Brexit: a day to celebrate or commiserate?

British MEPs in the European Parliament on Wednesday: Britain will leave the European Union at the stroke of midnight in Brussels on Friday Keystone

We asked you what you would be feeling on Friday night as Britain leaves the European Union and whether you would be marking the occasion. Here’s a selection of reader comments, plus a reminder of what will change for Brits in Switzerland and Swiss in Britain. 

This content was published on January 31, 2020

“I am British, living in Switzerland for over 20 years. I am so proud my birth country has stood up to the EU bully boys. The fight will be worth it. I am convinced Boris will deliver. Short-term pain, yes. But long-term gain!” – Darren

“I’m a Brit in Switzerland. I won’t be celebrating at all. How can I when I know what a disaster it is. My only concern now (as I’m resigned to the fact) is, how long will it take to renew my passport.” – Paul Douglas Lovell 

Stay informed

The Swiss foreign ministry has answers to 28 Brexit FAQsExternal link

For further questions, consult the Brexit FAQExternal link of the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration. 

If you have a specific question, get in touch with the British embassy in BernExternal link (and its Facebook pageExternal link) or the Swiss embassy in LondonExternal link. Also consult the UK government’s website for people living in SwitzerlandExternal link.

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It’s fair to say that Brexit is polarising, although most expats seem to regret the result of the vote on June 23, 2016. As the Financial Times notedExternal link on Tuesday, over the past month Google has recorded a spike in people in Britain searching for information on immigration and citizenship after Brexit. 

“This is hardly an infallible guide – the top search topic was ‘Bong’, a reference, one assumes, to the heated debate this month over Big Ben and whether it can be brought back into action to mark Brexit day,” the paper wrote. “Nevertheless, the number of queries on ‘freedom of movement’, ‘passport’ and ‘visa’ demonstrate a level of anxiety over what happens to EU citizens living in Britain after it leaves at 11pm (GMT) on Friday.” 

“[I have] no emotion about Brexit as I didn’t have a say in it. I’ve applied for settled status and it’ll be business as usual. Life has been harder for many or most in the UK for at least ten years now and this isn’t going to improve in the foreseeable future.” – Marie-Laure Guerin, a Swiss in Britain. 

Citizens’ rights 

While London and Brussels now have 11 months – until December 31 – to hash out a new trade deal and their long-term relationship, it will indeed be business as usual for the 35,000 or so Swiss in Britain and the 43,000 Brits in Switzerland. 

During this transition period, existing trading, immigration and security measures will be maintained. This means British, EU and Swiss citizens will continue to benefit from free movement. 

When the transition period expires, a citizens’ rights agreement signed by the UK and Switzerland in February safeguards existing rights of their citizens. These rights are explained in Question 4 of this list of Brexit FAQsExternal link from the Swiss government. 

However, unless they are dual nationals, Swiss citizens in the UK – even if married to a Brit – will have to apply to the EU Settlement SchemeExternal link for “settled or pre-settled status”. The deadline for this is June 30, 2021 (or the end of this year if the UK leaves without a deal). 

Optimism and pragmatism 

Brits in Switzerland, on the other hand, will not have to re-register, Jane Owen, the British ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, assured

She said British nationals shouldn’t need to take any extra specific action after Brexit as long as they followed existing requirements when they moved to Switzerland. However, if you have any doubts or questions, consult the resources given in the box. 

“As a UK citizen who has lived for a very long time in Switzerland, I am satisfied that my life will not change as a result of Brexit. I am pleased that relations between the UK and Switzerland are excellent and hope that, with reason and common sense, negotiations with the EU will result in similar relations with the EU. The ideological, cultural, linguistic, economic and historical differences between EU countries have long demonstrated the inability of the EU ever to be a properly functioning institution, and the increases in membership and the policy of ‘political integration’ have proved to be disastrous. Brexit could be the catalyst for long-overdue EU reform.” – William Simpson 

Just as optimistic and pragmatic as William Simpson is Jonathan Martin: 

“As a Remainer, I’m sad at the outcome and certainly won’t be celebrating. But the decision is cast and am now looking forward to the future, hoping and expecting as Brits our long-established rights to live and work overseas will not be impacted both for ourselves and our children and that the British government now deliver on their promises bought into by the majority to make a post-Brexit Britain a much better place for ALL. Don’t look back in anger but look forward to the future.” – Jonathan Martin 

How will you mark the end of an era? No readers said they were planning to crack open the champagne or sing “God Save the Queen” in the middle of Bern’s Parliament Square on Friday night. The wildest celebrations are set to involve a cultural compromise: 

“I shall mark this auspicious occasion with a cup of tea and a Gipfeli [Swiss croissant].” – Eddie Burdak

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