Five EU citizens talk about life in Britain six months since Brexit vote

Five EU citizens talk about life in Britain six months since Brexit vote
By Chris Harris
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Six months on from the Brexit vote, Euronews caught up with five EU nationals based in Britain to find out how they have been coping since the referendum.


Six months on from the Brexit vote, Euronews caught up with five EU nationals based in Britain to find out how they have been coping since the referendum.

Anabel: ‘Devastated by Brexit’

Anabel de la Serna

Anabel, who was born in Spain and came to England as a five-year-old girl, says she was left devastated by the Brexit vote.

The London-based midwife has lived most of her life in England but never thought it would be necessary to get a British passport.

“I was genuinely devastated [by Brexit],” Anabel told Euronews. “I was on a night shift and went on my break at 4.30am and saw the news and burst out crying. I’d been anxious about it for weeks before because I thought it would turn out the way it did, but hoped it wouldn’t. I still believe it was a vote about xenophobia, racism and intolerance.”

Anabel, 28, says England feels like home but if the country “doesn’t want me” she’s reluctant to pay more than £1,200 for a British nationality.

“I have never felt my mixed race immigrant status as I do now, Brexit has opened my eyes to how people feel and it’s alarming.

“What has been interesting is how people have said to me: ‘But we don’t mean your kind of immigrant’. What the hell does that mean?

“I now feel fear and uncertainty and me not being white puts a bigger bullseye than before for xenophobic and racist remarks.

“I’m devastated and feel very uncertain about the future mainly because the people who created this mess have no clue what to do.

“Leaders should lead and right now, they’re not doing that.”

Elena: Thinking about quitting the UK after Brexit.

Elena Georgieva

Elena, a freelance journalist from Bulgaria, says the atmosphere in Britain has changed both since Brexit and her arrival in the country eight years ago.

She says the decision to leave the EU has seen right-wing sentiment become more prevalent and people more empowered to speak against immigrants.

“Brexit makes me feel really sad actually,” said the 35-year-old. “I can only speak from my personal experience but I know I’ve contributed to society, I don’t break the law, I pay my taxes, I work very hard and to be made to feel in this way is just not very nice.

“As a human being it makes me feel very very sad. I’m very lucky that my British friends have been amazing. There was never any separation that I wasn’t British and they are. But the general feeling is that foreigners are more unwelcome.

“[Back in 2008] as long as you were a good citizen and you contributed and worked hard, then you were more than welcome to do your own thing. But now we’re blamed – especially by politicians – for anything and everything.”

She says Brexit is part of the reason she is thinking about moving to Scotland, which voted in favour of remaining in the EU, or continental Europe.


If she does decide to stay she faces paying £1,200 to apply for British citizenship, with no guarantee of success, she says.

She added: “From the government point of view we have absolutely no clarity as to what is going to happen to the European people living in the UK and to me they seem to be just fighting among themselves.

“Another uncertainty, even if we are allowed to stay, is if what they are predicting comes true – that the economy will suffer post-Brexit – what will that mean? That jobs will be cut? Will people from the EU be the first to go?”

Sara: worried about the economic impact of the Brexit vote.

Sara Tomaszewska

Birmingham-based Sara registered her new company just a week before Brexit and says the vote is holding her venture back.


She is the founder and CEO of Little Media Bureau, a social media agency that helps businesses boost their online presence.

The 26-year-old from Kraków, Poland – who arrived in the UK in July 2009 – says she is worried about the economic impact of Brexit.

“I think what people don’t talk about so much is the impact of losing the EU nationals already in the UK who have started businesses,” Poland-born Sara told Euronews.

“It’s also the uncertainty – I registered my company a week before Brexit happened and I want to find clients elsewhere in the EU in the future but if I don’t know what Britain’s position in the bloc will be, it makes it very difficult.”

Sara says the outcome of the referendum really surprised her, because everyone she knew in Birmingham said they were going to vote to stay in the EU.


“After the vote I was very scared about the media reports – there were stories about racist attacks against Polish people elsewhere and I was fearful when I was on the bus for example.

“I had been shouted at by a man on the bus for being Polish in 2015 but I haven’t experienced any racist attacks since the Brexit vote.”

Alexis: optimistic for the future

Alexis Gauthier

French chef Alexis Gauthier, owner of two London restaurants and a wine shop, says he was left disappointed and scared by Brexit.

The 43-year-old, originally from Avignon, France, feared the knock-on effects of an economic downturn on his businesses, but now, six months on, he is more optimistic.


“There was a psychological impact,” said Gauthier. “Before and after the vote I was really scared because I thought things were really going to go pear-shaped.

“But just like after 9/11 and the financial crisis in 2008, people keep spending, because it’s London.

“It’s quite surprising how people are not affected. They still come out and they still spend, almost as much. The good thing about the British is they are very resilient, there’s always a way out and they’ll make the most out of something.

“We have to make the best of it, we have no choice anyway. It’s not like I can pack up, fire my employees and go and open another restaurant in France. There is a common denominator now – we made a massive mistake, Brexit, and now we have to live with it and we have to make the best of it.”

Gauthier, who came to the UK in 1995, applied and secured British citizenship in the months after former prime minister David Cameron announced the referendum. Yet despite this added security, he still felt down after the vote.


“It’s disappointing, but you live and learn,” he said. “It’s not a good thing for people and it’s a bad thing for my two children, in terms of their chances. The British people because they did not realise what the protection they were getting from Europe and they didn’t understand the European project was the people’s project, not an economic project.

“I think it [immigration] played a major part [in the referendum result], it’s very easy to blame immigration for everything that goes wrong in your life. It was an easy tool for politicians who were pro-Brexit to use, it’s something that has been done for ever.

“Obviously in London it’s slightly different, I don’t feel ostracised [as an immigrant post-Brexit] and I don’t feel any different, maybe that’s because the people around me are quite cosmopolitan but if I was living in a small village in north-east England maybe it’d be completely different.”

Nina: married to a Briton but ineligible for a residency card

Nina Hofmann

Mother-of-two Nina, who is married to a British man, says she could have to move back to Germany because of a ‘little publicised rule’ has ruined her chances of getting a residency card, a key step on the road to full citizenship.


The freelance language teacher, based in Huddersfield, took time out of work to bring up her children, now aged eight and six.

During this period she did not take out private healthcare insurance, a key requirement of getting a residency card.

She says the rule was not publicised and she now fears she would not be eligible for a residency card until after Brexit goes through.

Nina, 36, told Euronews: “I’m now in a situation where I have a British husband, dual-national children and obviously everyone is saying common sense will prevail but I do know the immigration laws when it comes to families. I’m not holding much hope.

“The worst case scenario is that I’ll be denied residency and have to leave the country that is my home.


“I’m preparing myself for it and we would be able to make a home in Germany in the end but I moved here because I spoke the language and I found it easier to find a job here and my husband already had a house and job and he doesn’t speak in German.

“We could make a home elsewhere, but despite everything that’s happened, I still like the UK, it would be a blow. I find it very upsetting. When I go home and look at my house and I think ‘Is this really my home?‘”

Your view: How have you been affected by the Brexit vote? Let me know:

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