Alexandrine Kántor on her journey through Brexit, on growing tired of the fearmongering, xenophobia and lies, becoming a Councillor, and choosing to fight for EU citizens’ rights because of the Home Office failures.
First published in September 2019.
My name is Alexandrine, and I am a European citizen. I am also a Councillor and a Liberal Democrats member.
Yes, I am the EU citizen you saw on TV who made “that” speech during the Stop Brexit motion at the Liberal Democrats Autumn conference 2019.
I begged the Conference to not put us (EU citizens) in this situation again, voiceless victims of a campaign that will be fuelled on xenophobia.
I was born in France, from a Hungarian/Romanian/French family and did an apprenticeship degree in Germany. The United Kingdom has now been my home for five years. I embraced every opportunity the EU had to offer and benefited largely from it, so I thought people in Britain would want to keep that because everyone had those same opportunities. But I was wrong.
On 23 June 2016, something broke down. I was sad. My home did not feel very welcoming anymore. ‘Friends’ and strangers started to ask me, “Are you going to go back home?”, “Will you throw a leaving party?”, “How long will you stay here?” or “Where do you come from?”.
I joined the Liberal Democrats the week after the EU referendum. I wanted to do something. I was done being a silent observer and a victim without a voice.
My status as a EU citizen living in the UK was and still is uncertain. Since August 2016, I never stopped campaigning for the rights of the 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK, with a particular attention to the Brits living in Europe who are in the same boat, and are always forgotten by their own government.
Councillor and EU Citizens’ Rights
In May 2019, I was elected as a South Oxfordshire District Councillor for the Wheatley ward.
I pledged to be the voice of the many EU citizens living in the district that feel unrepresented, as well as being the Councillor for everyone else. People often forget that EU citizens are their friends and families too. Therefore, threatening their future will also damage the “local” population.
I started to talk about the Settled Status issue with the local media to raise awareness. I submitted a motion to the Council (to be voted on 10 October) to help local EU citizens with the Settlement Scheme and inform local businesses too since the Home Office is failing everyone.
The media attention went wild when my colleague Councillor Maggie Filipova-Rivers, who is seconding my motion, was not automatically granted Settled Status despite having lived in the UK for 19 years. We decided to go public about this story because, as of today, 11% of EU citizens who apply to the EU Settlement Scheme are given the wrong status, despite everything the Home Office is saying.
Talking about the Home Office, they worked very hard to go after the media reporting the EU citizens’ nightmare stories about their applications to tell them to shut it down aggressively – spreading personal information about an individual and a live case to third parties without consent. We are in a country where Press Freedom and GDPR matter. We did not give up reporting because the EU Settlement Scheme is not working.
The Settled Status needs to be a registration scheme with physical proof of immigration status and enshrined in law via primary legislation to prevent another Windrush generation with the 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK.
Another key element which is still missing is our voting rights. Have you heard about “no taxation without representation”? Will I even be able to be a Councillor again?
The Lib Dems Conference
That is why, when I saw the opportunity to spread my message at the F17: Stop Brexit motion at the Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference 2019, I took a stand.
I met Jo Swinson, the Lib Dems Leader, the following day after someone told me she wanted to know more about my story.
It went beyond what I hoped for because, during the intro for her Q&A, she talked about what EU citizens are going through and mentioned my speech.
Later, I voted in favour of the party policy to Revoke Article 50 if we win the General Election because, as a EU citizen, I do not want to be at the center of a debate that will be focused on immigration. It will be toxic, divisive, we will read and hear lies. Plus, we will have no say as we are not allowed to vote.
We will lower our voices in public in fear to receive racist comments, we will be abused or even attacked in the streets as hate-crime against EU citizens has risen since June 2016 and will continue to do so if another referendum takes place.
Lib Dems and Revoke
The Lib Dems will, of course, support a People’s Vote if they cannot form a majority government, but I urge you to stop this abuse from happening again. We are your friends and families. We will be hurt, emotionally and/or physically.
If you want Brexit, you have the Conservatives, Brexit Party, UKIP and ultimately Labour.
If you want a People’s Vote you have Labour, but it will lead towards another version of Brexit. But a new referendum (where electoral laws will be broken again) will unleash another level of xenophobia within the government, online and in the newspapers that we won’t be able to overturn. That will set higher the bar for the new normal level of xenophobia. And as far as I can see from the People’s Vote campaign, even the Remain side is ready to lower the supporting message towards us to attract soft Leavers. Haven’t you already heard that “within the EU we can control immigration and our borders”, which – despite being factually correct – still implies that immigration needs to be controlled, therefore it is negative.
However, Remain voters need a home. The Liberal Democrats are offering just that, the 48%, the 5 million EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU, and the 6+ million signatures of the Revoke Article 50 petition have been ignored so far.
Well, no more.🔷
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