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Free State of Joins: Brexiting Is Hard to Do

July 7, 2016

Oivia shuffled a step forward in the block-long line outside the Irish consulate in London, Lesser Britain. “My grandmother was always tellin’ tales about County Mayo,” she said, waving her burgundy-colored UK passport. “Can’t wait to move there.” In front of her a young man with a green Mohawk gave her a thumbs up. “Cheers to that, luv.”

Olivia looked away. She actually had no intention of moving to her grandmother’s tiny village; the old lady herself hadn’t been back since she left at age five. But thanks to grandma’s birth, Olivia could hold dual citizenship in Ireland and her own birthplace–now the United Kingdom of Britain and Wales.

Getting citizenship in the Republic of Southern and Northern Ireland meant Olivia would retain her rights and privileges of EU membership. Sure, Scotland had quickly Scexited Britain, thus remaining in the EU. But Olivia wasn’t into billionaire golf courses and knobby knees in kilts. More importantly, she wanted to be able to flash her EU credentials to catch a plane for a girls’ weekend spent drinking cheap beer in Prague or rioja in the Costa del Sol. And also keep her PR job if her employer decamped to another European market.

Olivia eyed the queue ahead of her and hoped she could squeeze in before Ireland ended the flow of English immigrants. Irish leaders already were decrying the irony. The country that had let a million Irish die in the 1850s potato blight–exporting grain from starving Irish tenant farmers–now sent its own people to Ireland. Olivia had seen the Irish Times headlines: “Brits Endangering Gaelic Lifestyle,” and “Ireland for the Irish.”

Fortunately Olivia knew she fit the profile: red/blonde hair and light skin. Plus the ability to hold her Guinness.


And she had already cleaned out her bank account and changed pounds sterling to euros, with a small reserve of korunas for the Czech beers. She’d shuddered at the thought of elderly Brits, the olds who voted LEAVE and who had waited too long. They were forced to take shopping bags of cash to pay with newly devaluated British currency.

She shifted her weight and glanced at her phone. A friend messaged, and Olivia followed the link to a scene at the Canadian Embassy. A dozen guys in team shirts were waving beer bottles and chanting “O Candidiasis.” She spotted broken glass on the steps to the embassy.

She knew why the guys were pissed. When Canada formally took over The Commonwealth of Nations–the 53 member states of mostly former British colonies–football took a back row seat to ice hockey. Canada’s sorting out the new residency status of Premier League players from African Commonwealth countries was as slow as the maple syrup sugaring process in Ontario. Olivia dialed up the sound as the crowd grew more unruly in its shouts of “O Candidiasis.” A Royal Canadian Mountie, who had sat long hours in the saddle guarding the Embassy, shifted uncomfortably and looked like he was wondering if he did in fact have a yeast infection.

A bottle flew through the air toward his head. In a deft move, he caught it and took a swig. The crowd roared in approval.

Olivia “liked” the video on her FacingIt account. It had already gone viral; new messages buzzed her phone. A friend interning at a Quebecois company, a cousin living the ExPat life in Spain, another friend working in Boston and his roommate from India–all had joined in with emoticons.

Olivia took a cleansing breath and stopped grinding her teeth. That’s how the real world worked, after all. No matter how the olds voted, borders didn’t exist for her generation.

–Christine K. Kelly

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