So, it looks like Theresa May’s government is scraping the £65 registration fee for EU citizens who wish to remain in the UK after Brexit. The news came on Monday and caught me by surprise – the organisation the3million has done some amazing work in representing EU citizens’ rights during this whole Brexit mess, but the fact that they have been listened to, at least partially, was still unexpected.
It’s good news for people in my situation, although many have remarked that the concession just scratches the surface of what is obviously a much bigger issue. It could be maliciously said that it has done the job it was meant to – making us feeling a little bit more valued and confident without actually giving any ground. On the other hand, it bridges a financial gap many people may be facing, so let’s cheer for what we have got.
Such were my thoughts when I heard about it, and it got me thinking about all my contrasting feelings about the whole EU citizens’ rights issue.
Let’s start by saying that things are easier for me than for most Europeans in the UK. I only moved to London in September 2017, so I arrived as prepared as one can be for the uncertainty that was coming. Moreover, I’m young, I didn’t start a family here (does the dog count?) and I have a full-time job that gives me relative peace of mind.
Most of the time, I’m amazed by how this country has received me. I’ve had to work hard, but I also got great opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have had in Italy, where I come from. I miss home, but I also feel at home, which is both a weird and a sweet feeling only expats can fully understand.
And, since we’re talking about Italy, the blind and unbelievably narrow-minded attitude my own country is taking towards immigration makes me feel softer about Brexit. It means I know all too well how people can become unreasonable when they think their way of life is being threatened. It may not be right or wise, but it can be understandable.
Because of all this I have the advantage of being less upset and worried than other Europeans. But of course, it still unsettles me. It isn’t about the £65, it’s about the uncertainty. Will I be able to stay? Probably. Will the British economy stay healthy enough to still offer me a job and a good way of life? Hopefully. And will people who don’t deserve it be kicked back to their own country because they don’t meet some criteria or other? I hope not, but let’s face it, it isn’t unlikely.
However, I think I’m mostly a bit sad. I can’t help wondering, Britain, was all this really necessary? Did you really have to put yourself, and us, through all this? Wasn’t there a better way? The European Union is far from perfect and it surely requires change. But it’s also an idea – the idea of a bigger community to cling to – and Brexit deals a nasty blow to it.
I think many of we who have moved to this country will love it no matter what. And as I’m quite an optimist, I’m also confident that in the end things will be better than they look right now, and that in ten years most of this hassle will be half-forgotten. However, a hint of sadness will probably live on. We’re thinking it now and we’ll probably still be thinking it in 2029 – we really wished you guys had chosen to stay.
Valentina Cipriani is a “journalist, writer and overthinker”. Follow her on Twitter.