apart from Greenland (population of 56,000) – has ever left the EU before.
For Romanians living in the UK all of these uncertainties are additional causes for concern to be added on top of the already existing uncertainly the British themselves are facing over this referendum. The leavers say ‘don’t worry, everything’s going to be wonderful’ – the remainers say ‘do worry very seriously, we have no idea what leaving will mean.’
What will happen to the economy? To jobs? To the housing market? To salaries? To the Pound?
It is very clear that for Romanians living in the UK the reality of the UK leaving the EU would mean significant and difficult choices and changes for most. The reality is that the vast majority of Romanian immigrants over the last 5 years do not have British passports – they have not needed them. It is a nightmare for Romanians in the UK – it is as simple, unsettling and as unpleasant as that.
Text by Nicolae Ratiu, Director of The Romanian Cultural Centre in London
Drawing by Dan Perjovschi