European Union nationals living in the UK are still stuck in limboby Felipe Araujo / February 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
“For people like me who have been here for 18 years it is heartbreaking.” It is a warm, sunny Friday morning in west London, but a dark cloud hangs over Axel Antoni, a German retail consultant. A hard Brexit is looming and as Britain prepares to end a 40-year marriage to the continent, Europeans on this side of the channel worry.
Antoni is one of the thousands of migrants who on Monday 20th February missed on a day’s work to attend a mass lobby outside parliament. One of the goals was to put pressure on the government to guarantee the rights of the 2.9m European Union nationals living here. Antoni moved to London in 1997 and now has a British wife and two British-born children. And yet a scenario in which he is told to leave this country is not as implausible as it might sound.
So far nothing has changed. EU nationals like him have the right to live and work in Britain until it officially leaves the EU, which will not be for at least another two years. But what then? “It’s the not knowing,” Antoni tells me. “Having paid into the system, being fully integrated, doing voluntary work at a school, and now we are just being made into the bargaining chip. We are being used by the politicians at the moment.”
According to a report by the New Economics Foundation, the UK economy would lose £328m if all migrants stopped working for the day, the equivalent of 4 per cent of daily UK GDP. Migrant workers make up 10.9 per cent of the workforce, and in some sectors far more—26 per cent of health professionals, for instance.
Applications for permanent residency and British citizenship have dramatically increased in the last few months. From people who have been here for decades and have British children, to young professionals with thriving careers, all will have to go through a painstaking process. The application for permanent residency alone is 85 pages long. “I have a stack of papers and documents at home that weighs almost eight kilograms,” Antoni says.
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