Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
The “Romanians Adopt Remainians” website is a light-hearted take on U.K. plans to leave the E.U.
If you’re not loving Brexit Britain, why not move to Romania? This is the somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion made by the Bucharest-based daily newspaper Gândul. Aware that 48 percent of British voters actually voted to stay in the E.U. last Thursday, the paper has set up a tongue-in-cheek website called “Romanians for Remainians.” It encourages anti-Brexit Britons to sign up to be “adopted” by a volunteer Romanian family. Once accepted into the collective Romanian bosom, applicants get a “passport” to print off, complete with a new Romanianized name.
If you’re one of the true-hearted Remainians the website mentions, there’s something quite charming about the offer. The site tells Romanians that “the good people who voted Remain and share European values deserve to be our relatives” while also inviting Brits to “leave the Brexiters, the quarrelling and the weather behind.” But clearly, this is satire. Among all the E.U. citizens to migrate to Britain, Romanians have arguably been the most demonized by the right wing media, so it’s hardly surprising the Romanians want a little dig back.
Britain’s Daily Mail in particular has dripped with anti-Romanian rhetoric, blaming poorer migrants for their own poverty and ludicrously suggesting that Romania was now filled with mansions built with British welfare benefits. The British government also got in on the act, planning negative advertising campaigns to deter migrants in the Romanian and Bulgarian media.
Britain’s Romanian population is and has in fact always been modest. There were 170,000 Romanian citizens living in in the U.K. in 2014 compared to 790,000 Poles. Romanian migrants typically prefer other European destinations, especially Italy and Spain, which are popular due to their closer cultural and linguistic connections to Romania (not to mention their sunnier weather).
Now the tables may not exactly have turned, but they have shifted position a little. Nothing as yet has officially changed in Britain’s relationship with the E.U., but it is nonetheless the U.K. rather than Romania that now faces ostracism from its continental peers. Britain’s currently shellshocked government is still hoping to broker a deal that will allow both European Single Market access and controls on inter-E.U. migration. If it manages to get this—and current E.U. opposition suggests it is unlikely—British citizens may find moving around Europe more difficult than it is for their Romanian compatriots. Given the ugly rhetoric against their country in the U.K., Gândul’s Romanian readers can hardly be blamed for allowing themselves a little light-hearted gloating.
The problem is, their offer may have proved too popular. When I tried to apply, the website was unfortunately overloaded, which is a real pity. Romania is a beautiful place and I rather liked the idea of changing my name to Feargus O’Sullivanescu.