The impact of Brexit is not just about UK students and retirees’ future lost opportunities in Europe, but about hard-working Brits living in the EU worried about keeping their right to return to the UK one day with their families, keeping their homes and their livelihoods.

First published in November 2020.

I need to get this off my chest.

Just once when I tweet about the impact of Brexit on Brits living in the European Union losing existing rights, on which they have built their lives, I wish no one would equate that to Brits living in Britain no longer having the possibility to retire to an EU member state.

There is an enormous difference between losing a right that you might perhaps use in the future and one you already rely on.

I am not dismissing the loss of opportunity, but the effect of that reaction is to make Brits living in the EU feel ignored and unimportant again.

Many of us, Brits in the EU, had no vote in the referendum or the subsequent elections. So we had no say over what would happen. I cannot speak for others, but at times I have felt depressed, anxious and frightened. I have also felt a sense of not belonging anywhere.

So when there is an article like the one in the Guardian on Brits living in the EU, please try to empathise with the people in the article.

Try to imagine being in their situation. Believe me, we imagine how it must feel to be in your situation.

‘It’s impossible’: how Brexit has left British families unable to return to the UK
Up to 40% of Britons in dual-national relationships fear they do not fulfil the income requirement to return

This is the best I can come up with as an analogy:

  • Losing a right that you might possibly exercise one day is like seeing a house you always liked with a sold sign.
  • Losing a right you have built your life on is like going out to the shop and getting back to find the locks changed and someone else living in your house. That’s it, life as you knew it is over.

We seldom get mentioned when Brexit is discussed by the mainstream media. So please, don’t drown out our already rarely heard voices by making it about something else.🔷

Nicola James, Chairman of the Final Say For All Foundation (FSFA).

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 30 November 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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