This emotional letter from our committee member Patricia Clough to Theresa May has now reached over 20,000 people online. Our hope is that it reaches Theresa May!
‘Dear Mrs May
It is time you told us. Do you really intend some 1.2 million of your fellow countrymen and women to be stripped of the right to work, the right to live where they have chosen, the right to have their families with them, the right to health care? Do you really want thousands of old people to be reduced to destitution as you use them as pawns in your political game?
That is what we Britons living in EU countries, and our three million European friends living in the UK, can only deduce from reports that you want Brexit to reduce us all to the status of “third country” nationals. Which means taking away the rights and freedoms of EU citizens which we legitimately acquired when we crossed the Channel to live, work, start businesses, found families and retire – never imagining that our own country might one day want to take these rights away from us.
Yes, these reports were “leaks”. But two weeks have passed since they were first published and you have still not denied them. You have only said that your policies were “misrepresented”, but not which ones and in which way. Meanwhile you are keeping millions of human beings in often desperate uncertainty, fearing that their lives would be upended, even destroyed. Many are suffering ill-health, depression and acute anxiety as a result.
You have said – before the “leaks” – that you want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as soon as possible. And now this.
The EU leaders have listened to us, fully understood our problems, stated their policy clearly and even invited us to comment. Their Guidelines for the negotiations declare: “Agreeing reciprocal guarantees to safeguard the status and rights … of EU and UK citizens, and their families… will be the first priority for the negotiations. Such guarantees must be effective, enforceable, non-discriminatory and comprehensive, including the right to acquire permanent residence after a continuous period of five years of legal residence. Citizens should be able to exercise their rights through smooth and simple administrative procedures.” The chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier has said he will refuse to discuss the EU’s future relationship with the UK “until the 27 member states are reassured that all citizens will be treated properly and humanely”.
Your government has, to be fair, at last started consultations but they have left us no wiser as to your intentions. The EU position is totally transparent. We are kept totally in the dark.
In the warped thinking of many politicians and a sizeable part of the media in Britain the issue at stake seems to be the EU citizens there who pay taxes, keep whole sections of the country’s life running and are nevertheless unwanted. We, their counterparts on the Continent, are out of sight and out of mind. If we have one, our image seems to be of bankrupt builders, swilling g and t’s by their swimming pools on the Costa Blanca. Not real people, working in European firms, banks or institutions, running their own businesses, teaching, trading, practising law or medicine. Not real people who for countless reasons have made their homes here, have married and are raising children whose future is now uncertain.
And, most agonising of all, not real people who have sold their homes in Britain to retire to southern Europe where life is cheaper, who are now old and often sick, and who risk losing their healthcare and seeing their British pensions frozen so they no longer keep up with inflation. Who, even in the unlikely event they could sell their homes in their recession-hit countries, could not possibly afford to resettle in the UK. Has anyone thought of them?
And to crown it all, those of us who have lived more than 15 years outside the UK are not allowed to vote. We were not allowed to vote in last June’s referendum which was to affect us more than anyone else in the nation and we cannot vote in coming elections either. Your party’s 2015 manifesto promised to give us back our vote for life. While our future is being decided for us, we are still waiting.
Have you thought, Mrs May, of the possibility of thousands of unemployed, homeless, old and sick Britons returning to the UK and throwing themselves on the mercy – if that is the word – of the Welfare State? And regaining their vote…?
Your mind is no doubt on the election campaign. But you also have a responsibility towards your 1.2 million fellow-countrymen and women whose futures are at stake, and the three million EU citizens living in Britain. Do you want to protect our rights or not? We need to know.’