After the final Brexit-vote in the Houses of Parliament, Britain wishes to continuously act and be seen as a globally driving, caring and embracing world power.
Given the fact that last week’s request of the Labour MP, Ms Harriet Harman, to call for the rights of EU-citizens in the UK to be guaranteed before Article 50 is triggered in spring this year resulted in a 327 to 288 defeat in the House of Commons, makes this wish questionable. These days, the world is not only connected but also inter-connected. Anachronistic decisions, such as threatening to refuse giving European citizens basic rights to live and work in the UK (a European country) don’t sit well with the other future European trading countries.
This action which has affected more than 3 million EU-citizens who work and live in Britain is deeply humiliating and unsettling. The United Kingdom had always been internationally praised for her liberal thinking and lifestyle, its representation of freedom and dignity for everyone – not only her own citizens!
“For a long time, I felt the UK was my home – I have my doubts now, (or even) not anymore!” That’s the predominant answer from a survey carried out last month involving 1000 EU-citizens who live and work in the UK.
It’s very sad news, especially when considering that 48% of British voters are in favour of REMAINing in EUROPE! As an anglophile European who has been living and working in England for the past 30 years, the sudden shift from cosmopolitan openness towards colonial arrogance and xenophobia (“let’s get our control back!” – over what, by the way?!) has sent shivers down my spine and given me profound sadness.
Consequently, I have asked several fellow EU-citizens, who work and live in the UK, how they feel about Brexit and what impact it has on their lives. Here are 4 “typical” replies which I have gathered over the past 4 weeks.
A Spanish woman from London told me that she got the feeling that the UK was never really fully involved and interested in the European Union, and that their heart was never really in it.
Opposite my IDEAL-English Language training office in Brighton, an Italian waiter from Brighton vented his anger when he stated: “When there is an economic recession, British people start thinking that we are taking their jobs away from them, when in fact a lot of immigrants who come here do the jobs that no one else wants to do”.
A Polish office worker who was sitting next to me on a bus journey in Brighton complained that before Brexit people had to respect her but now they had the “invisible permission” to victimise her. A friend of hers who works closely with the Polish community was now telling her very unpleasant stories about how they were now, all of a sudden, being victimised not just by some British people, but by other nationalities as well.
A German woman I met on the flight to Cologne where I ran an IDEAL-English workshop last week told me of her deep apprehension back home in England where she has become very uncomfortable speaking English because of her German accent. She is now increasingly worried about giving herself away as foreign. To her – and I am sure that she is not the only one – this isn’t a feeling that is just going to go away, like flicking a switch – it is traumatic!
In my opinion, it was and still is irresponsible of the majority of British politicians to pit one section of the population against another for their own interests, and not valuing foreign workers for the contribution they make to the development of this country.
We, from IDEAL-Language and Culture-Brighton/UK – would very much like to hear from you and know if your country welcomes workers from abroad.
Best wishes to you and your families,
Peter from Brighton/UK