I am not a bargaining chip

I have written a version of this countless times in my head in the past nine months. On the train. When I’m walking Blake. Or doing the dishes. But usually, it is during many, many sleepless hours at night. I don’t know if I’ve said everything I want to say, but now that we’re only a week away from the Article 50 shotgun being triggered, I feel like it is about time I do put all this into words.

For almost nine months, since June 23rd, my life has been in limbo. At first I was dumbfounded that so many people in Britain were so ill informed and/or believed the Leave campaign’s xenophobic lies that they would vote to leave the EU. Sure, there are nuisances to being part of the EU, but on the whole, the good far outweighs the bad.

The second emotion was feeling unsafe. Where we live had one of the highest percentages of leave votes, almost 73 percent. So almost three quarters of everyone I’d pass on the street basically wants me out. That’s how it felt. I was worried about speaking Danish in public.

Or just speaking in public, period. Although I’ve lived here since August 2005, I still have an accent. Which some people have commented on in the past. Although they can’t quite place it: German? South African? New Zealand? Polish? Dutch?

A man was killed shortly after the referendum, apparently just because he was Polish. A Swedish woman had abuse shouted at her because she had the nerve of speaking Swedish in public to her children. People have been telling their children not to speak their native language in public.

I know, it’s only a minority of people who would behave like that. But it still scares me. Would I be next?

But that fear is nothing compared to the thing I hadn’t even considered before the referendum – maybe because I thought that surely most people would vote remain?

My life here is based on the right to live and work in another EU country. But since the referendum, no one can/will tell me, and the 3 million other EU citizens, what my rights will be once Britain leaves the EU.

This keeps me awake at night. Whenever there is a new ‘development’ in the Brexit disaster, I am unable to hold my shit together. There are tears. Proper ugly crying. I don’t mind telling you that.

Please don’t tell me “it will be ok” or “it won’t as bad as you think”. Or “don’t worry, of course *you* will be allowed to stay.” Me as opposed to whom? What makes me a special case?

But please don’t say any of those (well meaning) things because it’s not helping. And: you don’t know what us going to happen. No one does.

There is a thing called Permanent Residency. Have you heard of it? Yeah, me neither until some time last year. You can apply for it once you’ve lived in the UK for five years. It’s not a requirement, as an EU citizen you don’t need it. For now.

Applying for PR is a daunting prospect. It is an 80+ page document and you have to provide all kinds of paperwork to back up the application. To be honest, I’ve not looked into it properly yet. I’m going to spare myself the panic attacks about maybe not having the right documentation until the day it is necessary to do so.

You have to pay to apply. Which I’m happy to do if I knew it would mean some peace of mind. But guess what? Lots of people are applying for PR now. Do you think they’re hiring extra people to go through those applications? I doubt it. So the applications may not be considered as carefully as they should. That is worrying.

This is people’s lives. People who have been here for years. 10, 20, 50 years. People who have married English people. Had children. Worked for decades and paid taxes as good ‘citizens’. But it feels like that is all worth exactly nothing to the government.

They refuse to make a clear statement that we are still welcome and valued members of this society. We are bargaining chips. Chattel.

For nine months we have lived with this uncertainty. This mental torture. Those sleepless nights. Leaving the room to hide our tears when the talk turns to the cursed referendum.

Consider this. 3 million EU citizens. Let’s say half of us came here or stayed because we fell in love with a UK citizens. Now that uncertainty directly affects 4.5 million people. Some of those people have children. Let’s say that’s half a million children. Now it’s 5 million people who are directly affected. Let’s add the parents and siblings of the UK partners. 2 million maybe? That takes it to 7 million people who are directly affected or have close family members who are.

Nine months and the government is refusing to give us any assurances.

Maybe it will be ok. We don’t know. But don’t tell us it will be ok. It won’t assure us that our lives in the UK are secure. Children are scared that their families will be split up. That one, or both, of their parents will be forced to leave. The grown ups are worried about this too.

You can be sure that this affects someone you know or come into contact with on a regular basis.

The Spanish doctor who performed heart surgery on your dad. She may be wondering if the uncertainty is worth sticking around for. That cute Italian barista who flirts with you? Him too. And countless other people in the hotel and restaurant and hospitality business.

Your daughter’s favourite professor at Uni? Maybe she’s a Dane like me. Your best friend’s husband, the Dutch architect who built a tree house for your kids? Your French yoga teacher?

The people who are packing fruit and veg that you buy at the supermarket. Jobs that few British people are applying for. Who’s going to pick fruits and pack peppers if the Slovenian worker goes back to Slovenia or decides it’s better to get a job in Spain?

Hey, the wetter is better there anyway, right? Just ask your parents or your neighbour who has relocated there to enjoy their retirement. They’re referred to as expats, but EU citizens in the UK are ‘migrants’. Why the difference in terminology? Both have moved to another country to look for a better life. Double standards.

It is inhuman to leave us hanging like this.

In 2003 I fell in love with an English guy. In 2005 I moved here to be with him. In 2008 we got married. All I want is to live in our little house with the blossom tree, with Tony and Blake. Is it really too much to ask to have certainty that we can keep doing that?

Or if we can’t keep doing that, let us know now so we can make different plans for the future. Because right now it feels like the future is in suspended animation. Like we have no agency in our own lives.

On Saturday, there is going to be a march to Parliament on this very topic in London. Did you know? Now that you do, will you go? Will you stand up for me and my fellow EU citizens? We are your neighbours and we need your support. We need you to tell the government that this is not right.

So many people went to the Women’s March, it was amazing to follow. If half the people who turned out for the one in London came along on Saturday, that would be a fantastic turnout. Will you come along? Spend a few hours asking the government to give us basic human rights? And stop the Brexit disaster (I know, that’s unlikely to happen..)

I’m worried for the future. What will happen if I can’t stay? How will Tony and I stay together? Denmark isn’t an option, sadly. Denmark has a very Draconian attitude to immigrants. Even EU ones. Even if the EU partner is married to a Dane. And with the UK out of the EU it would be even more difficult. Especially since I’ve not lived in Denmark for a long time. It’s not uncommon for Dane+foreigner couples to live in Sweden for years.

I’m so worried that we’ll be forced to live apart because of this. And don’t tell me it it won’t come to that. Because you.don’t.know.

Please come to the march in London on Saturday and demand that the government stop treating us like bargaining chips. Come and demand that they give a clear message about our futures once Article 50 has been triggered.

We just want to live our lives with the people we love in the country that has become home without fearing that that life will be ripped away from us. That’s not so unreasonable, is it?

PS. If you voted to leave, please refrain from leaving comments that defend your choice or are argumentative in any way. My feelings are not up for debate and to be honest I find the Leave vote indefensible.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


  1. March 22, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    Oh, Carina. I wish I could march with you on Saturday. As an expat – albeit in a different place – I'm all too familiar with the uncertainty, and with what always seems to be a shaky reliance on a system that's often kept purposefully opaque. I hope your family sails through this stressful transition unaffected – as I hope all families do. Big hugs to you from across the pond.

    • March 29, 2017 / 10:43 am

      Thank you, Kim. If I'd have known from the start that life here was uncertain, well, it would have been easier (not quite the word I want) to deal with. But this…where everyone was just minding their own business, creating a life here, knowing that we have every right to do so. And then, all of a sudden, all that is up in the air. Terrifying. Thanks for the hugs. x

  2. March 23, 2017 / 6:38 am

    I agree with you completely. I don't leave in the UK but I follow the events with a growing worry. Hugs.

    • March 29, 2017 / 10:45 am

      Thank you. I think many people are worried, throughout Europe. xo

  3. March 23, 2017 / 9:00 am

    i live in Germany and we are equally frustrated. My husband is English and I am Australian and Brexit makes it very difficult to make long term plans. People say, 'oh you could just go back to Australia' despite the fact that my job (freelance writer) is to cover events in Europe. Or live in England-we've never lived there as a couple, particularly as despite being married 8 years it is (pre Brexit) easier and cheaper to live in the EU as a spouse.

    • March 29, 2017 / 10:54 am

      It's a shitty situation all around. For EU citizens overhere and UK citizens in the EU. Thank you very much, Leavers. 4.5 million people plus their families are unable to make plans for the future. Awful. People just don't get how disruptive this is for us. You can't just tear your whole life up and move back to Australia (or Denmark).

      I hope they pull their shit together and give us all some answers and assurances soon. xoxo

  4. March 23, 2017 / 11:47 pm

    I hear your voice.
    I hear your pain.
    I hear you.
    Hugs to you.

    I do wonder how you have managed to create such beauty in spite of everything. You must be such a strong lady!
    Take good care!

    • March 29, 2017 / 10:46 am

      Thank you so much! I don't know if I'm particularly strong. Maybe I'm just good at compartmentalizing. Some days I definitely feel like a sobbing mess! xoxox

  5. March 24, 2017 / 2:38 pm

    Shared to Facebook. I want to punch everyone in my family in the face that voted for Brexit, they're a bunch of ill-informed gullible bastards. I've disowned any friends I had that voted that way but it's harder with family.

    • March 29, 2017 / 10:56 am

      Thank you for sharing. It really is unbelievable that people are that ill informed/stupid/easily manipulated. I hope you didn't lose too many friends… xo

  6. March 26, 2017 / 7:02 am

    Carina- my thoughts are with you.
    I can not help, but I can feel with you. I too left my home country to live with the love of my life in another country. I too ask myself sometimes what we would do if the rules of the game would change.
    Be strong.

    • March 29, 2017 / 11:01 am

      Thank you, Rahel. It's not easy moving to another country, as you know. But you do it because it's worth it to be with the one you love. And then you make a life there and never imagine that the rug could be pulled away from underneath your life. I never did. Maybe I should have. I don't know about strong… but hopefully I can stay sane and not go completely crazy over this.. xox

  7. March 27, 2017 / 2:29 pm

    I totally get why you're worried, I'm worried too. Brexit is a bad thing. A very bad thing and people were stupid. Cameron was stupid to hold the referendum in the first place. But, I do have words of encouragement for you. Non-EU nationals are allowed to live in Britain when married to a UK citizen. EU nationals may be kicked out after Brexit, but not the ones married to English/Scottish/Welsh folk. They wouldn't bring in a different rule for EU and non-EU nationals.

    • March 29, 2017 / 2:31 pm

      Hi Wendy
      I wish this was true but I'm not sure. My sister-in-law is living in UK with my brother. They are desperate with worry that she will have to leave even though married to an English man. They have the double worry that the funding for his job comes from Europe.
      Carina, I wish you the best along with everyone else in this horrible situation.

    • August 27, 2017 / 12:01 am

      @Wendy Sadly you are very wrong, that's not true anymore (despite everyone telling me "Just get married and you'll be fine!"), Mrs May has made sure of that too, any non-EU citizen has to be sponsored by their partner, meaning those have to earn at least £18600 (or have £60000+ in the bank for at least a year beforehand). Which an awful lot of Brits, esp women don't earn. So no, marriage alone means bugger all now. (Maybe you've not seen the recent cases in the press, but there have been quite a few where partners weren't allowed entry back into the UK after e.g. going abroad to care for their parents. Or this case just recently http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-41012762 The Home Office's notice of decision said: "While we accept that you and your husband are in a genuine and subsisting relationship, you have provided no evidence that there would be any insurmountable obstacles to your family life continuing in China." They are about to have a child, and the Chinese wive has already lived in the UK for 3 years previously! Not saying this is going to happen to EU citizens already here, but the Home Office's attitude towards immigrants has become disgusting. We'll be alright in that we'll be "allowed to" stay (thank you so much, when we're contributing far more to economy and society than the average Brit, and an awful lot of us have British families and lived here for decades too). I'm not worried about staying in itself, but there's access to healthcare (not linked to other conditions), access to uni on the same conditions as Brits, no discrimination regarding jobs, same pension rights as now etc etc. There are so many things linked to it, a lot of people have already had trouble finsing a job since the referendum, or renting a house (never mind getting a mortgage). The main thing I hate about the future is feeling unable to leave the country for long without losing my status in the UK, and then probably being unable to return, that's just like being held hostage. (And yes, I could get citizenship… but donating another £2000 to this government which has caused this in the first place, no way!) Mainly it gets me how little regard the government has for people who have made their lives here and keep the country running (as well as their own citizens living abroad, as our fate is intrinsically linked now…). Anyway, whatever will be, will be. At least we've got a way out of this place (in theory.. I'm in the same situation with a British partner who won't be able to move abroad, even if we wanted to…).

  8. March 27, 2017 / 6:33 pm

    I find this situation utterly shamefull and you have all my sympathy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Privacy Policy