Last week a small parcel arrived addressed to the husband. It sat by the door forlornly, Husband assuming it was a birthday present which he shouldn’t open. After a few days, when we couldn’t work out which relative it could be from, he opened it to discover his EU/EEA residency card.
This is the first stage of Husband becoming a UK citizen, not that he wants to, but because we fear for our family life. Despite 20 years living in Glasgow, married to a UK citizen and with two Scottish children, Brexit throws our never-questioned security into uncertainty.
My anxiety over our family’s security in this country started, not with the turn in the polls towards Brexit in mi-June, but three years before when Switzerland voted in a referendum to come out of the Schengen agreement.
No free movement of EU citizens into Switzerland would mean no free movement of Swiss into the UK and I became worried. Husband started inching his way towards complying with the bewildering and, as time passed, more and more complex, requirements to apply for citizenship. He took the “Life in the UK test” or as we like to call it, “The date of the Battle of Bosworth Field test”.
Playing mock tests in the evenings he always triumphed, while I would sometimes scrape through. When he took the test he was done and out before they had finished registering the other participants.
Then came the English test, the equivalent of the oral part of a GCSE English exam. For someone who teaches niversity courses in English, edits English language scientific journals and whose main language in the house he has shared with his family for 18 years is English, this is obviously ludicrous.
Next was the application form, a challenge even to our combined form-filling expertise. It was immense and needed spurious information like every single time he’d been out of the country since he moved here.
It was a long time coming and so we were overjoyed, and very relieved, when we opened the parcel, “Well it did turn out to be a birthday present” we joked “victory at last”.
But what a Phyrric victory it is: we have won Husband the right to stay in a country in which he has had the right to live for many years, and we are celebrating the security of knowing that he can live in his home, with his wife and children.
All over the UK 3.5 million EU/EEA citizens will be experiencing the same worries and insecurities as us, many will be jumping through the ludicrous hoops, deliberately put in place to make becoming resident in Britain as difficult, stressful and hard to achieve as possible, and many will be leaving, not seeing a future in Britain.
This is all a completely unnecessary tragedy as EU citizens become pawns for brokering favourable terms for Brexit.
Beloved partners, irreplaceable parents, treasured friends, esteemed colleagues: these are the collateral damage.
Kat Jones is passionate about Scotland’s wild-places and wildlife, she works for an environmental NGO and lives in Glasgow.