Unsettling

I am upset – concerned, worried – about something.

It’s Brexit.

Brexit has made the UK quite unlivable for international professionals, hasn’t it? And it wasn’t that fantastic to start with. By that I mean that the UK was already pretty isolated relative to places like The Hague or Amsterdam. Brexit has aggravated this big time.

It makes me feel trapped, or, limited, rather. Constrained. And I don’t like that, this idea of suddenly having markedly fewer options.

We EU citizens in the UK find ourselves in the bizarre situation that friends and family can no longer visit the way in which this still was possible before Brexit. Now, they’d likely be placed in a migration detention centre upon arrival and deported from the UK. There is a heck of a lot of that happening.

For similar reasons, I can no longer do things like fly to Amsterdam or Brussels or Paris and back, can I? Even if it’s to visit and work with clients and colleagues.

Because there is no guarantee that I would be let back into the country. I cannot prove that I was residing here legally. We, EU citizens in the UK, have no tangible evidence of that.

This is an utterly ridiculous situation.

Did you know that I can’t even send gifts to people in the Netherlands without them having to pay for receiving those gifts? I’d pay VAT here and then they would have to pay VAT – BTW – and/or import tax over it. But I can freely send gifts to the States or to Canada. OK, that’s the EU’s doing, granted.

When you read stories like a Danish pastry chef being forced to return to Denmark because she is not allowed to visit her boyfriend here for 3 weeks and Italians being thrown in detention, their luggage taken away and even denied access to any meds that they had in their luggage, you become really concerned about what this country is turning into.

In spite of Covid, the numbers of EU tourists being thrown in detention and/or expelled upon arrival have skyrocketed. There already was the problem of foreign academics often being unable to attend conferences – keynote speakers or not – and workshops because of the same colonialism and paranoia, even before Brexit.

This really bothers me. This idea that you’re in a kind of China or Hong Kong now, or Myanmar. Or Belarus. That is what Britain feels like now.

When I grew up, long before Schengen, we – my parents and my siblings – crossed two international borders all the time. One of my uncles lived across the border, near Eupen. That’s in Belgium. They speak German there. He had horses and also lots of cattle. We had cousins who lived in France visit us. They spoke French. (Only French, yes.)

We used to go to the Sunday flea market in Liège. That is in Belgium. They speak French there. We also visited the caves of Han, in the Belgian Ardennes, doing touristy stuff. We would sometimes drive into Germany, go for a walk in a forest and then have a picnic.

This photo in the article below, it is of a Bach performance that I took part in, in the Neues Kurhaus in Aachen. That is in Germany. They speak German there as well as a local dialect.

That sort of thing would not have been possible at all if I had grown up in the kind of setting that Britain now has created for itself.

(This is all apart from Covid, clearly.)

The idea of not being able to travel to other countries is so alien to me that I find it really upsetting. Why can’t I travel? Like I already mentioned, that is cecause I have no guarantee that I would be allowed back into the UK. I have no proof of my legal status. None of us EU citizens who live in the UK do.

From Amsterdam, I’ve hopped onto trains to go to Brussels and Paris and Perpignan, as well as Oxford, and then on to Plymouth. I’ve hopped into a car to drive through Germany and Denmark to Sweden. I’ve cycled to Germany, too. Twice, I’ve hopped onto a bus to go to Alicante. I’ve hopped onto a flight for a day trip to Málaga, in Spain. I’ve flown to Athens in Greece and to Frankfurt in Germany.

Freely.

From the UK, I have flown to Amsterdam a few times. Day trips. I have also gone for longer as well as by bus a few times.

The idea of no longer being able to do this sort of thing is unsettling to me. It makes me feel even more trapped and isolated in the UK than was already the case.

Hmm.

It will be interesting to see how this is going to work out post-Covid.