The UK Still Matters To Us

I was born in Birmingham in 1979. My mother is German - she came to the UK in 1966 - and my father is English.

My family moved to Scotland in 1984. While at university I decided to go on the Erasmus exchange programme to Austria in 2000 to work on my German. After five weeks I met my future wife, an Austrian from Graz. We returned to the UK in 2002 for a year, so that she could also have the Erasmus experience. After that, we decided to settle in Austria and build our lives here.

I’ve been out of the UK for 17 years, apart from 2002, so I lost my UK vote in September. I feel betrayed by the Tories that they went back on their manifesto promise to get rid of this 15-years-abroad limit.

Many Brexiters tell me that I turned my back on the UK and voted with my feet. That’s not how I feel though. I still care deeply about the UK, I never planned to be away so long. Life happened to me. This idea that what happens in the UK doesn’t affect me anymore is particularly ridiculous, as Brexit shows.

Brexit affects me personally and directly in two ways:

My father passed away 10 years ago, but my mother still lives in Scotland. She just turned 80 a few weeks back. In 2012 she had a stroke that badly hurt her mobility and speech. She has dementia. My Mum is in a very scary place already. But Brexit might make this situation even harder - she’s still a German citizen, and despite having paid into the UK system since 1966, there’s talk of EU citizens who have settled in the UK facing significant bureaucratic hurdles regarding further residency. This uncertainty is about the last thing we need at the moment.

The second reason Brexit makes me despair is how it might affect my kids.

I arrived in Austria with few skills and was made to feel very welcome and given opportunities to make a life for myself. This was possible because of Freedom of Movement. Is it really progress if it’s harder for my kids to do this than it was for me?

My wife and I have three kids (13, 11 and 9) and they all have Austrian citizenship because Austria doesn’t offer dual-nationality.

Will my kids need a visa in the future to go to the UK to work or study? Would they need to give up their Austrian/EU citizenship? For that matter, if I’m forced to take Austrian citizenship, will I need a tourist visa to visit my Mum and sisters?

I want my kids to go to the UK, or at least have the option to, when they’re older. I’m not asking for any rights I don’t already have. I’m not asking for something unreasonable - I don’t expect special treatment. I just want to keep what I already have.

Henry Briscoe

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