A British expat’s take on Brexit

June 24, 2016: an emotional rollercoaster

Helen Farrell
June 25, 2016 - 0:41

It’s 11.50pm. My marito has just gone to bed. I feel compelled to write something, anything, to document this historic day’s events. A day that will be remembered as the most visionary move or the greatest mistake made by a nation in the 21st century.




Forgive me if my words make no sense. Sorrow drowning occurred at my local Tuscan winery – the green expanse of vines acting as a balm to my English spirit, the Vermentino taking the edge off the anger.


7.10am. I wake up, muscles aching luxuriantly after a long night’s tennis, drink espresso, check the Guardian online. Gulp. Double check the Guardian. Check the Independent. Panic. Consult Corriere della Sera. The sky has fallen overnight. “Britain votes to leave the European Union.” Log into Facebook. Find message from a Wall Street Journal colleague – “Helen, tell me your thoughts.” I have none. All I have are emotions, first-thing-in-the-morning, last-thing-I’d-imagined feelings swirling and rising, falling and swirling like the Vermentino wine that would later fill my glass. Shock, surprise, disappointment, anger, fear. Not disbelief. The signs had always been there that Brexit was a possibility. Linguistically, as a words person, Brexit sounded more convincing than Bremain ever did.


7.27am. Frame some semi-coherent reply about feeling closer than ever to my Italian identity than my British one. About my concern at the UK governments’ (more than one will see this process through) expertise to implement negotiations and such a transition.


7.30am. Take a shower. Wash my hair.


7.50am. I suddenly have the urge to hold my British passport in my hand. The passport that states “European Union” at the top, before all other wording on the front. I take it out on to our terrace, my quiet refuge and corner of contemplation, and briefly entertain the thought of tossing it into the river Sieve below. I feel so detached from, so disappointed at the events unravelling in my country of birth.


8.20am. I leave my house in a daze. My 8.41 train has been soppresso, like me, denied my vote, rejected the right to have a say in such a life-changing matter. Because they could not find me on the electoral register at my last-known address in the UK.


8.49am. “Buongiorno extracomunitaria,” writes my boss on WhatsApp.


I catch the 9.03 train instead. The fact that there’s an Italian train strike does not irk me. A few tears spill over.


I edit features and news, I receive hugs from colleagues and phone calls from friends, I proofread, I swear as Cameron resigns, I reassess my opinion of the prime minister watching his speech. I get mad. I calm down.


Now, at midnight, realisation dawns that today is the first day of a brave new world, a European Union without the United Kingdom. A decision made by the British people, for better for worse, for richer for poorer. The future is uncertain and unknown – and that drives me to writing, an act of creativity, verve and intelligence. Perhaps it will all work out.

Che sarà, sarà. What will be, will be.


The Florentine would like to speak to British immigrants living in Florence about their feelings regarding the outcome of the EU Referendum. Please contact our editorial team at [email protected]

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