So the UK has finally left the European Union; Brexit day has come and gone and as my sister whatsapped me the other day: ‘The world has not come to an end, has it?’. Easy for her to say, though! She has not spent the last 28 years of her life giving her all to a country that’s not hers, a people with whom she does not share a culture, a history, a ‘DNA’. I am that person who has given the second half of her life to another nation. I don’t do things in halves, so when I say ‘given’ I mean that. I came over to the UK from Spain in the early 90s as an Erasmus student, married a Brit, had two children who now have double nationality; I have studied, served in the community, worked and paid taxes, and continue to do so after almost 30 years. Many don’t seem to get the outrage of so many Europeans like myself who have lived in the UK for more than half a life, and have suddenly become the family member who has overstayed their welcome at the party or rather, discovered they were never considered part of the family in the first place and must now be granted permission for such privilege.
So for those who still don’t get our shock and outrage, let me make it a bit more relatable for you. Just imagine being in a romantic relationship to which you have committed fully and sacrificed everything for, and after 30 years, finding out that in order to be allowed to remain in that relationship, you need to be granted a permit or else you are out, just like that! It is not what you have done. It is not the punishment to a crime you have committed or your partner seeking justice for an offence you’ve caused him/her. It is not because of what you have done, but rather because of who you are. A bit like someone saying to you after 30 years: ‘Thank you for all the years and everything you have given me, but I no longer love or want you, so if you want to remain in our relationship you need to beg me to let you stay. If you do, you can stay but only if you continue providing for me, sacrificing for me and always understanding that our relationship was never based on mutual love and appreciation, but self-gain on my part. It was your foolish mistake to believe otherwise!’.
All that love, all that sacrifice, the commitment, the loyalty, the investment, the faith, all thrown back at you as meaningless, worthless, non-existent. If you have ever been at the receiving end of betrayal or unfaithfulness, you will know the pain, gut-wrenching agony, anxiety and damage that being treated like that causes. It is a wound that never heals. Life as you have always known it, robbed from right under your feet. Your only mistake: to have put your unconditional love and trust, your whole being into a person/country that did not deserve it in the first place.
Let me tell you. I fully respect the reasons behind the majority of people who voted for Brexit. I truly do. I get it. What I don’t get is why all Europeans who have been living and working here for so many years have not been automatically granted settled status without having to go through the undignified process of being treated like an ‘alien’, a persona non grata, a leech; in essence, overnight we have been turned into targets of hate and abuse. Yes, Brexit day has come and gone, but the effects of what this process has done and will do to individuals like myself is only just beginning.
I am worried for the UK. I truly am! When I first came to this country, it was love at first sight. The openness, the cosmopolitan feel of the place, the tolerance, the freedom, the eagerness to learn and benefit from other cultures, the contagious positive forward-looking energy, the hunger for equality, progress, unity amongst akin nations to collaborate and face global problems as a unit rather than alone. In my eyes and in my heart, there was no other country on earth as beautiful inside and out and well put together as the UK. Despite the heartache of leaving all my family behind, my homeland, my culture, everything I knew to that point, I could fathom no other place I would rather live in than the UK.
That has all changed now! If you are a Brit and you are sitting there in judgement of my attitude, please put yourself in my shoes and imagine being at the receiving end of such betrayal. My love has turned sour. Unrequited love has never been an attractive prospect for anyone. I can understand that not everyone you love can or has to love you back, but what I will not put up with is the ‘we will love you and look after you so long as you continue to put money in the pot, to be profitable for us’. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to ‘love’ relationships, I like the ‘not having to pay for it’ kind of love. In essence, for me, being allowed to stay in the UK should have flown naturally and seamlessly after Brexit, after half a life of sacrifice and devotion. When mutual love has a price, it ceases to be love and becomes a business transaction. Thanks but no thanks!