In Limbo Stories – Our Brexit Blog An initiative to give a voice to EU citizens affected by Brexit. Sun, 22 Jul 2018 10:17:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In Limbo Stories – Our Brexit Blog 32 32 Olaya’s Interview on BBC Five Live Thu, 18 Jan 2018 19:54:59 +0000

NHS nurse: ‘I’m leaving the UK because of Brexit abuse’

Olaya has worked as an NHS nurse for fifteen years.Now she and her family are moving to Spain due to the “unchallenged abuse” she’s received since the Brexit vote

Posted by BBC Radio 5 live on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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Malthe’s Story Wed, 06 Dec 2017 22:09:57 +0000 My story begins like most other stories do; I was young and filled with optimism and, in my third year of university, I was offered a chance to study abroad as part of the Erasmus programme. Without hesitating, I accepted a placement in Sheffield. The decision was made in a heartbeat but it was a decision which would define my adult life and change me forever. In September 2009, I arrived in Sheffield on my own from my native country of Denmark – it was my first time in England, I was young and the world was at my feet. After a few days, I moved into university halls and, within weeks, I had made lifelong (British) friends. It didn’t take long for me to fit in; after being exposed to the tranquil of The Peak District, the charm of Bakewell and the beauty of Chatsworth, something in me had changed; I had found what I never knew I was longing for, and for perhaps the first time in my life, I felt truly at home.

The decision to stay in England for another year was easy; I was accepted as an MA Student at The University of Sheffield and I moved into a shared house with my British friends from the first year; the ‘adventure’ could continue and the thought of having to go home to Denmark could be safely ignored again. During my second year, I met my wife-to-be – a lovely girl from the town of Doncaster – and the notion of having to return to Denmark became unthinkable. After the second year came to an end, my wife-to-be and I rented an apartment together and we both managed to find jobs in the same area. In spite of financial struggles which await most people who are fresh out of university and in entry-level jobs, we were truly happy.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2016, my wife and I married the year before, we had bought a lovely little house in Warrington, we had both been given promotions and now had a decent income and my wife was pregnant with our son. Life was, by all accounts, bliss. However, as the saying goes; ‘into each life a little rain must fall’. The rain came in the form of the EU referendum and from the time it was announced, I started to slowly panic. My wife and I spoke about the implications of a Leave vote in great detail and we decided that, in this unlikely event, we – and especially our son – would be better off if we cut our losses and moved to Denmark.

On the 24th of June, we were in a caravan in the Peak District for a long weekend with my mother who was visiting from Denmark. I was always keen to show my family the beauty of the country that I had chosen as my home. In the morning, I woke up at 5am and immediately reached for the remote to see the final results and I heard my wife say ‘don’t do it’. As countless other EU citizens, it was about to dawn on me that I had woken up in a different country. ‘We’ll put the house for sale next week’ my wife said, and I don’t think I have ever felt as helpless and lost as I did in that moment when I simply nodded in agreement.

We had planned to do a day trip in Bakewell with my mother that day and I reluctantly went along. We went for breakfast in a small café and I excused myself and went to the toilet where I broke down in tears; the country I had come to love had been tainted, nothing was the same and I felt myself hating the native Brits, forever suspicious that they may have voted Leave.

While my wife voted Remain, most of her family voted Leave. A year earlier, during my speech at my wedding, I had thanked my in-laws for how welcoming they had been and how grateful I was for being a part of the family. How quickly things change; after the referendum, I couldn’t stand the sight of them. In true English fashion, Brexit was never discussed and my wife insisted that I did not mention Brexit – adhering to social etiquette seemed to be far more important than addressing the elephant in the room. To this day, I have no idea if they comprehend how much hurt it caused me.

Behind the scenes, however, the plan of moving to Denmark was slowly, and in all secrecy, taking form; I was preparing Danish job applications and our house was for sale. Seeing the ‘for sale’ sign outside our little house – which had been our home for less than a year – killed me inside.

At this point, my wife told her family that we were planning on moving to Denmark and it was no surprise that she failed to mention the reason behind. To this day, the story is that ‘we were always looking to move to Denmark some day’ and that Brexit was, if anything, a minor influence. The truth is that without Brexit, there is no way I would have agreed to leave England behind.

After a few months, I was lucky enough to get offered a job where the salary was just high enough for us to cope in a small one bedroom flat in Copenhagen and our house sold in a matter of months; the plan of moving to Denmark – which before Brexit had been merely a vague notion – was being put into action.

We arrived in Copenhagen on a rainy and bleak evening on the 25th of November 2016 with 4 massive suitcases, our son’s pram and a joint feeling of uneasiness. The next few months would be incredibly tough; my wife was generally optimistic but I was struggling to settle into a life that no longer belonged to me. Our son was still being breastfed so my wife would stay at home with him for several months before she could even start applying for a job and start trying to get a social network – all of it without speaking Danish. Needless to say, I was really worried about her welfare but she was made of much tougher stuff; she thrived and I struggled.

At this point, there’s a twist in my story that I fear few similar stories contain – everything turns out better than we could possibly have hoped for; our son starts nursery and thrives there, my wife finds a job doing the same as she did in the UK and she start taking Danish lessons in the evenings. A month ago, we bought a big flat in Copenhagen which is bigger than the house we had in the UK. We now live 500 metres from a lovely school, which our son will automatically enrol at when he’s old enough, and – thanks to the infrastructure in Copenhagen – I can get to work in 15 minutes (a far cry from the 1.5 hours each way on the M62 in Manchester). The relationship with my wife’s parents has also improved massively as they have been incredibly supportive of us moving to Denmark. I think we’re closer now than we ever were when we lived in the UK.

I am not oblivious to the fact that I am very, very lucky; I am lucky to have a transferable skill in an industry where skilled labour is sought after, I am incredibly lucky to have a lovely wife who is both open-minded and strong enough to move to a new country and flourish. I am very lucky that Brexit happened at a time where my son was so young that he will never recall living anywhere but Denmark and I am very lucky that we had the resources to make the move to Denmark in the first place. Not everyone is as lucky as I am and my heart goes out to those EU Citizens in the UK who live under constant strain in the hostile environment that the UK, in particular England, has become.

You are probably left wondering what the point of this story really is if everything turned out great. The truth is that there is still something missing. England, to me, has a special intrinsic tranquillity that I can neither grasp nor define and yet it is as clear as day. I wonder if it’s a coincidence that England has produced so many poets, writers and artist or if there is indeed ‘something in the air’.
Denmark, in spite of being better than the UK on every objectively-measurable parameter, is also bleak and sad in its own little way; I find myself missing England every day and I doubt the feeling will ever go away. When I had to leave England for a better life for my family, I left a part of me behind – a part that I cherished and that I cannot seem to find in Denmark, though it is not for lack of trying.

The point is that Brexit brought with it significant emotional turmoil for every EU Citizen who called the UK their home and that someone like me, who has successfully relocated to another country in the wake of Brexit, are still bound by it. In contrast to the picture most often painted in the media, Brexit transcends financial stability, trade deals and rotting crops – it caused, and is still causing, despair and angst for 3 million people and the fact that this has gone (fairly) unnoticed, unpunished and entirely unremedied is the biggest crime of them all. I pray that it will just go away and that things will return to the way they once were but I fear that the damage done is irreversible.

Many years ago, during a weekend in Windermere, I bought a small oil painting from a gallery. The painting depicts the twilight over a lake in the Lake District. The details of the painting are so immaculate that just looking at the painting can make you feel that you are truly there, if only for a short while. It now hangs in my office where I can glance at it from time to time. When I do, I find myself feeling grateful that I had 7 lovely years in that beautiful country.

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An Italian/American’s Story Thu, 23 Nov 2017 21:40:08 +0000 I realise that many people are in an even worse position than me and have felt so upset for them when I’ve read what they are going through. But here’s what’s happening to me. I think it comes under the heading of “anxiety” with a large dollop of anger and sense of betrayal thrown in. The uncertainty about my future has made me a bit of a wreck since last June. I’m Italian – actually, a dual national, as my father was American and my mother Italian – but came to England in my early teens, went to school and university here and fell in love with the country. I went back to Rome for a few years, then lived in France, and eventually found my way “home” to London. I’ve been here – on and off – for 34 years.

That said, I had always planned to retire in France. I’ve been self-employed for the past eleven years, and since subtitling rates keep falling, I’ve had to work harder and harder to make ends meet and had finally reached the conclusion that the only way out of this eight-to-midnight, seven-day work week was to sell my London home, move somewhere cheaper and sunnier, and with the difference, buy a place to rent out as a form of pension. I’d still work, but not as relentlessly. I might even rediscover weekends. Worried about the effect on house prices and the pound if Brexit happened, I’d started to look at moving away in 2015.

As I was seeking out this new home, I got together with someone who has every reason to want to remain in England – for the time being at least. His son has just started university and, as they are very close, I would hate to drag him away to another country while his son is still so young and in need of moral support. Also, my partner doesn’t speak French yet and still has four years to go before he can retire. There are other considerations, too. For one thing, he is American and has Indefinite Leave to Remain, which he would lose if he followed me to France. If I died before five years are up, he could not stay in France and wouldn’t be allowed to return to England, meaning he’d be forced to move back to the USA, without a pension that rises with inflation, without any right to healthcare and a whole world away from his British son. It would be a disaster for him.

He’s applying for an Irish passport – to which he would be entitled through his four grandparents – but we are not certain he can obtain that yet. And I’m applying for British citizenship just to be safe.

But the process of gathering the necessary information is proving arduous. Being self-employed doesn’t help, so I decided to base my application on a five-year period when I was an employee. One company has been sold on and the company that bought it claims to have absolutely no records of my three-year employment there. None. The other company has folded altogether and no longer exists. I went to see an immigration lawyer with whatever scraps of information I found gathering dust in the attic – a few stray salary strips, one or two P60s that I hadn’t managed to lose – and was told that I had sufficient evidence for those five years, but now needed to prove that I hadn’t left the country since July 2005, when she deemed I’d achieved PR. She told me my council tax bills didn’t qualify, as I might own property but still have left the country for two years. She advised me to get copies of my utility bills. The phone company declared it had absolutely nothing on me prior to 2015, when I’d renewed my broadband and phone contract. The gas and electricity company would only send me copies dating back to 2011, because they’d archived the rest and – for some reason I truly cannot fathom – refuses to unearth them for me, even in exchange for the hefty fee I’d offered to pay. Same with Thames Water: archived bills cannot be sent out. HMRC made me wait two months and when the information I’d requested arrived, it was riddled with obvious mistakes. When I called to point out the errors, I was told that I had to write to the department in question, asking for a correction, and would probably have to wait another two months for the corrected paperwork to arrive. And time, of course, is running out. My only hope is to go through the entire house and try to find all my bank statements going back to July 2005, as the bank hasn’t been very helpful either. I’m not the most organised person, and while I know I’ve shredded all my utility bills, my bank statements must be “somewhere”, but it could take ages to find them. After I obtain PR, I still need to try for citizenship. At this rate, it will be March 2019 before I sort anything out.

However, even obtaining British citizenship will not help me with my long-term dream of retiring in France. It will only help me to stay in a country that no longer wants me, and – I now realise – probably never did. It’s been particularly hard to stomach the fact that women I’d been at school with 45 years ago, and have been close friends ever since, voted to Leave.

As far as I can tell, I can’t go to France now. Britain being my “competent state,” I will not be entitled to reciprocal healthcare unless I move to France before March 2019. However, the way things stand, only pensioners already in receipt of a state pension before March 2019 will be entitled to export uprated pensions. And I’m too young for that. I still have seven years to go before I can retire. Irony of ironies, if they hadn’t raised the state pension age from 60 to 66, I’d be fine.

I cannot begin to describe the anguish of seeing my dream of going back to France in tatters. It also means I am doomed to work seven days a week, at ever decreasing rates, until I die, because even the paltry British state pension won’t support me here. Housing is too expensive for me to live somewhere and rent somewhere else out. I’ll have to keep working.

I have been battling to get this reversed. I wrote to my MP, I wrote to David Davis personally, pointing out that – this way – they are effectively imprisoning EU citizens in Britain who’d otherwise want to go home. But I haven’t heard back from him.

As things stand, I can only hope and pray that people see sense and reverse this madness. It is particularly galling that Brexit was pushed through with lies, fed by a billionaire press who stands to gain from leaving the EU because they were about to clamp down on their tax-evasion practices. The little people fell for it, and the little people will pay the price.

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Angus McC.’s Story Wed, 22 Nov 2017 21:07:03 +0000 I haven’t seen any direct reference to those of us who are married to or partnered with loved ones from other European countries. My wife has lived and worked in Scotland for nearly 15 years. A professional who works for a local government service. I work for a charity. We don’t know what my wife’s status will be after Brexit. She may be asked to leave. If she is then I will be going too. Fantastic! Two job vacancies for UK residents. And off we go with our combined knowledge, experience, skills and understanding of local issues totalling 60 years. Don’t know where we will end up. Life might be harder. But if my wife is not wanted then neither am I. For the first time since the poll tax boycott I have hesitated to fill in the electoral register return. Why? Because it asks me to confirm the nationality of my wife. Will that information be used by the state, your state, to identify aliens? I’m scared. This is scary stuff folks. We don’t want to leave you. But we may not have that luxury that we have all enjoyed since freedom of movement accross Europe came into being . I know I will not be the only partner in this situation. If you or anyone you know is, then please put them in touch with me. The unseen collateral. It’s time we had our voices heard. To the two folk that get our jobs: I hope you enjoy serving our communities as much as we have, that you have a long, peaceful and prosperous life. And that you are never rejected by the country you love.

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Lucia’s Story Sun, 29 Oct 2017 22:19:32 +0000 I came to the UK in 2009 in order to study and teach at a large British university. As a Croatian national, I was registered as an overseas student and had to pay treble in comparison to those from the EU, not to mention home students, who were mostly funded. According to my Tier Four International Student Visa, I was not supposed to work more than 35 hours a week. However, I was going to be fine, being young, hard-working, ambitious, talented, etc. etc. All of it was duly noted by my wonderful supervisor, and by the head of the faculty, who employed me as a part-time teaching fellow. I also worked as a freelance medical translator, making ends meet without any help from my folks and loving everything about my life, counting the days until my country would enter the EU. By this time I was supposed to have submitted my PhD-thesis and to have moved to the greener pastures of. a permanent academic job. On the day Croatia entered the EU the head of the faculty quipped:

– So, you’ve entered the EU? Good! We are getting out!

I was by then used to the off-hand ways of the Brits, much more hopeful than the perfect civility with which they treat those whom they despise or consider to be outsiders. I forgot about his words until much later. As soon as I was awarded a doctorate, I went on to forward my PhD-certificate to the UK Home Office, along with the required sum of money. As a Croatian national with a degree from a UK university, I had unrestricted access to the UK work market, provided I could show the Blue certificate granted to the nationals of recent EU-members. Thank goodness my work permit had no expiry date, and I should pay nothing more to the UK Home Office – just think how much money they earn from processing visa request from the poor folks they restrict from working! So much for the parasitic migrants. Especially hopeful students like myself. Apart from the monies paid on the university account in the first year of my PhD-research course, I had been paid as a student not as a lecturer, despite having been doing a lecturer’s job for the last couple of years, sometimes teaching on behalf of the head of the faculty. I must have saved my department a small fortune.

After graduation, I took a cue from many of my friends and colleagues – British as well as European! -, and opted for a job which paid the bills. I respectively worked as a customer service advisor in several local companies, always holding a temporary job with no career opportunities. Having by then read Owen Jones’s “Chavs”, I saw that his book was alarming and not amusing, as it had seemed in my luckier days. The most of those who sat in the trenches of customer service were Chavs to a tee unless they came from abroad. The social discrepancy between those who served customers in English and those who did it in European languages couldn’t have been bigger, the former with GCSE’s, the latter mostly in possession of a higher education certificate. David Cameron did not make things easier with his proceedings against “unskilled migrants”.It began to dawn on me that I was considered to be one by an average UK recruiter, who couldn’t infer any skills from my qualifications. Unless for a couple of European languages, which were my saving grace. Having worked as a translator, interpreter and customer service advisor, I had been employed mostly on a hire-and-fire basis, with no real prospects for a promotion, arguably reserved for those with a BA from all other fields but arts. humanities and languages. Once more, I tried to rationalize my plight. Barbarians and right-wings were on the rise around the planet, forcing the young and the over-educated to choose between immigration and subordination. Finally, Brexit came, and my need to rationalize my victimhood was gone.Heck, I was no refugee, but a someone who chose to study and work in Britain, Why? Because I used to admire the Brits! As with myself, so with the majority of Europeans who came to the UK, Britain has so long been a political trendsetter, with a long-standing opposition to all things remotely relevant to being a “proud Nazi”, that opting for a right-wing solution on such a large scale somehow did not seem to have been possible. At least not until now.

For me, the fatal referendum had finally brought home the message “WE DON’T LIKE YOU”. If only it had been less than half population. If only I had not instantly remembered the words from my academic boss, who did – and still does! – think well of me, in his off-handed way. But that’s the British paradox for you in a nutshell. After I saw Brexit results I quit my temporary job, canceled my short-term rent agreement and returned to Croatia. The latest reports of deportation letters and of the requirements of obtaining British citizenship in order to be considered “worthy” of continuing to stay in the country have made me all the more convinced that I did the right thing. Not to mention bringing to mind the words of a really old pop-song:

… What do I have to do to be accepted
What do I have to say
What do I have to do to be respected
How do I have to play
What do I have to look like to feel I’m equal
Where do I have to go
What club do I have to join to prove I’m worthy
Who do I have to know …

However, I am still looking for an academic position in the UK. I am applying as an equal, and it is up to them to reciprocate, or not. It is important to keep an open mind, especially after so much struggle and disappointment. Besides, I do miss the rain, the fog, the green parks, my circle of UK friends, my favorite brand of strong cheddar, everything but the many Chavs.

A Brit in a Facebook group recently pointed out that all Brits and all non-Brits should stand together in order to be able to change things in the UK. In the case it happens in the near future, Britain will once again be worthy to be called Great. I’ll keep my fingers crossed

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Initially rejected for PR, but subsequently accepted for British Citizenship… Thu, 10 Aug 2017 21:27:44 +0000 Is it strange that I nearly burst into tears at the end of my passport interview?

After the unnerving first question “do you know why you’re here?”, I got through twenty minutes of fairly random questioning of my personal life, worried that I might be failing because I’m not very good at remembering my parents’ dates and places of birth (I know that’s odd, I just have a very bad memory). He wasn’t even listening to my answers because several times he asked me something which I had just told him as part of the previous answer.

He told me off that my passport photo was not taken in the last 3 months (I just thought it had to be “recent” and a good likeness).

He asked me if I had any questions, so I asked what happens now. He said he couldn’t comment whether my interview was successful or not, but if it was I should receive my passport within 4 to 10 working days. If I didn’t hear anything by 10 working days, I have to ring THEM!

So when it was over, he asked if I had any other questions or comments. I said the whole process had been very stressful. He asked why. I didn’t want to say too much, but said it started with being rejected for PR [on my first application] and being told to make preparations to leave the country. [For clarity, I did reapply for PR and received it at the second attempt, before then applying for citizenship]

And then I suddenly felt so overwhelmingly sad that I welled up and didn’t say much more after that.

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An Irish/German Couple’s Story Sat, 05 Aug 2017 21:00:53 +0000 London has been amazing for us, my Irish husband and me, German. We have lived here for almost 20 years and we came with nothing. My husband got into Advertising after working in different restaurants for several years, because he was told that he was good with numbers. I arrived with my degree in Paintings Conservation. He managed to set up 2 companies from scratch and after working for other restorers I set up my own studio just before we started having children. All 3 of them are English by heart with a German passport. They could have the Irish one, but my husband has not been that organised. I have always been conscious as a German working in English Art Collections as we were brought up feeling ashamed of our country’s history. But it did not hinder my career! I have had fabulous projects for the National Trust, the V&A and other wonderful organisations. My husband was lucky enough to sell both his agencies and leave immediately as he wanted to find a new path in life. Based on this new found freedom we took our 3 children out of school last summer on the basis of home schooling and went on a sabbatical trip around world. What timing! I will never forget the moment waking up at 5am and seeing the Brexit vote results! Both of us immediately did not feel welcome anymore, because we had lived away from our home countries for so long, we had started to identify ourselves as Europeans. But I know, we have been so lucky to set off and observe the developments from a distance and I have been a member of this group almost from the beginning and I have felt heartbroken so many times reading your stories.

We just went away to teach our children about different cultures in the hope that this will create kindness and openness in their hearts for every human being. We volunteered in a school in India, we hiked in the Himalayas and we took Spanish classes in South America. Throughout our trip we were constantly debating – what next? And we often had sleepless nights. In early July we returned to London and we were welcomed so warmly by all our friends. There did not seem to be a change at all and Lambeth had the highest voters to remain anyway. But there is this anger inside me and it does not go away. We should all be working together as a united Europe as it was founded as a historical consequence. So many people have stated the facts here. So I am not going further into the long debate we all had numerous times. But it has led to our decision to leave London. We have found a flat in Berlin. It is all very rushed to get there on time before school starts at the end of the month. I am very grateful that we have the freedom to make this decision and I have spoken to many people who can’t. But in my heart I will continue to support each and everyone of you! And who knows? We might not like Berlin and we are very aware that this could be a big mistake. After all the UK has been our home for 20 years and we missed it very much during our world 🌎 trip. I have only now started telling people and all my lovely colleagues I have worked with. It is daunting to start out again in Berlin with no contacts. But I also need to settle the kids first, who don’t want to go….

Sending you all the best of luck, perseverance and strength!!!

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An Interview with Elena Remigi Wed, 02 Aug 2017 19:51:31 +0000  

beCause Associate Peter Cook comments on and interviews Elena Remigi, editor of In Limbo – Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK, an anthology of 144 unique stories: 

The stories have been compiled into a wonderful book by Elena Remigi, with the help of Véronique Martin and Tim Sykes, In Limbo – Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK. This is the world we inhabit in our so-called Great Britain at the moment. I was touched personally by the stories of EU citizens who face continued uncertainty over their future if we decide to leave the European Union. It tells the human tales of the ground floor impact of our heartless strategies to use our EU citizens as human shields.

Heartbreaking insights from people who have been so badly let down by our so-called Government that works for all. I feel ashamed to be called British in the knowledge that our European friends are being used as in this way just to prop up an internal political party squabble. This trend is not just one happening in Europe. Trump’s America seems also to be copying the design, with disastrous consequences.

A new wave of autocratic leadership is sweeping the world. Populism, Brexit, Trump are all characterised by single issues and the kind of didactic leadership that was more popular around 100 years ago. The “losers” in this battle of ideologies seem to be diversity, tolerance, respect and the view that we are all stakeholders on planet earth.

I have been fighting against the effects of the UK’s decision to retreat from the rest of the world through our Brexit referendum. Brexit was informed by racism and xenophobia and the politics of hate. It has unleashed a wave of intolerance in our once United Kingdom, which I experienced first hand by being punched by someone who refused to talk about our differences.

But I simply cannot allow our “race to the bottom” after so many years of progress in our attempts to build an inclusive world that can sustain itself. However, my story turns to a group of people who have been more damaged by our Brexit referendum and the coalition of chaos that has ensued … I interviewed Elena to find out more about her book and the stories behind it.

What is your own experience of being In Limbo?

My personal experience of being in limbo has been both a bureaucratic as well as psychological one. In the first case, my husband and I had to fill in the then-much-dreaded 85-page form to obtain Permanent Residency as a family, and fortunately my husband was able to sponsor me. Had I been married to a UK national, this would not have been possible as the UK immigration law is much more restrictive towards spouses who do not have five years of consecutive full-time employment. The amount of documents requested was phenomenal but after 4 months we received our Permanent Residency card, which is a pre-requisite to obtain citizenship.

I went through all the exams needed to obtain naturalisation, an expensive process, which cost around £1500 per person. Despite having done all that was required, I was turned down by the National Checking Service when I brought all my documents as, being a dependant spouse, I had to prove that I lived here. Owning a house, a car, paying my utility bills, having listed 5 years of flights in and out of this country, was deemed insufficient. I was therefore asked to prove “my existence” here through visits to the doctor, optician, dentist, having to send five years of bank statements (another 5 kg of evidence) to be allowed to naturalise – a Kafkaesque experience.

Aside from this, I have also undergone another kind of limbo: a psychological one, which I found worse than the first. Before the Referendum campaign, I felt completely settled and integrated. Months of hostility towards EU citizens and the deliberate attempt to paint us as people who were exploiting the system, rather than contributing to it, have deeply saddened and worried me for my future, making me doubt my role in this country. No matter how many documents one can obtain, what really matters is to know that you are welcomed and valued in a place.

What prompted you to develop the idea for the book?

After the Referendum, as soon as time was going by, I realised that many EU citizens were posting in various groups about their distress, and that not many people, politicians included, knew much about it. The level of misinformation was astounding. I thought that these testimonies would become a stronger voice if put together, and could become a book to be distributed to politicians, both here and at a European level, as well as amongst ordinary people, to let them know how we truly felt. I opened a Facebook group, and with the help of Véronique Martin, a French academic married to a Brit, as well as a brilliant team of moderators, the group grew very quickly and we collected the testimonies that people shared there. “In Limbo” gathers the stories of 144 EU citizens in the UK, with some Brits included. Thanks to a crowdfunding, thus far we have sent around 500 copies to several UK MPs, MEPs, EU ambassadors, heads of state, academics, journalists, and influencers.

What’s the most heart-breaking story you have heard from EU Citizens caught In Limbo?

There are many stories that I found heart-breaking. I think, for instance, of a young French mother of two who suffers from a serious chronic disease and who cannot afford to lose the French NHS she relies very much upon after Brexit. She therefore has made the decision to sell the house, bring the children to France and leave the husband here to work. I also think of stories of mothers of disabled children or widows who have really moved me to tears, but each story has touched me in a different way. What fate awaits the more vulnerable categories, it is still hard to know.

Watch this touching video.

What have you to say about the morals of holding people to ransom to our Prime Minister?

People are not commodities to be traded; they are not pawns to be used in order to get “a better deal” in a cynical and opportunistic political game. We are human beings whose lives have been turned upside down all of a sudden. Our rights should have been guaranteed from the start, but we were instead deemed “good bargaining capital”. We are now being presented with an offer that is neither serious nor fair because it strips us of various rights, such as that to vote, and it requires that we register whilst the rest of the population is not required to have an ID document.

How has life altered for you personally since June 24, 2016?

I have difficulty remembering how it was like before! I have become very active on Facebook, Twitter and social media in general not only because of this project, but because apathy is no longer an option. I cannot sit idly and wait for things to happen. I was not allowed to vote in this Referendum. Being active has allowed me to have a voice.

What are your hopes for the future of the UK?

I hope that the country rediscovers its tolerant and liberal values, the values that made it a truly great, multicultural and dynamic country, which is at high risk of losing everything for a parochial view of the world. The effects of such a vision could damage it irreparably. My hope is that through these very uncertain times the UK can reflect better on what it means to be part of the European family of nations. I hope it takes heed of what Winston Churchill said in a famous speech in Amsterdam on May 1948:

We hope to reach again a Europe united but purged of the slavery of ancient, classical times, a Europe in which men will be proud to say, “I am a European”. We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their native land, and that without losing any of their love and loyalty of their birthplace. We hope wherever they go in this wide domain, to which we set no limits in the European Continent, they will truly feel “Here I am at home. I am a citizen of this country too.

In Limbo – Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK is available on Amazon worldwide. For myself I continue the fight to restore some decent ethical standards to our country. In the words of Donald Tusk and John Lennon “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one …

Amazon excerpt of the book: “Imagine you left your native country because you wanted to explore your neighbouring world and embrace the European dream. Imagine you truly believed that the European Union was your home and that, as well as being a citizen of the country you were born in, you were also a citizen of Europe. Imagine you fell deeply in love with your new country. Imagine you built a life there, married, had children, a career, started a business… You felt happy and totally integrated. You were at home.

“Then one day, your new country decides to vote to leave the European Union, which means that all the rules you have built your life on are going to change. One morning, after years and even decades, you suddenly feel unwelcome, unwanted, betrayed. Your certainties, your life and your security are gone. Your sense of identity too. Through no fault of your own, you are stuck in a painful limbo. This is what has happened since the Brexit Referendum in June 2016 to EU citizens who made their life in the UK. These testimonies are their voices, their stories from Limbo, haunted by the poignant question: where is home?”

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SM’s Story Tue, 01 Aug 2017 09:15:24 +0000 I had loved Scotland since I was a teenager in the early 90’s – the landscape, history and music – so when the time came to go to university I decided to apply straight to a Scottish university and do my whole degree there. I packed all my belongings in my 1988 Fiat Panda and set off for Inverness to study at the newly established University of the Highlands & Islands and finished my degree at Napier in Edinburgh.

After graduating in 2003 I briefly thought about finding a job in Germany, but I just didn’t feel at home there anymore and stayed in Inverness where I rented my first flat and found a full time job in tourism. It was certainly not a case of moving to the UK “for a better life” – wages in tourim are poor and my first flat had no heating (yes, no heating in the north of Scotland!), but Inverness was my home now.

Then followed the usual milestones in most adults’ lives – getting promoted, getting your first mortgage and buying a flat with central heating, buying my first ever new car, meeting someone and getting married…plus all the other little things that make up your life and connect you to the place you call home.

Living in Scotland meant living in a bit of a bubble in the run up to the referendum. We didn’t even talk much about it at home or at work because Farage, Boris etc were just some English cranks that surely no-one would ever take seriously? Switching on the news on 24th June 2016 I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Sitting at work that day I felt sick and teary and although my colleagues were all shocked and angry it wasn’t the same for them – they were worried about their pension and investments and about prices going up while I was worried about being able to continue to live my normal life.

In a panic I applied for PR and eventually citizenship in a long and expensive process. At my citizenship ceremony I didn’t feel like celebrating – I felt like I had been bullied into it and been forced to buy my freedom. I will never feel British after all that has happened – I’m German and Scottish!

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Meike’s Story Wed, 05 Jul 2017 23:12:48 +0000  

I remember the day we first met. I arrived eight hours late for our date at Liverpool Street station. My ferry from Bremerhaven to Harwich had been delayed, bad weather dragging out a cold and sea-sickening passage. It was love at first sight when I finally got off the train and we took in the sights along the Thames, passing Tower Bridge and many others on our way to the other end of town.

You allowed me to be myself and made me feel welcome, valued and appreciated. I always envied your healthy dose of national pride and wondered what it might feel like to be British while I carried the unshakable burden of being born into cold-war Germany. The first years had their challenges, grandparents refused to talk to me and some pub visits were peppered with outright hostility. Even years later a friend’s dad would insist on watching war movies every time I came to visit. But you showed me that these were exceptions rather than the rule as you gladly received people from all backgrounds, nations and religions into your home, happily sampling their music, art and food.

My family tried to lure me back to Germany, but no amount of care packages could tempt me. Parcels still had to be declared at customs in those days and my grandmother cunningly marked her meaty gifts as books — she’d made it her mission to convert me back from England and from vegetarianism. I was very popular with your friends who fought over salamis and jars of liver sausage… I missed my healthy black bread and would fill my suitcase with food in either direction. It was exciting to introduce English delicacies to my German friends and in return stock up on everyday items I couldn’t find in your shops. My parents would load the boot of their car with cases of booze to prove that there’s more to German wine than Liebfraumilch. I made it my mission to try every single flavour of crisps and sample the many different types of cookies. I like the idea that there is only one factory in the world that makes Bourbon biscuits and rejoiced when this recently reopened after being closed by the floods last year. It is one of the few flavours left that you can only find in Britain while most supermarkets now stock the same brands and products wherever you are in the world.

I have never been homesick for Germany and instead find myself feeling nostalgic looking at old pictures of a London I never knew, wondering who lived in my flat before me, retracing the steps of the famous and the unknown up and down Portobello Road, marvelling at photos of Notting Dale before the Westway cut through it in the last wave of mass regeneration, and campaigning against the more extreme forms of social cleansing in the current.

Friends are surprised at how much I have become part of you and at my knowledge of tube maps and short cuts across town. Perhaps I should have become a cab driver. Instead, I worked my way through a succession of random jobs that barely paid the rent. I was glad to choose being hungry and happy and loved the freedom of choice, chances of a job on the strength of my abilities and personality without the need for certificates and diplomas. I felt liberated from the rules and regulations that seemed to dominate life in Germany — I was fined for cycling without lights on a pavement late at night on one of my early home visits, just weeks before being stopped by a London copper who was concerned for my wellbeing when he saw me wobbling back even later and under the obvious influence of something or other. No fine.

Eventually I found a proper job and our relationship became more solid. My life made sense, I worked for a German company and advised British clients on the best strategies for entering the German market. There was great reluctance as the EU expanded but soon you became the heart not just of European but of global trade, at least in the world of advertising. A lot of EU headquarters were set up in and around you and the budgets rocketed. Burberry and Barbour morphed from quaint British raincoat manufacturers into global lifestyle brands, Blackberry was first introduced by a small PR agency in Putney, and BBH sold Audi back to the Germans with “Vorsprung durch Technik”. While my cousin struggled to find employment in Barcelona — Spain had only recently joined the EU and would only employ foreign citizens if no Spaniard was able to do the job — entitlement to my particular job was only very occasionally challenged, usually over a pint.

For many years I tried to hide my accent as well as I could, no longer slipping up on that VW lisp and almost perfecting my TH, until I realised that it is part of who I am and people understand me perfectly well as it is — still love it when my accent is mistaken for Irish though, it’s the best compliment to be taken for a native speaker (even if it only ever happens inebriated in the back of a cab). Still, sometimes it would just be nice to have a conversation starting with a different question to “So, where are you from?” I am a master speller of names even more weird and wonderful than mine, having answered phones and handled guest lists for anyone from estate agents to underground bars.

I never wanted to get married as I hold the belief that relationships are stronger and more honest if they are based on positive choice rather than contracts. We did move in together though and I gave in to peer pressure to buy rather than rent, opted out of SERPS (State Earnings Related Pension Scheme) and was mis-sold an endowment policy like so many others. Not sure if my NI contributions would count for anything if you kicked me out now…

But that’s where we seem to be heading. As the effects of neo-liberalism and years of austerity became more extreme a sense of resentment crept into our relationship. Somewhere along the line you’ve stopped rebuking the racist, xenophobic and antisemitic comments and started following a modern-day pied piper, and overnight our previously diverse and multicultural home has been divided. We still live under one roof but I no longer feel I belong. Friends have tried to console me, not realising that their use of ‘we’ while addressing me in the second-person singular ‘you’ hurts in its sheer divisiveness. Overnight I have become one of the “… some of my best friends are European” and have become self-conscious about referring to myself as part of the ‘we’.

Yesterday I was shocked and tearful, today I woke up with that sense of sadness and anxiety which kept me awake most of last night. Everything around me looks the same, but nothing will ever be the same. After more than thirty happy years my heart is broken. Still, my love for you remains strong and our story continues…