My FoM Love Story

Hi. I'm Tim from Kingston in South West London. If you spend time on Twitter and are interested in brexit, you probably see me popping up in your timeline every now and then as @MaldenSaboteur, an angry anti-brexit cat in a hat (she's actually called Cleo) and prolific retweeter of the pro-EU community.

I am international through and through. I was born in London and have been a UK citizen from birth. However, my family would not exist without immigration. My mother came to the UK in the 70's, I spent part of my childhood living in the far East and the EU and I have been very fortunate to have been able to travel widely both as an adult and as a child.

I am also British through and through. I love living in the UK and am proud of our society and way of life. There are very few places I'd rather live in than London. I love how we have welcomed people from across the world and how this has enriched all of us over the years and how, when you travel overseas, there are always British people living wherever you go, contributing to the community. At the London 2012 Olympics, I felt that we were at the centre of the world and deserved to be there.

As a Londoner, I can see how the EU and, in particular, Freedom of Movement benefit all of us everyday, but for me it's personal. Where immigration and travel gave me my existence and enriched my upbringing, freedom of movement made my adult life.

In 2004, I was living in Bristol, doing well in my first job but failing to find a girlfriend. My friends told me that they had found a nice Polish girl for me to meet, so I said OK. I eagerly waited until the day of the date, buying something new to wear for it but, when the day arrived, she was working. The next time, she'd gone back home at the last minute and the next she had taken up a shift to cover for a friend. By this time, I was acquiring quite a snappy wardrobe but beginning to doubt I'd ever meet this hard-working, hard to pin down girl.

When we finally met, the first few dates had their share of disaster and comedy but, after the initial hiccups, we hit it off quickly, decided within 6 weeks of meeting to move to London together and, within a few months of the move, were married. We've never looked back and have now been happily married for over 12 years.

It was lucky for me that we, the UK, let people from the 2004 accession states work in the UK immediately, otherwise I might have lost out on my wife, who chose to come here because the UK was offering the best welcome and opportunities. We have supported each other in building great careers ever since and she has now been a teacher in the UK for 13 years.

When my wife finally got her UK citizenship a couple of years ago, I was relieved given the upcoming referendum but also very proud and happy that my father, who had pushed us into applying for citizenship (and paid for it - Thanks, Dad) could be there to enjoy it with us. At the end of the ceremony, in which I really enjoyed watching almost 100 people from all over the world making their pledge or statement, I walked up to the front of the room with my wife, where the mayor, whose family must have originated in or near the Punjab, kindly welcomed me to the UK. Only in the UK, I thought and we all had a laugh.

Through my marriage, I have gained a second family. I was excited but nervous the first time I went to Poland. All I really knew about it then was from history, the often incredibly well qualified people I met working around the clock in the bars and restaurants of Bristol and the stories which my journalist godfather had told me of his time being spied on in the Bristol hotel in Warsaw during the days of the cold war.

I was welcomed immediately and over the years since, both of our extended families have travelled to meet each other many times. I was taken by how similar we all were despite being from quite different backgrounds and have always been impressed by how similar the Polish and British people are, in culture, values and humour.

It has been a great experience and one that I wish current and future generations can continue to be able to have. I worry that it will be difficult for the soon-to-be grand parents to visit when our first child, due to join us this summer, is born. I also worry that we may experience barriers if we have to look after my in laws at some point, which would mean them moving to London. We grew up and built our lives on the assumptions and givens of freedom of movement. It can't be progress for the next generation to have this taken away from them.

We were both lucky that my father pushed us into securing my wife's right to live in the UK. I'm also very lucky that we both work in fields that mean we shouldn't have trouble moving overseas if the worst comes to the worst. However, it breaks my heart that there are over 4.5 million people in the same situation as us, being rooted in the EU and the UK, many of whom don't have that certainty and face the possible loss of their freedom of movement.

The stress I see some of those 4.5 million people being subjected to is heart-breaking: People who built their lives across different countries for love, as well as careers and education, being forced to make a choice or not having any choices left. Loved ones potentially being split apart or subjected to changes that would make their current lives untenable. Parents having to choose if their children will be British or European.

But, just as heart-breaking for me, is the potential loss. How many people will not meet and fall in love? how many people won't be able to travel and work overseas when they're starting out or seeking change or times are hard at home? How many new families will never come to be?

Many of us have enjoyed the opportunities of freedom of movement. I thank the UK for giving me what I have. I thank the EU for the opportunities it's opened up for all. I thank Poland for giving me my wife and family and I thank FinalSayForAll and the pro-EU and #FBPE communities for fighting to make sure that future generations can look forward to the bright future which we all grew up taking for granted. Above all, as Valentines day approaches, I send all my love to and thanks to my wife for supporting me always and at this time.

Tim @MaldenSaboteur

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