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How The Tory General Election Win Affects EU Nationals Like Me

How The Tory General Election Win Affects EU Nationals Like Me main image

When Johnson announced a new general election this past October, me and other EU nationals living in the UK breathed a sigh of relief. Following an arguably unexpected 2016 Brexit referendum result for many, going to the polls again felt like a second chance, a silver lining in the midst of uncertainty.

But with the Conservatives winning what was described as a “landslide victory” in the general election, this doesn’t feel like the case.

Just a few days ago, Boris Johnson declared that we, as EU nationals, had been treating Britain as our own “for too long.”.

He said: “Over the last couple of decades or more…we’ve seen quite a large numbers of people coming in from the whole of the EU […] able to treat the UK basically as though it’s part of their own country and the problem with that is that there’s basically been no control at all and I don’t think that is democratically accountable.”

These claims followed a proposal for a post-Brexit immigration reform with points-based visas to help separate skilled workers from “unskilled workers who have no job to come to.”

This might come as a surprise for British citizens – after all, many have probably studied or worked with some of the 3.6 million EU nationals living in the UK – but not for us. It is estimated that more than 22,000 EU migrants working for the NHS have left the UK since the Brexit referendum despite fitting into the category of “skilled” workers.

Another 2017 survey found that in just over three months in the year following the election result, over 122,000 Europeans had left the UK.

Hostile environment

This might be due to an increasingly hostile socio-political environment, but also as there is strict criteria EU citizens have to meet in order to be granted settlement status (which are likely to become even harsher as Brexit negotiations continue under Tory rule).

Hundreds of people eligible for the status responded to an online survey saying they are finding the process difficult, from technical issues to being unable to prove their identity. Some respondents also claimed it has caused them to develop anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Maike Bohn, co-founder of the EU citizens’ rights organization the3million, recently said in a letter published on The Guardian: “EU immigrants are the latest scapegoats in an election that demonises others to gloss over the Tory party’s own failure to create a prosperous and more equal society.”

And yet, many still want to stay: as of September 2019, more than 1.8 million of us had applied to remain in the country after Brexit.

Wishful thinking

It’s easy to understand why this election was so important for EU nationals. After all, we did treat the UK as our own country, and we did so by studying, working, paying taxes and forming bonds with British citizens and communities. We had in fact built our lives in the UK, making it our home.

However, despite our appreciation for and contribution to Britain, the House of Commons decided on October 29 2019 not to grant us the right to vote. And it felt that we were going backwards once again, just like in June 2016.

We can’t underestimate the implications surrounding this decision. While the Conservative Party won with what some described as an “overwhelming” majority, the result doesn’t represent the will of the entirety of the UK population. 3.6 million people and their voices have been left out.

I – and I’m sure many other EU nationals would agree – consider access to voting intrinsic to any democratic system. If we can contribute to this country financially, why shouldn’t we be able to have a say in our future politically? After all, politics affects everyone – perhaps in different ways, but nonetheless significantly.

It’s difficult to say whether we would have woken up with a different government today had we been allowed to go to the polls, but I can’t not think about what could have been. The possibility of our rights being valued and protected feels very far away now, and the thought of having to endure more corrosive Brexit uncertainty is almost too much to bear. As EU leaders in Brussels prepare to negotiate a deal with Johnson in the next few days, the only thing we can do is wait. If only we could have more answers. If only.

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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