The UK is an exciting place to live these days, especially if you like elections. If you think Brexit is a good thing, and if you have an anarchic fondness for political uncertainty, then no doubt it is thrilling. However, as British politicians gear up for the snap UK general election on 8th June, the uncertainty of Brexit is meanwhile continuing to make life miserable for millions of EU citizens in the UK.
According to a report for the Dutch government (in Dutch) written in March 2017, there are thought to be about 73,000 Dutch nationals living in the UK. How many of them will be allowed to stay is dependent on the upcoming Brexit negotiations. While previously it was Dutch citizen Monique Hawkins who made the headlines after the British Home Office told her to “make preparations to leave” the UK, most recently it is 75-year-old Dutch pensioner Elly Wright who has hit the news in the endless cycle of Brexit misery.
“It’s a horrible situation”
Mrs Wright came to the UK in 1967 after marrying a British military intelligence officer, with whom she has a son. When they divorced, a British court ruled that she had to remain in the UK as part of the divorce settlement. She met her second husband, also a UK citizen, in 1981. After working in the National Health Service and public housing for several decades, she retired to Surrey in 1993. Now, following the Brexit referendum of 23rd June 2016, she may no longer be welcome to stay in the country where she has spent most of her adult life.
Due to the exhilarating uncertainty of Brexit, many of the 3 million non-British EU citizens in the UK have applied for permanent residency. This is a gruelling procedure that requires a lot of paperwork, and applicants must supply historical bank statements and pay slips. Having retired 24 years ago, and never dreaming that 17 million Brits would recklessly vote to “take back control”, Mrs Wright did not keep these documents.
Red, white and blue Brexit – but no Orange?
Mrs Wright is unable to retrieve old bank statements from the period of her employment, because her bank will not provide documents from that far back. She is thus unable to apply for permanent residency in the UK. As her British husband is no longer alive, applying for UK citizenship now would mean relinquishing her Dutch passport. And until the Conservative government stops using people like her as “bargaining chips” in Brexit negotiations, her ability to stay in the UK will remain deeply uncertain.
So, will Mrs Wright be deported? Will she be granted permanent residency? Will she be allowed to travel to EU countries once Brexit negotiations are over? The answer, as to so many questions about Brexit, is: who knows! Thrilling, isn’t it.