*This post was written by a contributor.
My favourite barista is from Spain.
My hairdresser is from the Czech Republic.
My fitness coach was born in Poland.
The list goes on. We all know someone who was born in the EU and has chosen to move to the UK. Perhaps it’s a friend, a neighbour, or even a colleague. Our EU friends are still here. While we may be dreaming of buying a house abroad in a beautiful setting, they have made the UK their home away from home. The Covid-19 pandemic has momentarily taken our minds off Brexit, but it’s been a source of stress and worry for EU citizens.
There’s more paperwork now. Moving to the UK was pretty easy for EU citizens before Brexit. They could move and work freely in the UK. Many of our EU friends have unfortunately missed the deadline to apply for the EU settlement scheme. The pandemic and lockdown stress have contributed to slowing down the preparation process. As a result, some have not been able to apply on time. The government has stated that there will be extensions for the application if people had reasonable grounds for not applying before 30 June 2021… but there is no telling whether belated applications will be accepted. However, EU citizens who have lived in the UK long enough can apply for UK ILR, as the indefinite leave to remain is one of the last steps before applying for dual citizenship.
Some have already left. With the pandemic, it’s been tough to keep in touch with everyone. So you might have been surprised to discover after “Freedom day” that some of your EU friends have long left the country. Indeed, a lot of EU citizens complained about thehostile environment created by Brexit. Many worried that after working and living in the UK for years, they were still not treated as equal citizens after the Brexit referendum. Since the referendum, the UK has recorded an EU exodus. But the EU settlement scheme deadline has contributed to losing more EU citizens, who have chosen to leave after June 2021.
Many already have dual citizenship. It might come as a surprise, but a lot of EU citizens who have chosen to stay in the UK after Brexit have applied for dual citizenship. Many started the procedure as soon as the Brexit referendum results were published. As a result, they are not worried about travelling back to the EU with their native passport or working in the UK with their new British passport. It’s worth having a chat with them to ask whether they feel like British or EU citizens. Most will tell you they belong to both cultures.
Faced with the Brexit ultimatum, EU citizens have had to make a choice before 30 June 2021: whether to stay or to leave. Some left, naming fears for their future in the UK as a reason. But many have a home, friends, and a family in the UK. They have chosen to stay in the UK. For them, the UK is not a foreign country anymore. It is a place they call home. In their hearts, they are just as British and integrated into everyday life as anyone else here.
My favourite barista is a citizen of the world, who once lived in Spain. Now, they live next door to me, and I am so happy they’re there.