Europeans in Edinburgh react to EU vote

Marine Garcia
Marine Garcia
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SHE’S 28-years-old and has just bought a house in Drylaw with her boyfriend.

But Marine Garcia is Spanish and now fears her plans for making a life in Edinburgh are under threat.

Marine, from Seville, is one of thousands of European citizens who have made the Capital their home – but who have no idea what the future has in store for them.

She said: “I’m concerned. I like it here and I don’t want to leave. I fell in love with the city – so much so that I quit my job working in a hotel in Wales to come here. I just bought a house here. I knew the result would be close but didn’t think the UK would vote to leave.”

Marine’s response was typical of many Europeans across the city as the outcome of the EU referendum hit home on a day that ended with a pro-immigration march down the Royal Mile to chants of “Migrants are welcome here”.

Some were devastated, visibly upset, while for others the true enormity of what happened was yet to sink in.

But they were all in agreement on one thing – no-one had a clue as to what will happen next as they spoke of fears for the future of their jobs, their businesses and even their UK residency.

Francesca Cassis, who runs Caffe Piccolo in the Grassmarket, fought back tears as she spoke of the potential fallout for her business.

The Italian, who lives with her Welsh boyfriend in the city centre, said she was concerned that leaving the EU would make it difficult to get hold of produce, 70 per cent of which is imported here from her homeland.

She said: “I cried when I heard the news. My body is stressed and in shock. I was sure that this type of thing wasn’t going to happen.

“I don’t know if I will be able to buy food from Italy. I chose a country that I thought was safe from things like this.”

There was anger too from some EU citizens who felt they should have been given a voice in the referendum.

Jakub Machaj, 22, who studies artificial intelligence at Edinburgh University, said: “I don’t like the idea of Brexit. I would have voted to remain but I didn’t have a say. I have lived here for two years. I pay taxes. I studied here. I volunteer here. I’m contributing to the community. I should have been given a vote. I’m also worried that my right to claim a student loan could be affected or this might affect me if I wanted to change jobs.”

Spaniard Julio Sanz, 25, who lives in the Southside and works as a restaurant supervisor at the Mercure hotel on Princes Street, said: “I’m not frightened but I’m concerned about my job and about my home. I don’t know what this is going to mean for me living here. I haven’t planned anything but I hope to be able to stay.”

Journalism student Breda Graham, 21, from Limerick in Ireland, has been living in the city for several months and was left “shocked and surprised” by Brexit.

She said: “My main concern is because I’m living here at the moment. We have been told once you have applied for your national insurance number it doesn’t affect you if you plan on staying here.

“But if I was to leave, can I just come back in or will it be a case of applying for a working visa? We don’t know what way it will go.”

Psychology student Lucy Malcolm, 18, of South Queensferry, said she would have voted for Scottish independence with the benefit of hindsight.

She said: “I voted to stay part of the UK and I almost regret that now. We have lost our voice completely. Now England and Wales want to leave the EU, whole of Scotland have to leave as well. This is the worst decision we could have made for the UK.”

It was a view echoed by law student Cathryn Houston, who works at Hemma in Holyrood.

She described the Brexit vote as a “sad day in history”, adding: “We have taken quite a few steps backwards and I think a decision like this shouldn’t come from a place of being scared.

“People’s fears over issues like immigration have been exploited by people like Nigel Farage. I have got a lot of European friends and I love to be part of Europe exploring its culture through programmes like Erasmus [an EU student exchange programme].”

The 22-year-old, who lives in Brunstfield, said she hoped Scotland would now be able to forge its own links with the EU post-Brexit.

Fiona Colley, 21 – originally from West Lothian but now living in Tollcross – fears the Brexit vote will hit the creative arts across Britain.

She said: “Many of my friends are musicians and this will mean a visa will be required for them to tour. The lack of free movement [between Britain and EU countries] is going to make things very difficult for people in the creative arts. I am disappointed and a little but repulsed because a lot of people have been persuaded to vote due to negativity over immigration.”

Pawel Szymonczyk is an international politics graduate who lives on Leith Walk and issues passports from the Polish Consulate.

The 24-year-old, who has lived in Scotland for a year, said: “I completely respect the final result which was democratic. But I believe that the EU benefited a lot from having the UK as a member.”

Social science graduate Evan Brown, 25, from Tollcross, works at the Budget Backpackers in the Grassmarket, a hub for EU workers and visitors.

He said: “As a small business we rely hugely on people who come here to work for a couple of years.”