THE BLOG

EU Citizens In Limbo

23/06/2017 09:58 BST | Updated 23/06/2017 16:54 BST
3million campaign

A year ago my adopted home country decided to leave the European Union. I woke up in the morning and saw my world turned upside down in a way only the fall of the Berlin Wall had done previously. This time an invisible wall was being erected and I was trapped on the wrong side of it. The European Dream was not welcome in Britain anymore - and with it the many European citizens who had embraced life here.

A wave of grief submerged me, soon followed by a sense of betrayal and anger when the anticipated assurances by the new government did not materialise. Instead, the venom of the Leave campaign had seeped into the language of the ruling elite. There was talk of companies having to list foreign workers, "citizens of nowhere" who would be tolerated until Britain could replace them with a native workforce. I turned anger into activism and co-founded the3million to fight for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Now Theresa May has made a "fair and serious" offer, quickly downgraded from "generous." It is neither of those things. This offer wants to grant those lawfully in the country "settled status", enshrined in UK law. This means that any UK parliament can rescind our rights just by changing the law - is this really effective protection for over three million people? A third of whom do not qualify to be "lawful" under current Home Office rules.

It would be unacceptable to put EU citizens in the UK simply under UK immigration law, which has been called 'Byzantine' by the House of Lords, and is constantly changing. The proposal is vague on this and provides no details on what rights it wants to take away from EU citizens in the UK. In turn, this will affect British citizens living in the EU whose rights are equally at risk.

The outline deal falls woefully short of the comprehensive, reciprocal offer by the EU that includes lifetime guarantees of all existing rights for both groups of citizens. This also means a supranational court to safeguard these rights.

The government has kept us guessing for a year. It has kept employers and landlords guessing too who are wondering whether EU citizens are too risky to employ or house. Lives are on hold. People have lost faith in the government after many u-turns by politicians who promised our lives wouldn't be affected by the referendum outcome.

A year on from that fateful day millions of people are swept up in an avalanche that was kicked loose by a few highly irresponsible politicians. Some of their moving stories have just been published in a beautiful, must-read, not-for-profit book called In Limbo: Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK.

I believe more than ever that nationalism has not future in Europe and the turmoil in Britain is testament to this. I feel cautiously optimistic that the current deep crisis is the beginning of a new European movement in Britain.

On a personal level I wonder whether I will ever feel at home again in this country in the way I used to.