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Brexit: For EU citizens in Britain, fear and uncertainty remain

© Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP | A pro-EU, anti-Brexit demonstrator wears a mask featuring the EU flag outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on December 18.

Text by Catherine NORRIS-TRENT

Latest update : 2017-12-25

Ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union, the lives of EU citizens living in Britain have been thrown into chaos. FRANCE 24 spoke to some of them to find out what the "Brexit effect" has meant for them.

Claudine has been living in the UK for 22 years, virtually all of her adult life. The Brexit referendum result felt like a personal insult. “The day I have to physically apply for a visa, that’s the day I’m going to take the decision to actually leave,” she explains.

It’s a sentiment we hear repeatedly on our reporting trip to the UK. We’re meeting EU citizens to hear how Brexit has affected their lives. Most express the same feelings of hurt and shock at the UK’s decision. And none of our interviewees seem reassured by the "phase one" Brexit deal struck between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and head of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on December 8.

Claudine is worried: “We’re asking ourselves, really, where we’re going in terms of long-term rights for Europeans,” she says, concerned that the status of EU nationals like herself won’t be protected once the European Court of Justice no longer has any influence over British courts eight years after Brexit, as stipulated in the phase one deal.

Other EU citizens in the UK have different preoccupations. Laure Ollivier-Minns, a French sculptor living in Norwich, England, doesn’t know if she fills the criteria to be able to stay in the UK at all. Laure is married to a British man and has lived in England for more than 30 years, but without regular, full-time paid employment.

When she started the application to apply for a Permanent Residency (or PR) permit, she was advised by official checkers in a UK post office to give up, she tells me.

“The system’s not made for people like me,” she says. “I don’t know what will happen to me when I have to apply to settled status.”

The Brexit effect: French entrepreneurs brace for brexit

Europeans who have managed to obtain permanent residency should see their applications for “settled status” pass through smoothly, the UK government has assured. But others, such as stay-at-home parents, carers or disabled people still face uncertainty over whether they’ll have the right to remain.

Axel Antoni of the EU citizens’ lobby group The Three Million says: “There’s been some progress but there are still big holes. We’re not 100 percent satisfied. People will fall through the gaps.”

The Brexit effect: Pro-EU activists won't back down

Antoni adds that discrimination against EU citizens has already been on the rise.

Until the Brexit cut-off date in March 2019 all EU citizens have the right to work and live in the UK – in theory, at least. The Three Million has amassed evidence that this is already being undermined: job adverts specifying “UK citizens only”, landlords who only wish to rent to British tenants for fear of falling foul of immigration laws and banks who won’t let EU nationals take out loans or even open accounts.

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“Brexit in the mind has already started,” says Antoni.

The cases of discrimination his organisation has seen have been referred to the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission and the government has promised to investigate. But despite British Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge to safeguard the rights of EU citizens in Britain, many feel far from reassured.

The Brexit effect: Britain's health service faces 'Brexodus'

Date created : 2017-12-24

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