Brexit Five Years On: A view from Europe

Alex Klaushofer
4 min readJun 22, 2021
The White Cliffs of Dover by David Cassteel

Five years ago, I couldn’t possibly have imagined I would be living in southern Europe, having accidentally emigrated to Portugal.

On June 23rd 2016 I went, rather nonchalantly, to my local polling station to vote — there had been a lot of elections that year and the referendum, following just a few weeks of public discussion about an idea that clearly hadn’t been thought through, seemed more of a formality than anything else.

When the news came of the result, like almost everyone I knew, I was shocked and dismayed. I remained so through the summer of 2016, stunned by the national decision to isolate the country from the geographical continent to which it belongs. It wasn’t so much the loss of institutional membership but what the decision symbolised: a rejection of a culture wider than Britishness and the loss of the right to freely move around or live in twenty-seven other countries.

But gradually I concluded that, rather than joining the campaign to retain membership of an institution, a better response for me would focus on nurturing a relationship with Europe itself.

So I put aside the writing project I’d been hatching about south America and conceived instead a book about Europe, one that aimed to show, through the lens of three of its lesser-known cities, the diversity and richness of the continent. Brexit was not the focus, but during my research I encountered, particularly in Spain, a new attitude towards the British and their misguided insularity: a mix of pity for the nation and sympathy with those who dissented.


Five years later, my evolution into a practising European has gone further than I could ever have imagined. In December 2020, I left Britain with one suitcase and the intention of securing Portuguese residency before the Brexit deadline and return to the UK within a couple of months. The decision had little to do with Brexit: with my work gone and fearful of another lockdown, leaving the country was an act of self-preservation.

Photo: Luca Sartori

And sure enough, emerging from the Lisbon Metro in the run-up to Christmas, I found…

Alex Klaushofer

British writer and disappointed citizen. Mainly on Substack: