Ed’s story

Now Brexit is starting to look inevitable, I feel frustrated that so little thought is given to people in families with dual nationalities. Now, before you go any further, I’m fully aware that this is pretty low level stuff compared to a lot of other people. But this has made us feel sad these last 3 years none the less.

First a bit of scene setting. I’m 100% British, and was terrible at French at school. But if you’d asked me, I guess I liked the idea of the EU, grew up thinking it was our future, had some nice holidays in Spain and France when I was a kid… When I left school I thought “Ha ha! Now I’ll NEVER have to speak French again!” Fast forward 10 years – I meet the love of my life, both drunk in a bowling alley. She’s French. Well played The Universe, well played.

She came to study in the UK on the EU funded Erasmus scheme, so the EU is the reason we met. Thanks EU! She liked the UK and decided to stay. She’s worked here continuously since 2003 and is super well educated and qualified in a specialist field.

(Diversion – This is a win/win for the UK. They didn’t fund her education etc, but collect taxes from her now as an adult. That’s why governments know that immigration makes economic sense, in case you didn’t.) Anyway…

Up till 2016 our different backgrounds didn’t seem an issue. Her family are from northern France, so visiting on the Eurostar felt no different to catching a train to Sheffield. Her sister (cancer specialist) and brother (maths teacher) moved here too, so that was nice.

We had 2 kids. I’m a bit of a fusspot and made sure they got dual nationality straight away. My wife thought I was being a bit over dramatic as we were all EU citizens, so had the same rights wherever we chose to live in the EU. Then the referendum happened…

My wife didn’t stop crying for 2 days. She loved our tolerant country and felt that over half the population now wanted her gone. Came as a big shock to her. After a few months citizens’ rights didn’t seem to be getting resolved so we started to worry (at the time of writing the UK government still won’t enshrine them in law). What if she was denied her pension she’d been paying towards since 2003? What if she was denied healthcare? What if some crazy government got in and put up barriers to stop her working like they do with asylum seekers? So we looked into citizenship…

Bloody hell it’s expensive. So many people have said to me “But you’re married. You’re okay.” Nope. There’s a process that takes months and months. First you have to apply for residency, then citizenship. There’s nearly 200 pages of forms to fill in, a citizenship test AND a frustrating level of information required (every visit in and out the UK for the last 5 years, years of bank statements, all your P60s, years of proofs of address, on and on it goes). By the end of it we reckon we’d spent around £1,700 at least. Had to take a day off work to go to the patronising ceremony too.

(Anecdote – when my wife passed her citizenship test there was a woman crying in the test centre. She thought she was upset. Actually she was happy, she’d passed on the 5th attempt. Costs £50 a pop. £250 just to learn the year Alfred Hitchcock died and other pointless stuff)

Now I’m the only one in our family without 2 passports, so I feel like a lemon. I also want to keep my EU citizenship, which I’ve had most of my life. French citizenship for me? Only £50! Hurrah! Oh… I have to speak fluent French. Hundreds of pounds on French lessons later and I’m still rubbish. Not sure when I’ll ever find time outside of work to properly nail it, which is unnerving because if my kids move to France one day and something happened to my wife I probably won’t be able to live there with them.

Also (whisper this) learning French feels like a waste of my time. I worked in Europe for 2 years and got by fine speaking English, gesturing and smiling. I have other things to be doing that could earn me, not cost me, money. I know, I’M A BAD PERSON. Meanwhile, French bankers are pulling their kids out of my brother-in-law’s French school in London. Brexit means a third of banks in the UK are relocating staff abroad (at least 7,000 jobs moving, with £1 trillion in assets already moved out of the UK too). So my brother-in-law might have to go back to France. That’s sad.

Unlikely that when all this is over my French in-laws will be able to live with us in their old age either. That’s sad. And the Pound isn’t doing great, so when we go to France, everything is now London prices or more. That’s… annoying. Waiting time at the border is likely to go up too. That’s REALLY annoying when you have to sit in a car with 2 small kids. And people who wanted to leave the EU used to grumble about bureaucracy & red tape. Hahahahahahahaha!

Oh yeah, and every now and then I remember the little things, like having to give up my EU health card, or pay stupid money to use my iPhone again every time I visit the family in France. That’s a kick in the derrière

(Sidetrack – just before Brexit another dual nationality couple we knew moved to London. He’s English, had a sizeable inheritance and was looking to start up a brewery. Brexit happens. Him and his wife think “no thanks” and move back to France. So the UK missed out there.) 

Anyway, back to ME. 3 years later my family is at least £2,000 down, face an uncertain future if we want to live in France and are being forced apart from our extended family, all thanks to Brexit. And there are hundreds of thousands of stories like ours, most of them worse. We’re the lucky ones.

So if you don’t support Brexit, please speak up for dual nationality families like mine. And if you do support Brexit, how would you feel if I’d come along, cost you two grand, wasted LOTS of YOUR time and upset the lives of your family for 3 years? I think you’d be… annoyed.

Also, how confident are you that you (or your child) might not fall in love with someone from abroad one day? I never thought I would. But if you do, you’ll have to be dealing with all this, and quite possibly more. Consider it a reasonable use of your time, energy and money?

Ed Petrie
Originally posted on Twitter on 14 August 2019
Reproduced here with permission

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