I have been living in the UK for almost four years now, yet I do not feel like England is my second home anymore. In fact, if Brexit seems like a “regaining” of sovereignty and nationalism for some “leavers”, it simply means for us Europeans, we are not welcome in this country anymore or at least we are, but only under certain conditions. These conditions include whether we can afford to pay for the “settled status” that the Tory government has been promising us. That is, if we can make it through the application process, which is not guaranteed in itself.
Before the 2016 referendum, I was lucky enough not to have ever experienced xenophobia or even hatred in this country. So you can trust me that after the first time I got called a “frog” or mocked for my (thin) but quite obvious French accent, as well as being told to “go home”, I started to feel slightly out of place in a country that I used to call my “adoptive home.” This is the place where I have grown up, studied, worked, and made a life. For the first time in years, I started to question the reason that pushed me to leave my family and friends in France in order to start a brand new life in the country I always dreamed of coming to.
I hate to admit it, but the Brexiteers won and in doing so finally got what they always wanted. They have succeeded in making me feel like a stranger in a country that I always thought of as being open and without judgment of any kind.
Nonetheless, I have tried really hard to remain positive and to give some of my rare free time to the SODEM campaign, protesting against Brexit on College Green. But again, I came face-to-face with an unfair and quite radical wave of hatred, a kind which pushes people to look on you as worthless simply because you are wearing an EU flag and carrying a “my future my choice” DIY cardboard placard.
Luckily, in London, people tend to remain quite open and nice with “foreigners” as the city is highly cosmopolitan and multicultural. Actually, quite a few times as I was wearing my EU flag as a “cape”, I also got some cheering smiles and thumbs ups, which is obviously really nice. Nonetheless, If Brexit has not changed my plans of becoming a lawyer in the UK, it has definitely hastened them, as I had to skip my post-graduation gap year in France in order to start and finish my Master of Laws (LLM) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) before Brexit actually occurs. This is also partly because I found out that as I have completed all my studies in the UK, my “internationally recognised” Bachelor of Laws was, in fact, worth nothing in France.
So it is quite fair to say that living in a country that does not want me anymore is more upsetting than I thought. And I am not the only one to have started to suffer from post-referendum anxiety and stress. In fact, in a recent survey carried out in March 2019, more than 64% of people declared that they were feeling anxiety relating to Brexit. In this 64%, more women (70%) than men (58%) are concerned about the effect of Brexit on their mental health, an assertion that has been confirmed by Doctor Louise Theodosiou from the Royal College of Psychiatrists. She concluded that the constant overflow of Brexit information can be emotionally challenging for some people.
If I am honest, the uncertainty of Brexit and its consequences is like a shadow hanging over every single one of the three million European citizens in the UK. Every day that passes in this country is a reminder that Brexit is fast approaching and that we Europeans will soon have to pay the price of the UK’s biggest mistake of the century - an unfair decision that we were not even allowed to help make. We will soon be forced to throw ourselves into a ridiculous and endless loop of administration in order to be given the right to remain in the country we have been calling home for years. What, exactly, is fair about that?