Many EU nationals are rushing to get permanent residence or citizenship in Britain to secure their rights post Brexit. Many are considering other options, including moving elsewhere. A survey conducted among the Financial Times readers revealed that nearly a quarter of Europeans feel no longer welcome in the UK and a fifth plan to leave within two years. Another 39% is pondering but is not yet committed to move.
Of the over 700 respondents, 41% are concerned about their job. But the percentage grows to more than half for people working in construction, manufacturing, retail and hospitality, and media and entertainment.
Some readers mentioned the hostility felt since the referendum as a reason to move. In the past weeks, media from across Europe have covered stories of Europeans being insulted or abused in Britain, especially when speaking other languages in public. An article in the German paper Die Welt, which was reproduced by British sites too, featured a woman saying “If you go out with the kids, don’t speak German.” In Spain, El Pais reported about Spaniards being assaulted in filmed attacks. The Associated Press and the BBC published stories about Poles, the largest community of Europeans in the UK, now feeling like “second class citizens.” A Finnish researcher told The Guardian that most people do not understand how the EU vote is affecting his life.
A poll commissioned by The Independent to BMG Research shows that 66% of the British public want the Prime Minister to guarantee the rights of Europeans in the UK immediately and with no conditions. Michael Howard, the former Conservative leader and prominent Brexiteer, also called on the government to end the “dreadful uncertainty” of Europeans in the UK. The government so far has linked their status to the Brexit negotiations.
Pressure however is mounting from both London and Brussels. On October 27th the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) adopted a statement supporting the right to remain for EU citizens in the UK and for UK citizens in the rest of the EU. “We believe that such rights should be granted unconditionally and unilaterally by the governments concerned: these people should not be used as bargaining chips or negotiating assets and we condemn those politicians who suggest using them in this way,” says the document.
On the same day the mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, participated in a public meeting with EU citizens. He reiterated that Europeans are welcome and the city is open, echoing what repeatedly said by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
At the House of Lords, the inquiry on the consequences of Brexit on EU citizens in the UK continues in the EU justice sub-committee. At a recent hearing, Sylvie Bermann, Ambassador of France to the UK, said that French people have been the target of abuses and the French community is worried about their future in the UK. “It is important to give certainty to EU nationals,” she said. “People here felt Londoners, now they feel foreigners.”
She added that, as the decision to leave the EU was made by the UK, it is for the British government not only to trigger Article 50, but also to make proposals that European countries can react to.
Text and photo: Claudia Delpero. © All rights reserved.