In the fourth of our continuing discussions on the Brexit effect on the UK comics community and beyond at BF this week’s selection of creators/publishers talk about the psychological impact of Brexit and the emotional scars that have come as a consequence. All articles in the series will be tagged and accessible in one place here.
Here’s our standard introduction to the series for latecomers…
Over the summer Broken Frontier has been talking to creators, publishers and commentators from across every aspect of the UK comics scene about the negative consequences they have experienced since Brexit came into force. Contributors were asked to comment on how leaving the EU had impacted them on a number of levels from the financial losses incurred, the ramifications of the end of freedom of movement, funding and collaboration issues, and how Brexit has affected them from a mental health perspective.
The feedback was… sobering in the extreme. A significant amount of lost income was a common thread with major problems in selling to Europe also frequently mentioned. From the loss of major employment opportunities in the EU to the growing isolation of the UK scene from important markets, through to the health issues resulting from the anxiety and fear Brexit has caused and having to deal with unrestrained xenophobia, it all makes for grim reading indeed.
Such was the response to our social media call-out in June that this series will be running for a few weeks, honing in on different talking points and demographics as we progress. If you are inspired to take part (and there is still certainly time!) please e-mail me here. We are particularly looking for more feedback from shops, publishers, comics-adjacent businesses and organisers.
(All information provided was the state of play for contributors at the time collated.)
On the personal impact of Brexit: If Brexit has hit you financially what has the collateral effect been on you in terms of anxiety? Were you an EU national in the UK in the run-up to the Brexit vote? If so, how did that period affect your mental health?
KitsuneArt (Midnight Heart)
As an EU national in the UK it hasn’t been easy waking up one day and realising you were not welcome in this country anymore. Personally I’m lucky I have a network of friends and people who care for me otherwise the impact on my mental health could have been a lot worse. But still it’s not nice to have this constant fear at the back of your mind that things might change for the worst. That even if you work here and pay taxes, you will always be a series B citizen and your voice will not be heard.
Nicolas Rossert (Sloth Publishing)
Nothing like having people tell you to go back to your country [because] the UK voted Brexit. Again, it’s not like I didn’t get told to go back to my own country every now and then ever since I moved to the UK. The huge amount of stress was the application for permanent residency. It was not as easy a process as you might think. It was easier than a visa application, but I did have to gather a lot of paperwork and written proof. I also did have to start planning on maybe relocating to France and lose my business and livelihood. All of it was incredibly stressful! And I am disabled due to mental illness, so it was just nightmarish.
David Hine (Batman, The Bad, Bad Place)
I tend to be very stable mentally and don’t usually feel a lot of anxiety. However, in the run-up to the Brexit vote, there was a sense of uncertainty about the situation for my partner, who is French. Although there were all kinds of promises made about EU nationals who live and work in the UK, none of those guarantees appeared very solid. She had to apply for Settled Status, which appears to guarantee a right to live in the UK for as long as she wants. Settled Status is also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain. We don’t like the sound of the word “Indefinite”, and of course this is coming from a dishonest government and politicians who lied consistently about the consequences of Brexit. As a result, after almost forty years together, we married, for the sole reason of strengthening my partner’s legal status. Not a terrible outcome, but it reflected a lot of uncertainty and my partner is still furious that after living here much longer than in her country of origin, she should have to apply for ‘leave to remain.’ It certainly contributed to her perception of a general atmosphere of xenophobia.
Amy Crabtree (Sushi Comic Book)
It feels like every year there’s something that makes it more difficult for artists, comic creators and in fact all small businesses selling online. In 2020 USPS raised their prices massively, which increased the cost of postage, putting off customers in the USA. In 2021 the new EU VAT rules and IOSS with no threshold for small businesses made it more difficult and costly to sell to customers in the EU. This year the cost of living increases mean that people have less disposable income to spend on non-essentials, and there have been multiple price rises from printers making it more expensive to get comics, prints and merchandise printed.
Corinne Pearlman (Myriad Editions)
I think psychologically Brexit has had a really bad impact on our comics community. It may well have been down to – certainly justified – Covid fears about travelling and then being in a crowded place, but I honestly couldn’t see any British tables selling comics at Angoulême this year. Plenty of visitors from other countries! I felt embarrassed to be coming from a country who had chosen not to be part of Europe any more.
Rachelle Meyer (Texas Tracts)
I don’t think it’s been publicised enough that British citizens lose their right to vote if they’ve lived outside the country for more than 15 years. That means that my husband, and many others like him who live abroad, were not given a voice in the Brexit decision even though it impacted them and their families dramatically (hey, that’s me). I had a lot of anxiety about how Brexit would change my life as the spouse of a British citizen living in the EU. I had just sunk all of my money into a house in Amsterdam right before it happened. We’ve been given a grace period with our 10-year visas, but it’s a bad deal all around.
Dave Windett (The Dandy)
Brexit has meant that I feel less secure in a general sense, I worry about inevitable price increases, the possibility that I may not always be able to get the prescription drugs that I need, and that there may be some other products that will become unavailable.
I also wonder what impact it will have next time I travel to Europe.
Simon Russell (Question Marks)
Brexit has hurt me emotionally in many subtle ways and has hurt – led directly to insolvency and even death – people I know and have worked for. Its impact on the UK comics field is far greater than purely financial and logistical matters… I can see no positive benefits and can only see how it’s stalling our development, reducing our influence and denying our involvement.
Gustaffo Vargas (Altiplano)
It was definitely not an easy time at home, even close UK citizen friends were in a state of frustration to see such a surreal new order take form in front of them.
I tend to take the days as they come. Coming from Peru, where you never know what will and what won’t work, you get used to being constantly disappointed and not dreaming big, which puts your mind in a very low-expectation state.
It’s very sad to see that little shades of that low-expectation is taking a stronger form in the UK.
Francesco de Manincor (FUNKYSHEEP)
Not only was I here in the run-up to the vote in 2016, but I can definitely see a big difference in the first 10 years that I was here, 1998-2008, with the socio-political climate, the arts and media all more positive and forward looking (New Labour wasn’t perfect, notably WMD and Iraq war, but compared to the last 12 years of Tory regime…..) and the last 10 years post-Olympics, getting more and more bleak (Brexit, food banks, Tory incompetence and corruption on an industrial scale, Covid covering their Brexit mess, PPE dodgy contracts…) …so I can definitely say the vote in 2016 and then the right-wing climate has affected my state of mind. I carry on working and creating but there’s an underlying anxiety, concern and worrying about the level of inequality, the injustices and how damaging all of the above is for everybody, whether they realise it or not.