πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ The Brexit Conundrum — Bee’s View

I was thrilled with the guest posts on Brexit from Roger, Colette, Frank and Gary, and thought that project had likely run its course for the moment, when my friend Bee asked if she could contribute a post.Β  I immediately jumped on that opportunity, for Bee’s perspective will, no doubt, be significantly different than the previous four.Β  You see, Bee is a German national who has been living in the UK for quite some time … not sure how long … and she fears being forced to leave and return to Germany when Brexit, deal or no-deal, is complete.Β  Bee’s post is heartfelt, and I think presents a side we haven’t seen before, so please take a few minutes to read her tale.Β  Thank you so much, dear Bee!

GoodreadsBeeYesterday, I read the views on Brexit from several of my fellow bloggers here on Jill’s blog. Thanks very much, Jill, for giving us the platform to express our experiences and views. All of their posts and many of the comments taught me a lot. But it felt that the view from an EU immigrant to the UK on Brexit was missing. So, I decided to give my pound’s worth of opinion too.

I am sorry, but this will be a bit messy because my mind is a jungle, and Brexit is very personal for me. For me, Brexit is not a theoretical mind game that might or might not bring me advantages of any sort. Brexit means in a worst-case scenario, the existence I have built here is going to be destroyed.

The worst-case scenario would be, I apply for “Settled Status” which allows EU citizens to stay in the UK with mostly the same rights as before, but were rejected. Currently, that means I would have to leave the UK within four weeks. We have a house with a mortgage and jobs here. How do you create a new life within four weeks?

Let’s assume we would go to my home country, Germany. Many think that because I am German I would get help from there but nope: for the last 12 years I have paid my taxes and social contributions here in Britain, so why should they give me anything? I am not sure if we could get any help from the UK, but chances are we would not.

Germany is, like the UK, interested in “useful” immigrants who can work, pay taxes and bring in skills that are needed. My husband has a back problem and at nearly 60 wants to settle down and not to start all over again. It is unlikely he would easily find a job in Germany or elsewhere. We also do not have a big bank account to cushion any decision we would have to make. He would go with me despite all, but he would leave his children and all security behind but what for? Because some people don’t believe the EU gives Britain any benefits?Β  So please bear with me if I am sarcastic, angry and very scared.

I read in some of the previous posts about Brexit that immigration isn’t the main reason for voting to leave. However, to me, this looks differently maybe because of where we live. Our home is Norfolk which is a rather rural county in the East of England. Most jobs are in agriculture and tourism unless you are in Norwich, the only city in Norfolk. Norwich has a university, a thriving tech industry and it probably doesn’t surprise you that Norwich mainly voted to remain while the rest of Norfolk mainly voted to leave.

Both tourism and agriculture are heavily dependent on seasonal EU workers. To those Norfolk residents, who do not have a job, it appears that EU workers “steal” the jobs they feel are theirs. Since the referendum, the influx of seasonal EU workers seems to have decreased though. But it doesn’t look like the vacancies are taken by jobless leave voters. They are simply not filled while farmers and restaurant owners say that they just can’t find staff that is qualified enough and/or is willing to work the necessary hours. The same goes for care staff, nurses and doctors by the way.

Leave voters I know, do say that immigration was a huge reason why they voted to leave. They mention how EU immigrants come with filled-in forms to get benefits while British people can’t get any. I have not researched how much any of this is true. However, I have tried to get benefits this August after nearly 1 1/2 years without a job. Imagine my surprise when I was told that I only qualified for 6 months of job seekers allowance. To get this my husband had to sign up as well even though he had a job. The British benefits system is complicated and has changed a lot in recent years that’s why it would go too far to explain that as well.

On top, I had to prove that I had the right to get any benefit in the UK. This entailed an interview with someone from the jobcentre where I had to bring all the proof I had that I didn’t spend all my time in Germany or elsewhere. I also needed to prove that I work and live here. I was told, I would need to tell them every time I moved within the UK, how often and when exactly I left to go on holiday and whatever else that person felt they needed to know to grant me the benefit. At that point, I gave up because I can hardly remember what I did last week, let alone remember when I went on holiday ten years ago. Also, my husband would not have to prove all this. Both of us were rather appalled that I would need to be investigated like this, especially as they have my social security number. They know what I earned and where I worked.

20190218_120157I also think they probably know better than I when I was abroad: There are only three ways to come and go from the UK: you fly, you use a ferry, or you use the channel train. In all occasions, you have to show your passport because Britain did not sign the Schengen agreement. You can travel without your passport being checked in European countries that have signed the Schengen agreement. Even when we went to Switzerland which isn’t in the European Union but has an agreement on travel and trade with the EU, we didn’t show our passports once at the Swiss border. However, we had to show them when we left and came back to Britain. So surely they know how often I left the UK?

What surprises me about the Brexit debate, in general, is the view most people seem to have about the EU. For most people, not only in the UK but also all over Europe, membership in the EU mainly seems to be a question of business and economy. However, one of the main reasons why the EU was founded after the second world war was Peace. Europe had seen wars between its countries for centuries, and it culminated in WWII. The founding fathers and mothers of the European Union had experienced the destruction and human cost this war had brought, so their aim was firstly peace, and secondly a thriving economy for all of us. In all this struggle of a changing world, we do forget how important peace is for our countries wellbeing.

Peace is what the European Union mainly symbolises for me. To me, it is the guarantee that Europeans work together for peaceful and prosperous countries.Β  Yes, this Union of now 27 countries is far from perfect. But maybe it would be a good idea for European voters not to practice protest votes which result in getting people into the European parliament who are against everything EU? Surely if you vote for someone like Nigel Farage (who, by the way, had a German wife, and now has a French girl-friend, but campaigned against the EU for ages) to be your Member of European Parliament (MEP) you can’t be surprised that there are bad decisions made for your country on EU level?

Many European voters use the EU elections to vent frustration about many topics. But the EU-critical MEP’s they vote in, of course, do not do a fully constructive job. Most won’t make anything done in the EU look positive. So much of the anti-EU sentiment in any European country today might be non-existent if we only had MEP’s who are devoted European Unionists.Β  This is not a particularly British problem either. All European countries face anti-European tendencies, and I often said after the referendum: “If Germany had this referendum it would have gone the same way. German politicians are just not so stupid to do such a referendum.”

The EU certainly needs improvement, and most EU politicians are fully aware of it. However, they can’t get on with that job because the whole union is currently occupied with getting Brexit done. And the stakes are high on both sides. I recently read that Germany would lose about 100,000 jobs if the EU and Britain would not be able to strike a deal. That is a lot of jobs and can get any politician in trouble. But as far as I can see, most Germans think: “No matter the cost and no matter how flawed, the European Union is worth it!” And that seems to be the opinion of most Europeans outside of the UK.

I am fully aware that my points are just a tiny little part of the whole complex problem of Brexit and not very well researched or explained. To me, it is not only disenfranchised jobless voters who want to get rid of any immigrant, or lazy politicians who follow their agenda and not the good for the people who voted for them. Brexit is the expression of humans who feel that their life and their society does not offer them the possibility to live the best possible life. The reasons for this are many, and no one quite understands them, so many look for easy answers. In this case: “If only we could leave the EU all will be well”.

Unfortunately, easy answers never solve complex problems, and it hurts me to see the country I chose as my home and which I love, in this unholy mess, that might never be solved. It hurts me to see families, friends and communities so divided, so angry and so lost. But maybe this pain and division are necessary for us to become open for previously unthought solutions that let us live our best possible lives. I so very much hope for this!

*** Note to Readers:Β  Bee asked me to add the following information to her post:

I have lived in the UK since 2007 and have worked at the same company from the beginning until March 2018 when my mental health took a turn to the worst partly because of the insecurity of Brexit. Since September I am working in a new job.

22 thoughts on “πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ The Brexit Conundrum — Bee’s View

  1. Pingback: Bee’s Poem of the Day: Tackling Brexit – The Bee Writes…

  2. Thanks, Bee, for sharing your experience with Brexit with us today. You got your point across well because I felt your anxiety and sadness as I read your post. As a Canadian, I know little about the EU and Brexit, but I’ve always thought that the EU was a positive force in a world so fragmented by rabid nationalists. There is absolutely nothing good in sentiments like “America First” or the like. I fear for the UK and for Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I know exactly what both of you mean. It looks rather dark around us when it comes to tolerance and sharing. My gut tells me though its the beginning of something new thats good and my gut never lies. We might not see it in our life time though… πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈπŸ

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Bee for bringing this back to our attention. The personal aspect, the individual.
    I do hope this will be brought to a satisfactory and permanent conclusion for you.
    Us in the Remain camp may loose this battle of whether ‘we’ stay in the EU or not. WE shall then have to take up the challenge of making sure the dignity and the rights of those who are not (sarcastic snort) ‘British’ (Who is, actually? Celts, Saxons, Normans, Norse….all invaders,).
    Throw out our football yobs, EDL supporters etc, and leave us those who contribute to this nation.
    Best wishes to you Bee.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for the very personal perspective Bee. As here in the United States, elections have consequences. We see so many people vote for politicians who are antithetical to their own self-interests. They vote for these people and wonder why their lot in life never improves. So much of it is based on an overall lack of intellectual curiosity, and allegiances to news sites and media that paint people, especially immigrants, with a broad brush. It sounds like your take on the EU situation is eerily similar. Good luck to you and your family. I sure hope the politicians find a way to make this happen in an equitable manner. I’m thinking you may not be hopeful. We know what it’s like over here when it comes to politicians doing only what serves THEIR self-interests, and the hell with everyone else.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, it seems to me like politicians and democratic institutions make themselves obsolete because they don’t do their jobs for us anymore. Sooner or later even the least educated person will understand that and then something new will have to be created. As for me being hopeful or not: it comes and goes in waves. Noone knows what this experiment called Brexit will bring but I just hope it fulfills the expectations of those who voted for it. And yes I wanted to bring in a personal touch because it affects peoples lives. No matter on which side of the divide you stand. πŸ˜ŠπŸ™‹β€β™€οΈπŸ

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have seen a lot about the difficulty of obtaining “settled status” in a Facebook Group for EU citizens in UK and UK citizens in EU. The way that EU citizens with a long record of living and working in the UK, whose children were born in the UK, are being treated by the UK government is a source of shame to me and I am sure that it would be so for most UK citizens if only our anti-EU media would expose it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Frank, that is where my anxiety comes from. But I have to admit that I do not understand why EU citizens who came before free movement was brought in have to apply for it. They already went through all immigration paperwork so why having to do it again? But thats a different story, I guess πŸ˜ŠπŸ™‹β€β™€οΈπŸ

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Bee, I actually thought that our Government had guaranteed the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, the right to stay, but your post has me a little worried. I would certainly fight for the rights of anyone already living and working in the UK.

    As for the UK benefits system… That has morphed considerably over the last two or three years. I am not familiar with it on a personal level, but I do know that it is more restricted and onerous for applicants now. Child benefit has been cut and job seekers allowance curtailed extensively.

    Unfortunately, you are in a part of the UK that did see a backlash against immigration. The agriculture section has been squeezed by price competition from Europe. It is no wonder that Europeans (mainly Polish and East European) were hired as seasonal workers for harvesting work. Brits (no matter how impoverished) won’t work for those low wages when they can draw on benefits that give them an adequate standard of living for nothing.

    I do hope and will sign any petition for people such as yourself, to be given automatic status in Britain with, or without a deal (if we crash out). To uproot people’s lives and send them to places where they have no means of support, is an unconscionable act. We have many examples where this has already failed spectacularly.

    Boris Johnson has promised to bring in a proper minimum ‘living wage,’ and while I don’t trust him that much, I think that this is more than overdue. Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, has only promised to cut the hours that people have to work. I think the latter is problematic, especially for small businesses. And people should have the freedom to work as much as they want, but for a fair wage that offers a decent life.

    Bee, I do hope that this all works out for you. My gut feeling says that it will. Boris will face a lot of opposition if he tries to chuck our EU friends out, both from leavers, and remainers. I believe in peace and I would never want to see that unravel any further than it has. Trump has just learned what happens to peace when making stupid decisions. Hopefully Boris will take note, and not do anything that Brits will be ashamed of, as we negotiate a ‘deal’ to stay as trading partners with the EU. Life must not become more difficult and tenuous.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Collette, lovely to read your thoughts. In theory I should be able to stay as I am long enough in the country. However, the settled status system is flawed and some have not been granted settled status because of technical problems. According to the Home Office about 64% are granted settled status and 38% pre-settled status in July (you can see the numbers here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/eu-settlement-scheme-statistics-july-2019) . Some newspapers give different numbers though. The Guardian wrote it was down to 41% in August. The truth is probably somewhere inbetween. I do not want to apply until Brexit is really done just in case but that insecurity and remembering the Windrush scandal does not make trust this system anymore.

      Ah, good old Boris 😁. No, I dont think either he would go down that way especially as he didn’t believe in Brexit in the first place. However, I have the feeling is played a lot by Mr Cummings and that man is a different kettle of fish.
      Thanks so much for your mind words and offer of support in my worst-case scenario. I appreciate this a lot. I hope you have a lovely day πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈπŸ

      Liked by 2 people

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