I spent the UK Brexit referendum day on holiday back in in my homeland of Portugal, watching the BBC International coverage of the results while on the phone with one of my British friends.
We were both shocked when the result was confirmed. We could not believe it.
The following day, all you could watch on the telly was Portuguese reporters running around London asking to every Portuguese person they could find what were they feeling. Almost all of them answered the same – they were scared, unsure about their future.
As a journalism student with a keen interest in politics, I had to get really involved with the campaign, unlike my Portuguese friends still living at home.
It did not come as a surprise to me that following the Brexit vote the most Googled questions in the UK were ‘What is the EU?’ and ‘What does it mean to leave the EU?’, but my friends could not believe it and in some way found it hilarious.
Because unlike the UK, since the age of eight, my generation had to learn in school almost everything that there is to know about the EU. Just as an example, I was taught how to play the EU anthem on the flute at the age of 10 and I can still name every member country and identify their flags. Maybe because all of this, in Portugal we see the EU not as a failed system but as effective one.
England and Portugal have the oldest alliance still in force, signed in 1386, and both countries are still very connected nowadays. Being a country extremely dependent on tourism, Britons are one of our ‘top clients’- but that might change. Already, since the pound dropped, fewer British tourists are visiting our beaches and historic cities.
Our little ‘British Colony’, Algarve, where you are most likely to hear people speaking English then Portuguese, might also be affected. After Brexit, what will happen to all of those people enjoying their retirement in our hot weather, away from the grey and cold weather with which they lived all their lives in Britain?
And what about all of the thousands of Portuguese people who have built their lives in the United Kingdom, including hundreds of extremely needed and qualified nurses working for the NHS? Including myself? With the end of free movement for EU nationals, what is going to happen?
With ‘hard Brexit’ or not, I hope we will still be welcome to this country that has given us so much to be thankful for and I do hope it will change nothing about our long and unique Anglo-Portuguese Treaty.
* Daniela Palma is studying journalism at Southampton Solent University