Europeans in the UK have plenty of views, but no vote

Reuters
Raluca Cioroianu from Romania poses for a photograph at the farm where she is a shop manager in Addlestone, Britain. "I came here with good intentions, to work, to pay taxes, to improve my knowledge, my culture and to make a better life," said Cioroianu.

Raluca Cioroianu from Romania poses for a photograph at the farm where she is a shop manager in Addlestone, Britain.

Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Over 3 million people who were born in other European Union member states live in Britain. With the exception of Irish residents, they did not have a vote in the referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU.

However, they had much at stake in the vote. Will they be able to continue to live and work freely in Britain now that it has choosen to leave? Will their livelihoods be affected? They did not have a say, but they have views.

Freedom of movement within the European Union is not something Raluca Cioroianu takes for granted.

When she was growing up in Communist Romania, it was difficult to travel abroad, but as an adult, after her country joined the EU, she was able to move to Britain, where she has built a good life for herself.

Now, in the wake of the vote to leave the EU, Cioroianu finds it hard to understand why so many want to leave a club that gives them free access to a whole continent.

Cioroianu works as a shop supervisor at a pick-your-own farm on the outskirts of London.

Immigration has been one of the central topics of the EU referendum debate. Those that campaigned for a "Leave" vote say the government is powerless to control numbers arriving because of EU freedom of movement rules.

"I came here with good intentions, to work, to pay taxes, to improve my knowledge, my culture and to make a better life," says Cioroianu. "I'm not ashamed to say that I'm from Romania."

Paolo Esposito, an Italian national working in financial services on a footbridge over the River Thames in London.

Paolo Esposito, an Italian national working in financial services, poses for a portrait on a footbridge over the River Thames in London.

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Toby Melville/Reuters

Paolo Esposito, an Italian national working in financial services, says he has "zero concern" about attitudes toward European residents changing in the event of a Brexit because of the welcoming, cosmopolitan character of London, where he lives.

"I wasn't expecting it to be so easy to settle. From simple things like bureaucracy, which is a lot more straightforward than in Italy, to people's attitudes toward foreigners. Looking back on it, it was less hassle than changing your gym," he says.

Esposito thinks there may be professional consequences from a Brexit, due to the impact on financial services and on the British economy.

Catarina Cardoso, a Portuguese academic specializing in climate change who lives in London with her German husband and their three children.

Catarina Cardoso, a Portuguese academic specializing in climate change who lives in London with her German husband and their three children, poses for a photograph with her family in south London.

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Peter Nicholls/Reuters

For Catarina Cardoso, a Portuguese academic who living in London with her German husband and three children, the EU referendum debate has made a difference to how she feels about being an immigrant.

"Until now we were the same as everyone else, maybe a different accent, but it didn't seem to be an issue," she says.

The family had not previously considered leaving. They like Britain and its way of life, they are settled at work and at school. "But if Britain exits the EU then I suppose we'll have to think about it," says Cardoso

Monika Cyrek, a Polish national who works in a grocery store run by her mother that sells mostly Polish products in Walton-on-Thames, Britain.

Monika Cyrek, a Polish national who works in a grocery store run by her mother that sells mostly Polish products, poses for a photograph in Walton-on-Thames, Britain

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Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Monika Cyrek, a Polish national who works in a grocery store run by her mother selling mostly Polish products, also feels the Brexit would make the Polish community feel less welcome. "If we're not wanted here, probably a lot of people will leave and try other places," she said.

A more urgent concern though is how a Brexit would affect the family business. "I don't know if it will make it harder for us to bring goods from Poland," she says.

Vera Pereira, a Portuguese double bass player with a British orchestra in London.

Vera Pereira, a Portuguese double bass player with a British orchestra, poses for a photograph in London.

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Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Portuguese double bassist Vera Pereira worries about the impact a Brexit will have on Britain's music scene, one of its main attractions for her.

"Orchestras may not be able to tour as much. I'm afraid other countries in Europe won't listen to British orchestras as often and the world of music in Britain won't be as well-known as it is now. In 20 years we'll see the result," she says.

Jessie Grimes, an Irish clarinettist in west London.

Jessie Grimes, an Irish clarinettist, poses for a photograph in west London.

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Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Fellow musician Jessie Grimes, an Irish clarinetist, says her time playing with the EU Youth Orchestra a few years ago brought home the advantages of being part of the bloc.

"Being in that orchestra made me feel quite European and understand that unity is important because we had amazing musicians from all over Europe," she says.

Grimes is concerned that a post-EU Britain may have to re-instate border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. "I can't see that going peacefully," she says, recalling the political violence that blighted Northern Ireland when she was a child.

Grimes also cares about gay rights and says it would be a shame for Britain, which allows gay marriage and adoption, to lose the possibility of influencing less progressive EU nations.

Uniquely among non-British EU nationals, Irish citizens living in Britain were allowed to vote in the referendum, and Grimes cast her postal ballot to remain.

Svenja Schumacher, a German national working for a London financial services firm.

Svenja Schumacher, a German national working for a London financial services firm.

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Toby Melville/Reuters

German financial services professional Svenja Schumacher wishes she could have a say. Schumacher thinks that growing up in Germany made her feel a lot more European than most Britons do. "When I was at school I had student exchanges with France, Italy, Spain. We learned quite a few European languages. We learned about the EU, European law, the whole set-up," she says.

"Here the discussions you read in the press are mainly about what economic benefits Britain takes out of the EU and not what the EU stands for, things like freedom, security, solidarity."

Simeon Simeonov, a Bulgarian car washer in Weybridge, Britain.

Simeon Simeonov, a Bulgarian car washer poses for a photograph in Weybridge, Britain.

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Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Bulgarian car cleaner Simeon Simeonov puts it more bluntly: "They're thinking like in the last century," he says of Brexit campaign.

Simeonov came to Britain with his Bulgarian wife to give their two children a chance for a better life. His main fear about a Brexit is that it might stop them from continuing their education at a local British state school.

Mihai Marcar, a Romanian waiter at a garden center restaurant, poses for a photograph in Addlestone, Britain.

Mihai Marcar, a Romanian waiter at a garden center restaurant, poses for a photograph in Addlestone, Britain.

Credit:

Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Mihai Marcar, a waiter from Romania, says he had been dismayed by the negative tone of much of the debate about immigration, particularly from Eastern Europe.

He feels hard-working, productive people are being unfairly stigmatized because of a minority who are not like that.

"I think there are a lot of people who are here illegally. For me that's the real problem, not the people who are working here, paying taxes, having a normal life."