Britain voted to leave the EU, by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, sending shockwaves around Europe.
After it initially appeared that the Remain campaign was on course for victory, the results that accumulated through the early hours of Friday morning, proved that many opinion polls, the bookmakers and political experts had miscalculated.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who called the referendum and supported the Remain option, has signalled his intent to step down in October.
The result sent the value of the pound crashing – sterling recorded its biggest drop against the dollar for more than 30 years. Financial forecasters believe it will tumble even further throughout the day.
While the result will have major bearing on the future of Europe and on the futures of Britain's political parties, it will also have a major impact on the lives of many Brits living throughout the EU.
Claire Duffy, a British writer living in Stockholm said, “I was literally shaking when I saw the result this morning – I was convinced it had to be a mistake. I am devastated. Even leaving aside the unmitigated economic disaster it unquestionably is, the idea that forces of small-mindedness and ignorance and xenophobia are in the majority in the UK is just horrifying to me.”
Nazia Hussain, a British entrepreneur now living in Skellefteå, northern Sweden, was also shocked.
“My initial reaction was that Britain is going backwards rather than forwards and I was so upset. Having lived here for almost three years, I am now confident that this is where I want to be, so I hope that by the time Britain is out of the EU, I will have managed to acquire Swedish nationality and so remain in the EU. I don’t think I want to go back to the UK to live as I am grateful for living here.”
The uncertainty and fear caused by the surprise referendum result is palpable among British ex-pats in Sweden, although Paul Sonkamble, a music business manager from London, made some predictions.
“Next, apart from the immediate slump in the pound, we’ll see a Scottish referendum, inflation, recession, the Bank of England desperately bailing water from the boat, more foreign money buying up property in London, a Trump presidency, a Dutch exit (Nexit?), a boost of confidence to European far-right nationalism, Iceland to win the Euros. F**k, I really don’t know.”
But how will Brexit affect British ex-pats in Sweden?
Jason Dainter, an entrepreneur from Cambridge now living in Uppsala, was, like many expats, slightly puzzled.
“I'm unsure how this will play out. There is some reassurance in the fact it will take a few years to put these changes in place, and in the fact that it's likely specific agreements will be drawn up between Sweden and the UK. However, it's hard to know the exact implications until more of the specifics have been announced by both countries.”
Some expats are already planning to apply for Swedish citizenship.
Simon Linter, a writer living in Stockholm, said. “I will be forced into applying for Swedish citizenship providing that the UK allows dual citizenship after it exits the EU.”
Paul Sonkamble agreed. “I’d imagine British ex-pats in Sweden will see their UK pensions tumble, and their long-term passage through Europe become more difficult. I applied for Swedish citizenship two weeks ago, not only from a moral perspective, but as someone who works with touring musicians that rely on me not being stuck at borders, as they and the equipment they travel with travel between European capitals with ease.”
David Carpenter, a British expat of more than a decade, who provides immigration services to two Swedish municipalities, doesn’t expect Sweden to react immediately.
“Sweden still needs workers, that is an ongoing issue. So, it will depend more on how the EU reacts and what it imposes on the movement of Brits. An important factor is that the UK is not in Schengen (the area including 26 European countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their mutual borders.)”
“Serbians for example can come to Sweden for three months without a visa (if they have a chipped electronic passport) because they are in Schengen. Brits will not have that option soon, so will they need a visa to visit the EU?”
“People who have lived in Sweden continuously for five years have a right to stay, so I would say most would will be fine, as the actual exit will take a few years to execute. The two years quoted for a complete exit seems very optimistic given the work involved.”
Meanwhile Claire Duffy spared a thought for those young citizens of the United Kingdom who voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.
“I am heartbroken at the thought of future generations of Brits who won't enjoy the advantage of being able to move to Sweden on a whim as I did!”