The ‘Great’ in Great Britain
I was asked to speak at a Hope Not Hate (@CBshireHNH) event this weekend. My brief was to give an account of my situation as an EU national and provide some ideas on how interested people can support us. This is what I said.
So much I could say, but I am aware I am preaching to the converted, so I will focus on the points that I think are worth spreading..
FIRSTLY I WILL BEGIN BY GIVING YOU AN EXAMPLE OF WHO IS BEING AFFECTED.
I came here when I was 19 because I could not secure a permanent job in Spain if I did not speak English. My aim was to come here and work while I learnt the language so I could return home after a maximum of a year. In the first 3 months I met the British man that is now my husband and 1 year became 16.
I have given the NHS 14 of those years, working up through the ranks, initially as an assistant and since 2009, as a qualified physiotherapist. I also did the ‘right’ thing and waited until I was in a strong position to start a family and I am now the mother of 2 British citizens under the age of 4.
I am surprised that I feel the need to point this out; I have never relied on benefits and I have always strived to contribute through my work as a healthcare professional and within my community. I don’t know anyone that came here just to be on benefits or to use the NHS, NOT A SINGLE PERSON.
One of the strongest reasons that persuaded me to stay was the fact that Britain was an open, progressive country where you were not judged for the way you looked or your background. I deeply disliked how racist and judgemental Spain is as a culture.
SECONDLY I WILL EXPLAIN WHAT HAS CHANGED FOR ME
Despite my hard work, since June my family and I have lived in a sea of uncertainty and anxiety.
I have received and increasing amount of abuse from patients, friends (some which told me to not dare speak ill of THEIR country) and people in social media. I have even been told to learn to speak English properly and to leave if I don’t like it.
All I have worked for is in jeopardy and all I keep hearing is “Don’t worry, you will be OK, they can’t possibly ask you to leave”, or what is worse “The British people have spoken”.
Something that only minorities might be able to understand is that this undertone of ‘British people first’, not only makes you feel unappreciated but it undermines your sense of worth.
When you wake up one day to find out that half of the country you have made your home do not think you deserve to have a decent life here as much as they do, regardless of your contribution, the foundations that make you feel safe and secure are shaken. And that is a bell I do not think can be unrung. When this continues for months you feel outright rejected and disenfranchised.
Moreover, you might be surprised to hear that my right to remain is not yet secured as I do not qualify for permanent residence due to technicalities (they have a rejection rate of 30% among EU nationals despite what the gov says about our automatic right to remain) and the jury is out on my recent naturalisation application.
As it stands we are strongly considering relocating to Spain and the reasons are many, but one of them is that I do not want to raise my children in a country where demonization and abandonment of the poor, the vulnerable, the ‘different’ is seen as acceptable part of the ‘real’ world.
WHAT IS THE USE OF BEING ONE OF THE RICHEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD IF WE CANNOT EXTEND THE OPPORTUNITY OF A DIGNIFIED AND ENJOYABLE LIFE TO ALL?
Brexit has been the drop that made the river flood after years of austerity and increased inequality. And this is likely to get worse. Britain might indeed gain ‘back control’ of a country that no one wants to be involved with.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? 5 THINGS!!
Challenge the narrative of the ‘people have spoken’.
This referendum was fought on lies and misrepresentations of the complexity of the problems Britain faces.
And was won on a minority vote of the population while excluding significant numbers of stakeholders.
What was sold and what is being implemented are 2 very different beasts. The government is aiming to curb immigration at all costs, despite the fact that the most frequent reason given for voting Brexit was to ‘gain back control’ of governance, not immigration control.
Educate to eradicate misinformation. HAVE THOSE DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS YOU HAVE BEEN AVOIDING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY.
They have scapegoated us because it is an easier concept to understand than the effects of neoliberalist capitalism, systemic ideological austerity and mismanagement by the Conservatives.
Those that have put us in this position feel vindicated when they continue to speak unchallenged.
Keep sending messages of support.
We are bombarded with negative media and opinions and not enough people are coming forward publicly to challenge people passing comments. We need an opposite and equal reaction.
Look for us because we have gone underground. We have been told so many times that we are panicking over nothing, that our concerns are not justified, or that we need to get over it because it was not our decision to make, that we no longer speak to British nationals about it. EU forums are rife with the anxieties and stories that we do not feel able to share for fear of mockery and belittling. You might not ‘see’ the problem, but it is there.
Keep pressing the powers that be, to secure our status ASAP or to stop BREXIT.
If you wait much longer it will be too late. Many of us can’t sit here for 2 years waiting to see what will happen and we will leave to gain control of our futures.
Britain does not have to go ahead with this. If indeed the ‘ democratic will’ is all powerful, those in power will need to listen to the people that disagree with the direction this is taking.
One place to go is the https://www.the3million.org.uk/. They are campaigning hard and have a pledge you can sign. You can also pressure your MP to get involved.
Protect Britain’s reputation as a progressive, fair, tolerant nation.
That is your biggest legacy and your biggest loss. That is the “Great” in Great Britain.