Saturday, June 18, 2016

BREXIT: I'm an immigrant

I'm an immigrant.

There, I said it.

Since I moved here in 2004 I have never been made to feel unwelcome in the UK simply based on the fact that I was born and grew up in a different country. Never, until about six months ago.

Six months ago we drove from Nottingham to see my parents in Sweden. As the UK is not part of the Schengen agreement, our passports were checked as we were leaving and re-entering the UK (our borders to the EU aren't as open as ‪#‎Brexit‬ propaganda would lead you to believe). Coming back, my husband's passport was pretty much given a casual glance and handed back. Mine was scrutinised and they asked me what my reason for entering the UK was. My response was that I live here, to which they asked "how long?" Seriously?

Since then the tone and the feel of the country has really changed. People on Facebook (some of whom are family) are sharing propaganda and outright lies left, right and centre about the EU and the UK's place within it. They vilify immigrants, and as an immigrant myself (which people tend to forget, because Scandinavians are generally seen as "good immigrants", whatever that's supposed to mean) ... err, thanks?

Like many other EU immigrants I've not claimed benefits (unless you count about three months in 2010 when the Jobcentre paid my NI contributions because I registered as a jobseeker under the misguided notion that they'd help me actually find a job, and failing that, perhaps offer a course or something to improve my job prospects - umm, nope), I rarely go to the doctors, I pay taxes both as an individual and as two separate (if small) companies.

What will happen to me if the UK leaves the EU? Am I "safe" because I've lived here for over ten years? Am I "safe" because I'm married to a British citizen? Or will the government, at any point, decide to move the goal posts and kick me out, despite being a taxpayer/spouse/long-term resident?

What will happen to our new business if the UK leaves the EU? We're trading with another EU country, which means no customs charges (have you ever ordered something from the USA for about £20 and been charged £13 customs and VAT by Royal Mail? Yeah, imagine that but ordering stuff for about £2k) and you only pay VAT to the country in which your company is registered. We've only just started out, and having to pay astronomical import fees is going to make the import side of our business go down the drain.

So yeah.

I'm an immigrant, and I'm truly scared about how easily misled and wilfully ignorant the British public is. Tabloids (owned by people living in tax havens, which is why the EU wants to go after them for tax evasion ... guess why said tabloids are pro-Brexit?) say "jump!" and the British public say "how high?" It's sad. What makes me even more sad is that when I came to this country for the very first time, as a tourist in July 2000, I felt like I had come home. It's an odd feeling when you're in a place you've never been before. In 2003 I guided some classmates around London as if I knew it a lot better than I actually did. In 2004 when I first visited Nottingham - and the man who was to become my husband - and he drove me down to Stansted, I cried. I cried because it felt so utterly wrong to part with him and I didn't want to go back without him. That's the reason why I'm here. That's the reason why I've stayed for all these years.

The UK is a great place to be, and I would probably feel like a foreigner if I moved back to Sweden, and sure, the UK is far from perfect - but that can be said for any country, most definitely including Sweden. The UK is my home. It's where I live, it's where I work, it's where my life is. My beloved husband is here, and I'm afraid that a Brexit could force me away from him (and our beloved furbabies) - even if that's highly unlikely. There are no guarantees. The UK is my home, so why do I no longer feel welcome here?

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