A good deal on flights and a weekend in Paris, a little bit of planning and a prolonged Europe wide train trip, a little more planning and some money thrown at visas and anywhere else was a possibility too; growing up, the world for anyone with a British passport was our oyster. Until I made American friends I’d never realised what a privilege that was and how, without us knowing, that gave us a sense of privilege that made us feel nowhere was off limits. If we stayed in Europe we didn’t have to factor in insurance costs to the price of a holiday because health care was free, reimbursed to the host country by the UK government, as simple as visiting a NHS hospital – and in some cases, quicker! A last minute deal could see you on a plane within hours of booking the flights and exchange rates were almost always in our favour. Unless you wanted to go further afield, in which case you could afford the additional visa/insurance costs, travel abroad was cheap and accessible. One of the first things I did after the boys were born was register them as British citizens, and five years later that birthright passport is the only one we’ve applied for. Compared to a Turkish passport, a UK-issued, on authority of Her Majesty travel pass is golddust. For our family of four it makes European travel not only less beuraucratic, but more affordable too. Given that a single country visa runs about 1000tl minimum (£250), entails a lot of running around getting papers, having them notarised and waiting for the request to be accepted, only having to do that for one of us means European travel doesn’t seem any less overwhelming that a UK trip (when G’s UK visa (for a six month, one time entry) costs about 1500tl, requires letters of invitation, detailed financial disclosure, a 30 page application and takes a minimum 3 weeks to process). For our kids, thanks to that British passport, living in Turkey needn’t compromise or throw a monetary/logistical spanner in the works for any post-study travel dreams they care to harbour. Except now it might. It might be that whichever passport they choose to use they’ll need to run the gauntlet of paperwork for visas and those last minute deals I took such advantage of during uni might not exist. Even living in Turkey, Brexit may directly impact their lives and ours as a family, too.
Aside from the time KFC said a degree made me overqualified (which in the context of a graduates’ reality today is incomprehensible but says more about the governments failure to handle the reality that a university degree is now more a right-of-passage than a chosen career path led necessity than it does an influx of EU citizen ready-workers), the open borders of Europe never once hindered my part-time/low-skill job search during university. In fact, Europe allowing free-movement of workers enhanced my job-finding potential. Had I wanted, university holidays could have been spent working in chalets in ski resorts, grape picking in sunny places or in any number of other ‘unqualified’ job roles throughout europe. Remember; no visas, cheap flights, free healthcare. This is a reality that my kids might not know in a post-Brexit era. It’s not for a minute likely that Europe will make travel to and fro restrictive for Brits, but it is likely that in response to a tighter stance by the UK, such job opportunities will disappear or be more difficult to obtain. Is this a negative only the privileged see? Yes, definately! If you grow up without notion of spare cash to travel at all, where money for a flight and a months’ living costs before your first wage is non-existent, then these jobs aren’t on your radar to begin with, but if you’re in a position where either you can or family is willing to fund that initial expense, inter-country jobs can be inclusive of a job search. It’s likely that in a post-Brexit world this privilege gap will only widen, with only those ‘qualified’ able to apply for jobs outside the UK and summer jobs a thing of the past – not unlike university grants and or realistically repayable student loans.
What about if your privilege level is altered slightly though? I wonder how I’d feel now as a univeristy student, thinking about travelling Europe. As a headscarfed muslim woman, there would be complications that didn’t occur to my white, non-denomative 20-something self. Accomodation wouldn’t be as easy because shared gender bathrooms would be something I’d avoid. The idea of cheap street food would be impacted by halal requirements and super short flight connections wouldn’t be the cleverest move. Still doable, still feasible though. I could still climb the eiffel tower and do scale damage with bakery-fresh croissants and religieuse (Profiteroles bigger and in my humble opinion far superior cousin). I may draw some sideways gazes depending on the scarf choice de jour but I’d likely, if I stuck to tourist areas, not feel too out of place. What then if I wanted as my travel companion any of my burka wearing friends? In a city where the nicab (face veil) is a fineable fashion offense, the burka, or full body covering, is probably too resemblent for us to walk around undisturbed. And as for breaking up the travel on a beach, well, the past week’s multiple burkini bans on French beaches would have put a stop to that. Having in a previous life spent an enjoyable week at the Cannes festival, eating moules and frites watching the sunset over the yaughts, the idea that this would be off-limits, or even merely limited to no swimming, riles me.
How does this creeping islamophobia in a united EU stand to alter the paths of my children as young male muslims? Will they, even if article 50 is never envoked, feel welcome in a Europe that fears those seen leaving Friday prayers en masse; or will Brexit not affect them at all because Europe won’t be on their horizon?