I came to the UK nineteen years ago to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse. I didn’t jump any queue, I did not take a job from any British citizen. Instead I was warmly invited to build my life here. I was told it was my home from home. I was told I could settle down, make my life here. I landed Luton on Bonfire Night, 2000 with just £50 in my pocket and a suitcase full of hope, and I have worked hard for the NHS ever since.
In these 19 years I fell in love here, I married here, I bought my first house here, I had my children here and I fulfilled my dream of being a nurse here. The UK is my home, and I always felt at home. I have never had any problem or felt discriminated against. I am one of the three million EU citizens who live in this country, who came to the UK in good faith to build lives here. Those of us in the UK are well integrated and we contribute on every level and in every sector of British society – but since Brexit, we have started to feel like a second class citizens, just because of our accent.
Brexit has turned our lives upside down and, I had two options, to sit down and wait for my fate to be delivered to me or fight for my rights and my beliefs. I choose to stand up. Over the last three years I have been up and down the country campaigning and putting pressure on the government to guarantee our citizens’ rights. I have worked with numerous Remain groups and I have highlighted the dangers of Brexit for our NHS at numerous rallies, most recently at the People’s Vote March a few weeks ago. Before Brexit I was barely interested in politics and had never spoken in public, but I could not look into my children’s eyes and tell them that I did nothing to stop this madness.
Brexiters promise a fantasy and now the dream is going sour. If you bought a very expensive wine three years ago but in the meantime it went stale and it turned out to be spiked with toxins, would you insist that it should be drunk?
Brexit has been a poison chalice that has divided our country. I have seen how the two main parties have been pushed to the political fringes – the Conservative Party hijacked by the ERG, while the Labour Party have failed to be an opposition by just sitting on the fence and trying to have their cake and eat it. I am afraid it has backfired. I used to be a Labour member but I cannot support a party that is trying to facilitate Brexit at all costs – despite all the evidence showing it it is bad for our economy, our jobs and our rights.
Looking at the Houses of Parliament is like watching a bad episode of Game of Thrones. Politicians have failed to do what they were elected to do: to protect the best interests of our country. They have put their party, before our country. I felt unrepresented in the Westminster bubble, but I never lost hope. I was waiting and hoping that a new party would emerge like a phoenix from the ashes and connect with the people again.
Politics is broken, but when The Independent Group was formed I did a fist punch in the air. And when Brexit was delayed and EU elections called I did not hesitate to put my name forward to become an MEP candidate, to continue to fight for the country I fell in love with so many years ago, and that I barely recognise now.
We are the true Remain Alliance, people from all backgrounds and political parties have joined this newly formed party. We might not have a lot of policies in place yet but that is part of bringing new people together and building a new party from scratch and we want to do things properly from the start. Diversity is what makes things great and I have never seen a party more diverse than Change UK – The Independent Group.
I want to live in a country where I can fill my chest with pride. The Brexiters have stolen our patriotism and it’s time to get it back. We need change to be able to bring people back together and a People’s Vote is the first step towards it.
Change is coming. Join us.
Joan Laplana is a Spanish nurse working in the NHS, and a Change UK MEP candidate for the East Midlands