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Thursday, December 12, 2019

The most immediate victims of a Brexit-enabling election

The Guardian reports on the anxiety felt by many European citizens, living and working in the UK at the implications for their future if a majority Tory Government is elected tonight, which takes us out of the EU.

Most EU nationals living in the UK cannot vote. leaving them feeling helpless as the rest of us decide their fate in the ballot box. It is worth reading the article in full, but here is an extract:

Up and down this country, from Bradford to Bristol and Manchester to west London, EU nationals are eyeing an election that they could be forgiven for feeling is, at some level, all about them – and whose outcome will affect them as much as it will everyone else living in Britain, if not more.

Few will have any say in what happens on 12 December: two-thirds of EU nationals living in the UK may have applied for the settled status most will need to stay legally after Brexit, but in the past three years, barely 130,000 have applied for the citizenship that allows them to vote.

Many, after making Britain their lawful home, paying British taxes and raising British families, have been angered and offended by the anti-immigration rhetoric of pro-Brexit politicians - including Boris Johnson’s remark just this week that for too long EU nationals have been “able to treat the UK as though it’s part of their own country.”

And all are now intimately concerned by what happens next: by how, precisely, the decision of the British government to profoundly alter the status of as many as 4 million UK inhabitants will play out in their daily lives, once – as now seems increasingly likely – it is fully enacted.

For plenty, things don’t feel that great already, and Brexit hasn’t even happened yet. “This ‘not belonging’ stuff is quite hard to escape,” said 38-year-old Kuba Jablonowski, who came to the UK in 2006 “for the music, I guess, like everyone else” and now lectures in political geography at Exeter university.

“The other day I was in a DIY store here in Bristol, buying an extractor fan,” he said. “There was one really friendly young assistant, and an older one, looking at me a bit oddly. Four years ago, I would have thought: ‘She’s having a grumpy day.’ Now I’m thinking: ‘She wants me to go home.’”

That was not, Jablonowski stressed, any kind of judgment on the salesperson: “It’s just about how I feel. But the point is, there are millions of people who feel this way. The ordinary spaces of human interaction have become politicised, beyond belief. It’s quite scary, and it’s ripping the country apart.”

These are people who have invested their lives and that of their families in the future of the UK. Surely we owe them the consideration and respect they have always afforded us. What right do we have to cast them out as they fear?

When I vote later today, I will be thinking of these EU nationals and trying to make my voice heard in that polling booth to retain the tolerant, diverse and multi-national society which benefits all of us.
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