Thursday, August 22, 2019

Watching the car crash

I'm not sure I can find the words to explain how I feel watching the UK at the moment, from the safety of my Danish Brexile... That, despite writing dictionaries for a living since the age of 23... not good.

I thought David Cameron was a reckless idiot, an impetuous, self-important man, who gambled with everyone's future unaware he could lose and then ran for cover when the shit hit the fan. Theresa was tortuous to watch. She juggled and can-kicked, agreed with everyone and no one in an attempt to tread water till the end of time, but my god the last few weeks are beyond belief. We truly had seen nothing yet. With the kids safely back at school and out of earshot, I now find it impossible not to curse and swear my way through the morning news, facebook and twitter. This morning was particularly beautiful so I sat at the outside table for my morning coffee. Birds tweeted, the leaves rustled in the sea breeze. Only the sound of a lone Scottish female shouting 'Just fuck off right now!' or occasionally 'Wanker!' disturbed the idyll.

The amount of grief, terror and devastation most of you who do not inhabit the 3 million facebook group have missed out on this week is indescribable. Monday I woke up to this many cries for help and real deep fear, but also some resignation and determined anger.

This mystical settled status that EU citizens are now required to have and that you originally needed to have by 2021, has been brought forward to eight weeks from now. Only 30% of EU citizens have managed to get it so far, many, especially older ones don't even know they become illegal aliens in their home of 50 plus years (overnight) without it. They haven't applied as they haven't even heard of it. Some can't apply - they stayed home to look after a disabled child, or they let their EU passport lapse as they are too old or frail to travel to their country of origin, they lived in old folks' homes and didn't intend to go anywhere. You can only apply with a valid biometric passport from your country of origin and if you are one of the weirdos who has chosen an Apple phone rather than an Android (don't suppose there are many of those😖), the app hasn't been made available yet so you need to travel in person to one of the physical places you can apply.

I went on the government page just now and put in the postcode KW14 7QU (Thurso), just for fun then asked where the nearest place I, as an 85 year old pensioner from, say France, would need to go for a physical appointment - the government page happily told me, without a hint of irony, that my nearest appointment available was at Edinburgh city chambers - that's five hours and thirty minutes drive away, if the traffic is light. Would you want this to be your granny?

People fear they won't be allowed to use the NHS, despite only working here and their taxes funding the NHS. They are scared if they take their child to casualty they won't be treated once they hear the parent's accent, despite the fact that their child was born in that hospital and has known no other.

People talk about feeling frightened if they speak too loudly in the street in case their accent makes them a target for verbal or even physical abuse. They now tell their kids not to speak their native language outside their homes. My kids are all bilingual and yet they came top in English too. Being able to speak a second language doesn't make you worse at your own, it actually helps.

Little things like being made to queue in a different passport queue from their partner or kids is hurting them deeply. It says they are no longer tolerated and the way they have lived their life till now is to be looked down upon, discouraged and terminated as a model, going forward.

Families are cancelling their Christmas trip home to visit loved ones because they are scared they might not be able to convince the border guards on the return trip that they are eligible to live in their own homes. I was fourteen years into a mortgage when I felt I needed to give up my home to be sure of my future. That was never something I thought I would have to do, simply because of my choice of legal immigrant.

And returning to this settled status... The government is not issuing those who have successfully jumped through their hoops with a form or a card or any other piece of paper. You get an email saying you have been granted settled status that explicitly says it isn't really proof that you have it and no further documents are issued. How insane is that? I was given a medical card as soon as I arrived here in Denmark and a certificate granting me permanent residence, that I can pull out as soon as I'm asked to prove I am eligible for a mortgage. So I can easily prove I am a legal alien, but the UK has introduced a compulsory status with no proof!

So, going forward, you go along to the bank because you want to renew your mortgage fixed rate, you go try to rent a flat, you go to a job interview, you ask for a GP appointment - these people have no guidelines other than to check you have settled status, but when you show them an email on your phone, and they ask for proof, all you can say is that is all you have. They, of course, then decide they are better erring on the side of caution - after all they can be prosecuted for employing, renting to etc an illegal alien. Suddenly the life you've always known, perhaps the only life you've had since you were born in the UK, is up in smoke. You can't 'go back to where you came from' because you've always been here, or it's been twenty years, your partner and kids can't speak the language, you own a house, a car and all the rest. All your friends and family are here not there. Nowhere is home suddenly.

And meanwhile the currency is plummeting so you can't go visit your elderly relatives, even if you are brave enough to attempt the border crossing, because renting a car at home is suddenly too dear, and buying food is too dear. You can't sell up and flee if you reach the end of your tether because every day you wait, the value of what you can escape with decreases. If you stay, you are accepting food and medicine rationing and a government that is anti-you and gives you no vote or say. Feeling forced out of your home was something, we in Europe, thought belonged to another era.

For three years these people, I know because I used to be one, have woken up with an iguana-sized lump in their dry throat, they've immediately reached for the phone to see whether today is going to be one of the days where they are a nobody, which is the better of the two options, or if today they are going to be used as a scapegoat, a punchbag and the object of the sick right wing's hatred. They live Brexit and breathe it every second of every day. It haunts their dreams and it's sitting beside them on the pillow when they waken up. They feel heavy, tied down, as if they have no control over what is happening to their life. And yet, the vast majority of people are completely oblivious to their plight. Even their closest friends, colleagues and workmates think they will probably be fine, after all it was only the foreigners they didn't know that the UK really wanted to throw out. They wonder how long it will be till they hear chants of send her back in the UK?

So Boris is touring Europe with his demands but no plans and is desperately pulling diplomats out of meetings as his only plan now seems to be that he needs to quickly cut as many ties as possible before he's ousted. The more he severs, the harder it is to reattach ourselves. He has no plan other than to wreck. It's like he wants to sell his house for wads of cash, his partner doesn't so he's set it on fire to keep her from staying, forgetting it might also affect the resale price somewhat.

It feels like we EU families are the Tories' play things - they pick us up and shake us every time they need a snappy headline, then drop us for months - we hear nothing and wait on tenterhooks till someone else pulls on our strings... until one day many of us break free of the strings. By their very nature, those EU nationals who are in the UK are there because they had the balls to try something new, to think outside the box, to pull up all their roots and start anew. By our nature, those of us who partner them also do not feel the need to conform. We are willing to split our lives between two places, two languages and two cultures. For the most part we are the resourceful ones who will, when push comes to shove, pick up our skirts, step over the mess and leave. What has already been lost will never be replaced, and we will continue to haemorrhage intelligent, resourceful people as long as they can find a way out.

As a Brit abroad, I feel embarrassed and humiliated by what is happening at home, as well as terrified for the futures of my family and friends. Will sense ever prevail or am I destined to spend my time from this autumn onwards making up food parcels?

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