Freedom of Movement 24 - Warsaw
I have no need to paraphrase the words of Dr Julia Kubisa. She spoke eloquently and passionately for over an hour on the subject of freedom of movement and how Brexit would impact negatively on that for all European people, not just the British.
At one point I suggest we change the subject to something more cheerful, but she pulls me up: she is deeply upset and sees negative impacts of these decisions all around her, already. She needs to talk about this, and says she is far from alone in feeling that our decision to leave the EU is slap in the face to our neighbours.
“It was just one thing, but it’s significant, and it’s so sad. This year all the Erasmus coordinators recelived a formal *urgent* email from the International Relations Office containing European Commission details on what will happen to Erasmus scholarships.
But we don’t know what to tell the students - we have no information, nobody knows for sure, we can’t tell the students anything. It’s an additional slap in the face.
I’m not even talking about the wider context - the scientific collaborations between universities - this is just Erasmus.
It’s stressful, it’s ruining plans, for all of us - on the top of brexit being annoying in itself. It’s insulting - we are expected, as professionals and adults, to know what the plan is. We are accountable and evaluated on the basis of this, and all of a sudden, we have one country whose future is not known, and WE have to adjust our plans to this uncertainty because of stupid decisions.
I remember the time before the European Union. The first time I visited the UK was in 1997 and I had an invitation from a teacher who had lodged with us (in Poland) to stay at her parents’ house.
I travelled by bus - 27 hours to Calais - and I remember the feeling of anxiety when I got closer to the ferry - will they let me in or not, will the invitation letter be enough? I spent a couple of hours on the bus, thinking about what I’d do if it wasn’t. Everyone on the bus was anxious, we were all Polish, all had letters of introduction. There was one guy whose letter, or face or whatever, they didn’t like, and they turned him away. No explanation.
Most of us from the East have a memory of the power of border guards back in the old days. Will it be like this again - visiting the UK? Will I have to show a stranger part of my private life in order to visit my friends in another country?
If those Brexit voters had to show a part of their private lives to visit, say, Majorca, would they be fine with that? I don’t think it even occurs to them, as they have no experience of being in this inferior situation.
“We always lived in the shadow of the old democracies, we looked up to the UK, with its centuries of mature democracy. Then came the referendum, basically a game of ‘chicken’ between two right-wing parties. So they took the people and made them vote on things they didn’t understand. Just what is going on?”