Monday 19 November 2018

Britons in Romania talk to an Austrian paper about Brexit

This article by Marlies Eder, published in the Austrian newspaper “Die Presse” last month, is reproduced by kind permission, translated by Frank Fisher. Like all newspaper articles about things one knows about, it contains fairly big mistakes, but in this case only three or four. 

“Go Back to Your Rainy Island”

Brexit. Around 2,200 [source? - some estimate a much smaller number - P.V.E.W.] Britons live in Romania, in contrast to 411,000 Romanians in Great Britain. A majority is against Brexit and are afraid that they may be forced to go back home. [I don't think anyone is afraid they may be forced to go home. P.V.E.W.]

Bucharest. It seems as though he provoked the seconds-long silence. Colin Shaw says nothing as he climbs into his 1996 green Land Rover. Obviously on the right side, not the left. He explains only when asked that he drove the whole way from Great Britain to Romania in the British all-terrain vehicle in order to transport tourists around the Carpathian mountains. But after more than 20 years he’s finished with it.

It was the landscapes, the wilderness and the country life that attracted Shaw, as one of 2,200 Britons, to the land on the Black Sea. The 61 year-old is leaving his second home, the Siebenbürgen – the seven Saxon fortified towns of Transylvania - against his will. “Romania is not a place to become old and ill” – and there is the oppression of the justice system, authoritarian tendencies, corruption, poor healthcare and tax disadvantages. And now Brexit.

As an expat Briton he could of course not vote [Translator’s note: this is not correct!], but he belongs to the Britons in Romania who are against leaving. Shaw says: ”I am no longer proud to be British.” But staying in Romania is not an option for him. He reckons there will be reprisals from the authorities. After the Poles, Romanians are the second-largest group of migrants in Great Britain: officially 411,000, or ten percent of all Romanian migrant workers. They work in agriculture, in construction, in supermarkets, as nurses. NGOs are afraid that after Brexit they will be compelled to leave for purely administrative reasons – although they have been taxpayers for many years.

“Go back to your rainy island!” Frank Fisher is also afraid of this sentence. He languidly stirs his coffee in a small cafė in the centre of Bucharest. “A lot of Romanians ask me: ‘why do you live in this awful country?’ They do not understand. But I don’t feel that I migrated the wrong way.”

It was the mixture of influences of the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires – and love – that drew this septuagenarian to Romania 15 years ago. “My greatest concern is the uncertainty”. The Brexit vote has already had consequences: “Because of the fall in the pound, the value of my pension has dropped by 20 percent.” He is also concerned about the future of his children in London. “We are on the wrong side of history”, opines Fisher. “A small off-shore island has little chance today of becoming a world power.”

Mike Ormsby has harsher words. “Brexit was a big idea for small minds”, says the former BBC journalist and author, who has produced three books about his life in Romania. He would have preferred to take a new nationality. However, despite his antecedents he will not obtain an Irish passport. Acquiring Romanian nationality in his view involves too many bureaucratic obstacles.

So Ormsby and his wife will remain loyal to their home of choice in Transylvania – as Britons. Sarcastically, he puts it: “I shall in future write tales about Britons who love living in Romania but think that Brexit is a good idea. They do exist.”

Paul Wood belongs to this minority of Brexiteers in Romania – and is considered one of the most vociferous. “Of course, it depends what the British make of it. If they believe that it is not possible to survive without the EU, they lack faith in their own people” claims this owner of a recruitment company.

Ultimately it is not a question of the economy, but rather of national freedom. “The EU is not right for Great Britain. We are an island. That is a big difference. We do not feel European. And we are not.” For twenty years now, Wood has lived on his own personal island, Romania. The Romanians have got under his skin.

As a “Latin people surrounded by Slavs and Hungarians, located in the wrong part of Europe” is how he describes them, enthusing about their romance and passion. He has no worries about his future as an expat. “Britons are the most popular nationality in Romania. We are not as vulgar as the Americans, and, unlike the Germans, have a sense of humour.”

Travel and culture – yes; part of the political system – no. That’s the way David Howard sees it, too.

“The British are not turning their back on Europe. It is just the undemocratic structure of the EU that they have a problem with.” As part of the Union, London is losing political control. For greater sovereignty, the British just have to be prepared to pay the price. “Brexit will certainly have short-term economic consequences”, says the real estate valuer. “But it is a mistake to believe that we cannot survive outside the EU.”


  1. Few nations in the world are clamoring to do business with Britain to make up the difference lost from the departure from the EU. Britain is a lot less popular and influential on the world stage than it thought, and it is about to find out just how much.

    "Vulgar" Americans rarely roam to other nations getting drunk in packs in loud, raucous stag dos, as Brits do.

    1. Agreed, 100%, but please do be careful in shattering the dreams of deluded Brexiteers.

    2. "Vulgar" Americans rarely roam to other nations getting drunk..."

      You are looking in the wrong places... try Mexico and Canada:

      " Mexico has seen the biggest growth in American tourists over the past decade, getting almost as many visitors as the rest of the world combined! They’ve passed 25 million per year."

      "Canada got 11.6 million visitors, which is also impressive. In fact it was more than the entire continent of Europe."

    3. I go to Mexico often. I see Americans drinking in pairs and foursomes, but never as loud and legless as the gangs of numbskull lager lout Brits who roam all over Europe.

    4. I always go to the Great Cham for definitions, being an old enough dictionary and compiled by a stout enough Tory to be authoritative. I find he defines vulgar thus:

      Vúlgar. adj. [vulgaire, Fr. vulgaris, Lat.]

      Plebian; suiting to the common people; practised among the common people.
      Men who have passed all their time in low and vulgar life, cannot have a suitable idea of the several beauties and blemishes in the actions of great men. Addison.

      Mean; low; being of the common rate.
      It requiring too great a sagacity for vulgar minds to draw the line between virtue and vice, no wonder if most men attempt not a laborious scrutiny into things themselves, but only take names and words, and so rest in them. South.

      Nor wasting years my former strength confound,
      And added woes have bow'd me to the ground:
      Yet by the stubble you may guess the grain,
      And mark the ruins of no vulgar man. Broome.

      Publick; commonly bruited.
      Do you hear aught of a battle toward? —
      — Most sure, and vulgar; every one hears that. Shakesp.


    5. OED:

      1 Lacking sophistication or good taste.
      ‘a vulgar check suit’

      2 Making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions; coarse and rude.
      ‘a vulgar joke’
      3 dated. Characteristic of or belonging to ordinary people.

    6. Prissy : excessively proper; affectedly correct; prim.

      adjective. If you say that someone is prissy, you are critical of them because they are very easily shocked by anything rude or bad.

      Prissy: having or showing the annoying attitude of people who care too much about dressing and behaving properly and who are easily upset by other people's behavior, language, etc.

      Lager Lout Dictionary

      Someone who has characteristics of an uptight bitch.

      Stuck up, goody-two-shoes, self-centered, all-knowing, hard to please biatches.
      'She's so prissy... I can't take it!'

      Femininely arrogant
      'She is so prissy, it makes me puke!'

  2. More 'deluded Brexiteers':

    There are those who say the answer is not for Britain to leave but to reform Europe from within, so that it is run along progressive rather than neoliberal lines. But Germany is never going to agree to a common budget and the European Commission wants to fine Italy because the government in Rome is seeking to stimulate growth by running a higher deficit than is allowed under the eurozone’s hardline budget rules, so that might take a while.

    In the meantime, there is an opportunity to do things differently, to exploit the policy space that Brexit affords and tackle the structural problems that have plagued the economy for decades. The right has its plan: more liberalisation. It is time for the left to come up with its own vision that would deploy every available policy tool to modernise the economy, rebuild Britain’s industrial space and spread prosperity more widely.

    Such a transformation is much more likely to happen outside the EU than inside. That’s because the two most significant UK imports from the rest of Europe – German industrial goods and cheap labour – have helped to bend the economy out of shape by holding back the manufacturing sector and encouraging the growth of low-wage service sector jobs. It is possible to do better than that.

    Larry Elliott,
    the Guardian’s economics editor

  3. I remember when the British left ardently wanted out of the European Economic Community.

    1. They've come full circle... As the saying goes, they may be wrong most of the time but they ain't stupid...

  4. For Britain’s entry into a Customs Union – such as the Economic Community of Europe – has a double effect. The barriers go down between us and the six countries of Europe.
    But they go up between us and the Commonwealth. We shall find it easier to sell in the markets of
    the six, because we shall no longer be faced with tariffs against our goods. How much are they now? Ten to
    fifteen per cent. But we shall be at a disadvantage in the rest of Europe compared with our position today,
    because in the European Free Trade Area we now have a tariff advantage over and against the six countries, which we shall lose if we go in. And since it would be rash to assume that the advantages which the Commonwealth countries give us in their markets will be retained by us when we deprive them of the
    advantages they at present have in ours, we shall also lose in Commonwealth markets for the same reason.
    In 1961, 16.7 per cent of our exports went to the Common Market countries:
    13.1 per cent – not so very far off it – to the rest of Western Europe – the E.F.T.A. countries, and 43 per cent
    went to the countries of the Commonwealth Preference System. We would gain in markets were we sell less
    than one-fifth of our exports and lose in markets where we sell about half our exports.
    There is another fact we better remember. It is an essential part of the Common Market agricultural policy –
    and we shall not be able to escape this unless there are some very striking changes in the terms so far
    negotiated – that we are to be obliged to import expensive food from the Continent of Europe in place of
    cheap food from the Commonwealth.
    The emphasis on ‘dynamic Europe’ has played a large part in this controversy.
    If indeed it could be shown that the establishment of the Common Market had produced the remarkable industrial expansion in Europe in recent years this would be a most compelling reason. But this cannot be shown. Nor is it true. As a matter of fact, the rate of expansion in Europe, however you measure it – by industry, by exports, by gross national product – was faster in the five years 1950-55 than it was in the five years that followed. Indeed one can hardly say that as yet the Common Market has had any effect.
    We are told that the Commonwealth is static. Is it? Here are a few figures to refute that argument. Australian
    imports (what she took from the rest of the world) grew between 1953 and 1960 by 83 per cent – not a bad
    rate of growth; Pakistan by 86 per cent; India by 57 per cent; Nigeria by 99 per cent. This is the story in almost every Commonwealth country – not a story of stagnation but a story of expansion...

  5. Then, of course, there is the idea and the ideal of Federal Europe...
    What does federation mean? It means that powers are taken from national governments and handed over to federal governments and to federal parliaments. It means – I repeat it – that if we go into this we are no more than a state (as it were) in the United States of Europe...

    We must be clear about this: it does mean, if this is the idea, the end of Britain as an independent European state. I make no apology for repeating it. It means the end of a thousand years of history.

    Speech by Hugh Gaitskell against UK membership of the Common Market
    (3 October 1962)

    1. 28sec video of this:

  6. David in Belgrade23 November 2018 at 21:05

    Me too and I cast my ballot accordingly.

    This is too good a speech not to post again and again:

    Peter Shore - what an orator!

    1. What a great, great speech. It made a left wing Leave Facebook friend have second thoughts. What a great orator he was. I lunched with him when he spoke at Cambridge. How delightfully young and sweet undergraduates are, even - and this is astonishing - Union hacks.

      Oxford is a better place than my alma mater Cambridge or was.

    2. What a tragedy that we did not leave the EEC in 1975.

  7. @ David in Belgrade

    Awesome!Thanks for the link.

    From comments on the video:

    Simon John

    Peter Shore should have mentioned that Heath and his government did 3 years before was High Treason. Shore mentions Heath did it "without the authority of the people". He was far too diplomatic in his language.

    The Treaty of Rome was not a trade treaty but a treaty to agree to live by Community law. In other words it was a political union, from the beginning to say the European Economic Community writes your laws and those laws would be supreme over domestic law, raises taxes and decides your government policy. This is strictly forbidden under part of our "unwritten" Constitution called the Bill of Rights 1688.

    I doe declare That noe Forreigne Prince Person Prelate, State or Potentate hath or ought to have any Jurisdiction Power Superiority Preeminence or Authoritie Ecclesiasticall or Spirituall within this Realme Soe helpe me God