Are we entitled to freedom ? 

French do not have Common Law, Royalty nor the word ‘entitlement’.
Does this mean Brits feel more entitled to freedom than the rest of us ?

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23 may 2018.
1,500 words
5 mins read

It’s a weird word ’entitlement’ because it no longer exists in French. (*) It translates as ‘having a right to something’. Which got me wondering whether British people feel more entitled to freedom than others.

Predictably British law is different to French law, is it logical then that we should feel differently about entitlement when it is a right protected by law ? In British Common Law “everything is permitted that is not expressly prohibited by law” whereas in Civil Law (or as I’d call it, Code Napoléon) “only what is expressly stipulated is allowed”. 

Oh the subtle differences that keep us apart under the same sky when our minds look at things from different angles. 

Common Law has effectively more freedoms until something goes too far and gets prohibited, multinational companies prefer Common Law, and EU law is too Civil for many Brits. Les Anglais are entitled to believe that their judicial system is the best in the world, as is their empire (or was), as is their Royalty. 

Does it mean les Anglais feel entitled to believe they are superior to the rest of us ? 

Je ne sais pas. What I do know is that, all over the world millions watched British royalty having no choice but to move on with the times. Entitled as the Royals could be to feel superior to their subjects, what their royalists citizens may have taken for granted about British royalty, namely that princesses must be a certain type of princess, was, in fact, not set in Portland stone. 

When young ones decide to push the boundaries of acceptable within the pomp of old, they can succeed to move the world forward. When some people still bellow “Black people are monkeys”, and feel free to say so in a little English shop in the week of such a grand wedding, others rejoiced to hear a Black foreign man say Love, Love, Love, Love in the most formal of British settings. Times. They are always a’changin even if a British Royal wedding has been a worldwide event for centuries and horse drawn carriages still carry the bride and groom for grateful onlookers. Fear of change makes us cling on to what we take for granted, what we know is our right, what we think or feel we are entitled to but evolution is inevitable. The shop keeper thinks he is entitled to say monkey when describing a black person, but I will never set foot in his shop, neither will my young British friend who told me about him, who wrote a review on Google and who will tell all his friends. 

My equal freedom of choice and my equal freedom of expression means that the shopkeeper and I are equal in British society as far as these freedoms are concerned, we can both bear the consequences of our actions. The one good thing that has come out of June 2016 is that racist loud mouth bullies have come out of the closet, they now need to understand the full meaning of freedom. 

Changes in law will bring consequences to us all, freedom is not a one way street.

Do racist people now take it for granted that they can attack others who are not British ? Well, in March 2018 French kids on the bus home from the London Lycée got told to go home, back to frog country where they belong, because they spoke French, and one kid got kicked in the stomach. Could have been my child. His mother could be a top neuroscientist we desperately need, or his father a nurse. I feel sick in my French stomach.

What the hell has happened to you, my United Kingdom ? 

I took it for granted that I would always be entitled to stay in the UK. Aged 20 I never questioned that the very law that entitled me to move to London just as easily as if I had moved to Paris could one day change. 

30 years later, under British law, as a foreigner the burden of proof is on me to prove I am lawful. I am therefore guilty until I prove I am innocent. The Common Law now expressly prohibits me to stay, unless I prove I am lawful because my Freedom of Movement has become a British freedom too far.
The Data Protection Bill proposes to exclude immigrants if the information held about the person risks hindering effective application of immigration law, so an immigrant may not be entitled to know what information the Home Office holds about them if they are refused to stay (1). (Updated 25 May, this is now law. (3)).
Employers, landlords (2) and worst of all health professionals must apply, today, a British law that requires them to snitch on immigrants  who must show a Right to Stay ID proving they are lawful, whilst ID’s is not something British people want for themselves. 

French brains struggle to understand British logic at times.

British brains will think I am fussing over nothing because of course I shall be able to stay. How many times have I been told why even bother to worry about it all when it won’t affect me. This is missing my continental point. The potential negative consequences of treating foreigners differently to British people in so many divisive ways will likely outweigh the positives for British society in the long run. When migrants keep being painted as potential cockroaches, potential criminals that must be kicked out, there are consequences. The UK is my home, therefore it is my problem. It’s not a French perspective. Many liberals (in its true meaning) agree as can be expected. Even Conservative MP Mr Letwin described a law that treats citizens as guilty until they can prove they are innocent as problematic. Whether Windrush or EU citizens, there are, and will be, consequences of dividing residents of the UK in categories whereby British citizens (with ID’s) are effectively above others. History has quite a few lessons to teach us on countries that divided the people living together on their land, so does the present, if we care to look around.

Do you support a hostile environment from Home Office ? 

71% of British people do (YouGov, April 2018). Well thanks UK, here is a proper majority if ever I saw one. “Oh calm down dear, it’s not about you, you’re alright”. Well so the French kid on the bus thought, until he got kicked in the gut. So the Spanish mother on the tube talking to her toddler in a pushchair, Polish people, brown skin people, other religions. However few the stories are, if perception all the way from government is that foreigners are a problem to solve, how confident are we that such stories will remain few and far between ?

Do laws passed by government lead to people believing that they entitled to be above ‘others‘ in the eyes of the law in Independent Britain ?

Are European people entitled to believe that all citizens should be treated equally at least with regard to the law ?

Well, British people do have the right and the freedom to believe that their country is treating foreigners fairly. British people said “There are too many foreigners in the UK”, it is their right. 41.8% said we want freedom from the EU. This is a majority, so freedom must be delivered.

Freedom is a precious gift. 

Freedom however does not get delivered to our door without baggage. When we gain something worthwhile, we inevitably lose something else. When we gain experience and with luck a bit of wisdom, we lose youth, even if we believe youth is in the mind. When we gain trust, we lose the freedom to do as we please, or risk losing that trust. When we gain love, we have the duty to ensure we do not abuse the love of our loved one or risk losing feeling loved by the one whose love we gained, a love which makes us stronger together. 

When we gain freedom we have a duty to ensure that our freedom does not encroach on somebody else’s freedom. If we take somebody else’s freedom away from them, it stands to reason they will fight to get it back, unless they feel they have no choice but to become enslaved to our freedom, until one day, when there are enough enslaved people to work together they will choose freedom to fight back. It is a matter of perspective as to which freedom is more important than the other. What is not a matter of perspective is that within a society if some people have more rights than others, it is a divided society.  

Whether that division will continue to benefit the ones who feel entitled to the benefits of society they currently have, whether it will ensure the freedoms we take for granted are kept, is a matter for the future.  

What is for the present is that never should any of us take the rights and the freedoms we do have for granted. Take my French word, for it is my British experience.  

( 1 ) https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/data-protection-bill-must-not-take-migrants-rights-away/5065012.article
( 2 ) https://www.gov.uk/check-tenant-right-to-rent-documents
( 3 ) https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/data-protection-act-2018

(*)  ‘title’ in ‘entitlement’ from French ‘titre’ which evolved to intituler ‘give a title to a book’ from Latin which was to ‘give a name to someone or something’. Makes sense that when the British barons fought the King and won more power than him, while the French got rid of royalty and therefore ‘titled’ land owners (who still exist but lost their automatic power in government) the word evolved in different ways. 

  

When Miriam met Maria

Miriam and Maria met at the little cafe in town last week to catch up on kids, home, work, life when, empty cups on the table, for some reason Maria remembered:

“So annoying, I keep forgetting! I’ve got to contact my new tenant to make sure she’s allowed to stay in the UK. Am sure she is, but I need…
“What do you mean?” interrupted Miriam, raising her voice slightly, eyes wide open, staring at her friend.
“Well, you know, landlords, and hospital staff, and employers, they have to make sure that their tenants or employees or patients, or whatever, have a right to be in the UK. That’s the law.”

“Fuck that!” replied Miriam, top of her voice, people on nearby tables starring at the two middle aged women and their empty coffee cups, wondering what that fuck was all about. How rude.
“I’m not checking on my tenants, they’ve been living in my house for 10 years. Bloody hell. Big Brother. No way. I’m sure as hell not doing that.”

“Yeah, well, I know” Maria tried to take the conversation back down to accepted British middle class voice level standards in public places when drinking coffee rather than wine. “It stinks. But the thing is, I’m foreign, so, if I get caught with illegal migrants in my flat, then I get in trouble with the law, then I become a criminal, then I don’t know if they’ll grant me that bloody Settled Status card thing I’m supposed to get at some point, if they ever get their act together. It’s bonkers, I know, but it’s not much of a choice for me, is it?”. 

“I’m not doing it” insisted Miriam, no longer bellowing but still looking Maria in the eye, her eyebrows raising in unison, her chin travelling towards her chest.
“I hear you, but you’re British, they can’t kick you out, they can make your life difficult, they can fine you or whatever, but they’re bound to make it even more miserable for foreigners, aren’t they ? Windrush ? Mmmm. See what I mean ? We depend on Home Office to grant us the damn status to stay in the first place. So, yeah. Choice.”
It was Maria’s turn to speak loud enough for neigbours to hear, hoping some might actually listen, and who knows, even maybe understand.

The nation from the right to the left said “too small a house for so many people, we’re bursting”. The will of the people. 

From the Left that open the doors wide to the Right that promised to reduce the numbers when people grumbled and voted for UKIP in droves, the British immigration story is one of numbers we do not know as a base, and targets we cannot achieve as a goal. Left and Right failed over decades to put in place a system that registers all immigrants in one place. There may be one million illegal people in the UK, could be two, could be 250,000. 

Who knows without an effective registration system ? 

The other will of the people, it seems, is that there should be no ID card for all in the UK, no central database that lets government know too much about us. What could seem legitimate in the 20th century seems less so today, when we give so much personal information, willingly or not, to private companies that definitely do not serve us. When we do not trust central government to have us all registered in one data base, we effectively push Home Office to find another solution. 

What effective ways are there to reduce the numbers, if targets are to be scrapped and a central data base a voters’ turn off ? 

For now we are kicking a few people out, refusing them jobs, homes or health care, putting some in detention centres, but we still don’t have a way to know how many potential criminal foreigners are on our soil, if they work cash in hand, find a willing landlord, don’t go to the hospital when they are sick. If we all have an ID, we can all show it to the new employer, landlord, nurse. Criminals will forge ID’s, that’s a matter for trained forces. If real criminals know how to fall through the net, how helpful is it to brand all foreigners potential criminals that must prove they are innocent ? 

Had we had ID’s for all, Windrush would not have happened.  

Instead, what we do have is a snitch law. Is this the best system the UK can devise ? 

It is it the cheapest.  

What will the Immigration Bill look like when it finally gets published ? 

Is the government waiting for feedback on how we, as a nation, move forward ? 

I’d guess so, it’s a pickle all round to have any idea what the nation wants, only the loud bullies seem to get heard these days. No wonder we end up with a snitch law, suits the bullies to get their way, sod the consequences. Is that what the real majority of British people want ? I’d guess not. Then again, am not British, so I could well be wrong.  

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Perfidious Albion’s war cabinet

When a Facebook friend moaned about Remoaners not debating his points, I answered he should try debating with Remainers, after all he is not a Brexshiter nor a Brextremist. He has his reasons for wanting Leave, and I respect them, but as he asked, here was my reply.

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When there are several views of the future within government which view will be put in place in Independent UK? 

At the moment we have a “war cabinet” and politicians asking for blind faith in their vision (by asking faith in their country which is easy to get). That vision keeps changing and is built on sand. People who let their governments lead them to unknown places knowingly are in danger of being led into darkness. Giving faith to a cabinet fighting a civil war is the biggest gamble the UK is taking since I don’t know when. If we were bankers we’d ask for a proper business plan before backing a new venture. This is the future of the nation for my children’s generation we are paving. Faith over facts does not do it for me. 

The EU Parliament ensures that the extremes on both sides of the political spectrum in the EU and the countries within are tempered by the middle ground, means compromises, sure, but also means less danger for one country to go too far in one direction or the other as can happen anywhere. Was that not the biggest lesson of the 20th century in Europe? 

Poor people in the EU are still a lot better off than those in the US when it comes to health, holiday or maternity pay. Governments do not have their nose in every company’s affairs as much as in China. Despite corruption in the EU (power will always get to some peoples’ head the wrong way, does not mean all politicians are shit heads and they can only be removed in democracies), the EU is way more democratic than South America or Africa which is why progressives there are building blocs on the EU model. 

A weaker EU is great economically for Russia, and politically for the US, is it any good for any European country? What sort of deals will we have to make to tap into these growth markets blocs more than now? Will the UK negotiate with these blocs or will it try and negotiate bi-lateral deals behind closed doors with the countries that are less aligned with their blocs and see if divide and rule still works? 

Yes the UK had the biggest and best empire, but it came at the price of millions of Indians killed, without the navy there would have been no such empire, trade was not the only element that ensured the winning. Not all Commonwealth countries have forgotten that, and as France still has to deal with the legacy of its empire going pear shaped, the UK must understand the full legacy from the invaded countries’ perspective when it goes knocking on their door again, not just the British side of the story. No disrespect but the UK is called “Perfidious Albion” by many for historical reasons. May has not addressed the Plenary in the EU to give a vision of the new partnership but Davis has been talking to individual countries behind closed doors to see if he can convince some to break the common front the EU is putting forward to protect the EU, as is the Commission’s job. It might work, or it might back fire. Time will tell. 

If it works, it will be the end of the EU, and it will be in great part because the UK did not want to compromise enough to ensure that Europe could move forward peacefully. Make no mistake, those who hold peace top of the agenda will not forgive the UK if this happens. Farage is as hated as Le Pen by most MEP’s for banging on about immigration knowing full well the dangers, but at least France pushed Le Pen back a few years, the UK welcomed Farage’s vision into government. It might be politically astute, better keep the enemy close, no doubt the UK is extremely politically astute, but this is not the perception of the UK for many in the EU and there is always the danger that the enemy within end up killing the King under the nose of a sleepy nation. 

Which EU laws are such a problem for the UK that risking peace within Europe warrant full sovereignty of the UK in a global world where issues are international and better fought from a position of strength in numbers on a global level? When the UK Parliament asks Zuckerberg to turn up on the small matter of the referendum, does he? Are laws to govern the internet (which is both a huge potential and a massive threat depending which hands use the keyboard) better if each and every country has their own, or on a continental level? Environment? Mass migration from global warming and wars that UK, France and the US get financial benefit from with their arm sales? Fighting extremism whether political or supposedly religious? Everything is inter-related, we can’t just take some of the good building blocs that rely on each other for strength out of the edifice and be surprised when the whole thing crumbles. 

Peace is way more in people’s psyche on the continent, my country was invaded, my German friends have an even bigger chip on their shoulder, millions of us are shit scared of seeing fascism raise its ugly head, and the seed of it is all over Europe again. As for the UK’s psyche it won the wars that mattered against the Germans and the French in the end, and yet, it has not won the economy war enough from its capitalist Free Trade perspective and hates not being the rightful top dog in the EU. Those who want to be top dog rather than compromise within the EU for whatever reason they deem worthwhile, always bring back the very reason the majority of Germans and French have peace at the top of their list: that the Germans killed millions of people (aided by the French) not that long ago and must be feared as they want to take over the EU (and French are cowards as my kid’s teacher said to him in primary school a decade ago, that was a nice wake up call for understanding British perspective). 

Leave.eu rebutted Remain with “Project Fear” but what is the UK going to do exactly when it “takes back control”? What does it exactly mean? 

What are the consequences of Tarif Free Free Trade with African, Asian and South American properly corrupt countries where not “just” one MP died but dozens of activists do yearly? Did Fox manage to get a deal on steel out of the US after Trump imposed tariffs for the EU? Is the EU really that bad compared to the rest of the world? 

I want to be convinced that the UK is headed for a bright future, I have no idea whether Macron’s vision will work, but at least he is putting forward a well argumented and positive vision for France and for the EU. I so wish we were still working together, as out of the EU we will be competing with each other on grounds that will open old wounds, as has already started, not continue to try and heal them.   

Are the UK and France enemies, really?

I don’t know what it’s like to be at the receiving end of real racism. As in someone thinking I am less than them simply for the colour of my skin. I do not fully understand the anger, the frustration, the internal struggles of being different on the outside. Does it mean being different on the inside?   

What I do know is how I react when I see a cartoon representing the Prime Minister of the country I live in, surrounded by beheaded people from the country I come from. In 2018 Europe. Makes my blood boil. Might as well be me, decapitated, depicted at the feet of the enemy. In Brexit Britain. Sure my President was on a very tight rope when he offered to loan a tapestry that portrays a victory from one of his country’s regions, to the Kingdom that was defeated. 

Almost a 1,000 years ago. 

As a French woman interested in art, and having visited the Bayeux museum with my binational family about 10 years ago (and yes my sons do remember the long embroidered cloth), I thought the President’s gift to accompany his visit was a great idea. This is a stunning 1,000 year old work of art that has never travelled outside of France since it was made, even if it was made in Battle or Hastings. After Paris’ museums and Versailles, the Bayeux museum is the most visited in France. At 400,000 visitors per year, a majority of them British, this Unesco listed craftsmanship seemed to me to be a gesture of goodwill, of historic value that explains why a fair few people in the UK have Norman sounding names. 

A common history. 

Well, I was wrong. I realised my French perspective was misconstrued. I’m not Norman, so I had never heard of the Bayeux tapestry until I came to the UK, I don’t think many French people really care that much about 1066. Most won’t know the date, nor the artwork. But when I commented on The Telegraph’s article about tapestry loan: “That’s great, isn’t?”, with a big smile on my face, the customer in my local village shop in deep Dorset snapped me right back to my new Brexit reality with a steely stare. So much for small talk, I never was very good at it. It dawned on me that as a Brit, especially one who loves history, the empire and the exceptionalism of being British, what is more important than the craft of a piece of history, is the message. As Rees-Smog confirmed when he offered in exchange for the French gesture, a scrap of the flag flown by Nelson’s HMS Victory at Trafalgar. A scrap. The embodiment of contempt in one sentence. 

No doubt even friends of mine found him funny. Hilarious, even, maybe. 

France offers to lend a Unesco listed medieval masterpiece of arguably common origin, and in return ‘the Tory darling’ (as described in the Daily Mail) suggest a mere scrap of bleu blanc rouge cloth. Yes the union jack has great historical significance, of course, as does the Rosetta Stone, but why this insistence on gloating in British superiority when it comes to war? Is it a sign of strength, or is it weakness in the face of past glories that crumbled in a new world where dividing to conquer proves harder than in the days of old where diplomacy was solely conducted being closed doors? Yes Normandy is indeed an inescapable witness to the British troops who saved France from Hitler, along with allied nations oft forgotten from British stories who would still see France pay back for being saved. Ad vitam eternam. In 2018, as we mark 100 years of the end of “The War to end all wars” we can choose to remember what we have achieved together. 

Our common past, or the wars we fought against each other. Forever more. 

What is striking, is that whilst the UK obsesses over leaving the EU, France and the UK work together in matters of defence with our armed forces, our security, including cybersecurity and terrorism, our information -including foreign and humanitarian aid and diplomatic services. When one of the reasons for leaving the EU was the threat of an EU army, it is worth noting that this cooperation is continuing, including with NATO over Iraq, within Europe. The UK and France agreed to continue working together on Iran, on North Korea, on the Middle East and a two state solution for Israel and Palestine with Jerusalem as a common capital, on Syria, on Lebanon, on Yemen, on Libya, on Russia’s foreign and defence policies. France and the UK have agreed to work together in the Caribbean when natural disasters strike British territories or french départements.

Where were all these details about cooperation in the British media?  

In 2017 French and British forces cooperated to take down 44 traffickers networks for migrants. It’s not just about the extra money the UK has agreed to pay France to help with policing the British border because the migrants stuck in Calais don’t want to stay in France, but want to come to the UK. France deals with the British border on French soil. Surely a bit of extra cash is only fair? So no, 50 million euros is not the price to pay to get the Tapestry, as tabloids spewed, it is a fraction of what it costs France, the North Region, Calais, Ouistreham, Dunkerque for dealing with a crisis that is international. It’s human lives, it’s loss of earning for whole areas. The alternative is to let migrants come to Kent, how would that work? What has been agreed, for all concerned, is that rather than 6 months, migrants wanting to emigrate to the UK will have to be processed in one month by the Home Office.

Let’s see how that goes. 

Just imagine you live in Kent and have thousands of migrants living on your doorstep. But these people don’t want to live in the UK, they actually want to live in France, mainly because they have family there, yet because of international laws, because they don’t have any papers for officials to send them back to where they come from, because they come from war zones, because their life back home is so atrocious they travelled for months; just imagine they were stuck on your doorstep for months. How would you like the French on the other side of the border refusing to take them in, whilst you are dealing with what is actually their border? 

See, it’s difficult to imagine being someone else. I am not British, I’ve never had a Royal Family, I was not born on an island, I have no idea what it is like inside my psyche to be Anglo-Saxon. I lived with the aftermath of the Algerian war, as France still does, which does not make for pride in an empire or colonies, no Commonwealth, no common language with the master of the Planet that are, the United States of America. Are the USA still the greatest nation on Earth? Is the UK still as masterful as it was when it ruled the seas? 

France is a great nation. The United Kingdom is a great Kingdom, if a bit more complicated in its unity. Neither are perfect, nor evil. But together if they wish, they can achieve much greater things than separately. As indeed they already do. After his visit to the UK, the French President met the German Chancellor. Together they are travelling to Davos, together they want to build a better Europe. 

Of all that has happened since my President’s visit to the UK, what saddened me most was not the British tabloids being their francophobe self, or the jingoist politicians, it was seeing Macron and Merkel at a joint press conference a day later. Both presented a united front, they stood shoulder to shoulder, they were at ease with each other, they spoke, united, with Europe in mind. What saddened me most is the realisation that there is no British Prime Minister that wants to be part of this cooperation. What a force that would be when facing the rest of the world if there were the three rather than the two biggest economies in Europe working as a united force. Surely if Germany and France can work together when they were enemies a mere few decades ago, why can’t the UK join in? 

If only the UK admitted that they will have to pay for access to that European market, that they will continue to cooperate (quietly) on defence (just don’t call it a European army), that they will continue to need immigration as they need workers of all abilities. If only the British people realised that other countries are no different, they also struggle with their Health Service as population grows older and we are more and better treated than when these services were created, they also struggle with the old industrialised areas where the working classes find themselves out of the loop of globalisation, their people also resent tax evading multinationals, their working classes also resent the establishment, as their establishment often resent their working classes.

And middle classes everywhere pay vast amounts of taxes. 

Are the UK’s economic and social realities really the ‘EU’s fault’ if problems in the US are not dissimilar? Will the UK be better off as the 51st American state? More American television, more YouTube, more Black Fridays, more Starbucks, more privatisation of health, prisons, schools. Will the UK reach an advantageous deal with China who have much to sell, whatever the safety or quality of the products? With India who would love easier immigration into the UK? 

Will the UK blame the EU for defending its interests (punishing the UK as the British translation goes)? Of course it will. Will that blame game be in the interest of the British people? As the world’s governments swing from harder right to the left and back again, as they always do, will an international progressive left finally manage to swing the playing field in their favour? 

If it does, will Britain’s colonial past catch up or match up with its intentions to go and conquer the world again? 

It will be years before we can answer that question. Or will it be months? Who knows in our current mad fast world.  

http://www.elysee.fr/communiques-de-presse/article/communique-sommet-franco-britannique-201/

Dear Mrs May, citizens’ rights first ?

This letter is in answer to Mrs May’s open letter of reassurance to EU citizens dated 19 October 2017.

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Dear Mrs May,

thank you for your letter ‘to EU citizens’.

Putting citizens’ rights first ?

Let me be clear: from the EU referendum itself to stripping South West MEP Mrs Girling of the party whip recently, it is plain to see your party comes first. Yes, we do realise this is politics in a first past the post system. But these negotiations are politics in a changed landscape, not in respect of your country deciding to Leave, but because we can now get Brexit updates directly from the EU channels, giving us both sides of the story.

Blaming the EU for everything is getting tougher isn’t ?

Which does beg the question: how many more voters will you lose if you keep playing this blaming the EU game ? I would not be so unfair as to blame you for treating EU nationals as bargaining chips. To my knowledge chips were never mentioned. Cards and bargaining capital however, were, not by you admittedly but by Brexit Ministers in your Cabinet.

Of course we are all chips or cards, nationals or immigrants, this is politics. 

What has been clear all along, for those who follow, is that EU citizens’ rights have been tied to the trade deal that the UK government wants to strike with the EU, despite you assuring your voters we are a priority, and the latter infuriating some of more right leaning voters, you can’t win can you ? What is also clear is that the words your government uses, and most tellingly the lack of an agreement on citizens’ rights, clarify that the 3 million EU foreigners in your country are not just an asset that contributes more to the British budget than we take out, a fact so seldom reported, but that we are clearly extra capital to try and extract yet more exceptions out of the EU.

Yes, well, you did already have the deal with the most exceptions in the EU.    

Sadly, I do not feel particularly reassured in your confidence that we are “within touching distance of agreement”. At least this is one point ardent British Brexiters and I can agree on.  On 22 October Mr Fox stated that there can be no agreement on divorce bill until there is agreement on trade. As the EU process does not allow for Mr Fox’s wishes to be granted, as he well knows, and as anybody who follows the EU from outside the box of some British Media understands, it confirms to me that this government is slowly but surely paving the way for No Deal. Whatever that may me mean for the UK.

What does No Deal mean for EU citizens ? 

It does seem that for some in your Cabinet and indeed your country, the UK should, by rights, get yet more special deals out of the EU now the ‘we are out’ card has been played. I cannot quite decide whether this card is an ace or a joker. Albion has indeed always been a shrewd negotiator, behind closed doors, so who knows how this European episode will pan out with the EU’s insistence and application of transparency ?

The most troubling proof of the state of play is when the Chancellor of the country I have lived in for 30 years openly calls the EU ‘the enemy’. Apologising or retracting is all well and good, thank you Sir, but it does prove the frame of mind for these negotiations, from this side of the Channel.

It was already plain for all to see, here and abroad, ‘enemy’ spelt out merely confirms it. 

I hope you are confident, as I realise some of your Leave voters are, that this is a constructive approach to negotiate a ‘good deal’ for this country. How this approach can lead to a good outcome for EU citizens stuck in a country that seems intent on sailing the High Seas on its own, is beyond my limited European understanding of negotiations.

Despite your letter of ‘reassurance’ nothing concrete is forthcoming on EU citizens’ rights. We are still unclear what ‘lawful’ actually means to your British lawmakers, and more importantly which immigration laws will govern our future.

This country adopted us as equals under the law, pre June 2016. No clarity has been reached in 16 months. So what will change precisely ?

The biggest obstacle is your bugbear:
the Court of Justice of the European Union. 

Now, let me be very clear. 

This is our concern:

without the CJEU (it is no longer called the ECJ, please keep up) we would find ourselves at the total mercy of any future British government, with no recourse, should we be treated unfairly. Fair enough, we are after all in the UK ? Well, this dramatically changes the contract under which we lawfully settled in the UK: as an equal citizen, the contract under which we paid into the British system. Some may say that there is no risk to be concerning our little heads about, that surely no British government would ever treat foreigners any worse than British nationals.

Maybe. Yet when a few companies have already started to advertise (against the current law) for British only citizens, as if the UK was already out of the EU, which it is not yet, is it far fetched to be concerned that they might get away with it at some point it in the future ?

In days when Europhobe bully boys seem to be pulling the reins of this country in a direction that was not splelt out on the ballot papers, who knows who will be in charge of the UK in 10 years time when I need to get a pension I paid into for 40 years, see a doctor as I get old, or need to change job ?

You may reassure me now these rights will be granted, thank you.

But will they remain when you are no longer in charge ? When in 2017 the President of the closest partner of this country is openly racist, mocks disabled people, does not treat women as he does men, is intent on reversing the little universal health care only just gained, who knows what could happen in 2020 or 2030 in the UK, if this country faces no choice but to get closer still to the USA ?

We do not wish to have more rights than our British friends and family. Neither do we want to have less. 

We have settled here under the terms of a contract you now propose to amend. The very fact that we were not allowed to have a say on this change of contract (though you did let us have a say on the specifically British matter of the future of Scotland) tells us already that we were not considered as equals before the EU referendum (though we were rather handy to get to keep a Union the government wanted).

You cannot now blame us for wanting to ensure our future is regulated under recognised international law when our rights are being amended. If a foreigner has a problem with a British institution, or the British government, how can we trust that a British Court of Law would not favour the British side ?

If we don’t like it we can leave ? Indeed.

But what about that contract, that money we have put into the British system (all my working life in my case, after the French government and my parents paid for my education) ? Will we face the same outcome as some of your ministers are proposing today: refusing to honour the costs of breaking a long agreed contract ?

Should we go whistle ? 

Since you now wish the EU to be more creative in their approach, I hope you can apply your creative mind to understand something that will affect your country more so than it will affect foreigners: ministers calling us bargaining capital, or calling the EU the enemy, or government leaving us in limbo for months, or threatening that we will lose the recourse of the CJEU is not,  in any way, conducive to keeping the very EU citizens you tell your people you wish to keep, or attract: the educated ones your country needs in many fields.

If I have a sought after degree, and I have the choice between any of 27 countries where I will be an equal, and one country where the law sees me as a foreigner with less rights than I do have in these other 27 countries, if I am a clever rational thinker with great skills, which should I choose ?

Ah yes, maybe the one that pays more. 

Well, you’ll sure have to compensate for the lack of sunshine. How much will it cost you to get these good migrants you so seek ?  Will you get the brightest and best, or the more desperate ?

I do not want to be an enemy, but if you corner me and threaten me with less rights, as you have effectively done for 16 months, I need to ensure my own country and its Union do protect me. The EU is the very enemy that allowed me to settle here lawfully 30 years ago, marry and have British children; the enemy this country is now fighting.

Let’s look to the future with history in mind: where does war posturing within Europe lead ?

The fear of war and the scars that it leaves for generations is the very reason the EU is so dear to so many Europeans, the very reason EU countries working and trading together was created after the second world war. Maybe the UK only wants trade.
But for many, Peace cannot be taken for granted.

Just look at the world today.

On a lighter note, may I take this opportunity to ask you to please never call me a citizen of nowhere, ever again. I am French and an EU citizen. It is quite possible to be both, in this day and age, as indeed many British Europeans who have bothered to vote for proactive and pro-European MEP’s of all parties (i.e. except UKIP, and dare I say some Conservatives) will agree.

Thank you for planning to make this new Settled Status easier.

Thank you for promising it will be no more than the cost of a British Passport; this will indeed be a vast improvement on the current situation. Let us hope that the Home Office’s proven track record of inefficiency, and recognised hostile environment that deliberately makes it difficult for non-EU foreigners to settle in the UK does, indeed, improve when another 3.3 million people need to be processed in a country that has never registered EU foreigners in a central or regional database, unlike most other EU countries.

Could you please make it clear to your electorate that it is not ‘the EU’s fault’ that your country chose to ignore the EU rules set up to ease Western European countries accessing the Union, or those enabling an EU country to send an EU citizen back home if after 3 months they have not found a job; or that a Lithuanian family keeps getting British taxpayers’ money into their British bank account and still access it when they have gone back home (as per the comment on your Facebook thread below your letter).

These issues are due to the British system, the problems were created because of British interpretation of EU directives.
Yet the EU gets it in the neck. 

As for the Home Office’s allowed 10% margin for error , it does mean at least 330,000 EU citizens could face yet more mistakes (like deportation letters as have been received in the last year), uncertainty and stress. Stress ? Oh well, we are only foreigners after all, so as some say, if we don’t like it we can go back where we come from. True, though it is worth reminding those in your electorate who so despise paying the EU anything, that this will mean much higher costs to the taxpayer in the UK. And this is a fairly straightforward issue that a computer system and a few new staff should eventually sort out.

Other issues however are proving far more of a costly headache aren’t they?  

So much for saving money by sailing the High Seas,
this is just the first tip of the first iceberg. 

Proposing to register 3.5 million people with your government’s track record for computer systems cannot fill me with much hope that it will be either smooth for us or cheap for the taxpayers (that is us too by the way, so we’ll pay twice for this new privilege). That this government can get a better system for foreigners in two years than it has provided for its own British Universal Credit claimants in five is pretty doubtful. I am glad to see Mrs Rudd acknowledges this concern. My skepticism remains.

So let me be very clear. 

As far as EU citizens’ “Settled Status” is concerned, many EU citizens join me in not being reassured in the slightest. As for Brexit itself, well, that’s not just foreign EU citizens that need reassurance is it, it’s many British ones too.
As you well know.
I would not want your job for all the cheese in France, and I do love cheese, even British.

 

Salutations distinguées.

Nathalie Roberts
French EU Citizen
United Kingdom resident

23 October 2017

For bananas’ sake

People keep talking about Alt-news as if it was some new American invention. 

Come on Brits, be proud, have Alt-News like straight bananas not been spewed for years out of the UK’s media mouth too?  

In fact, hang on a minute, is our media British, American or, you know, Australian? 

Those people who comment at the bottom of articles about EU migrants that should be sent back home, are they actually all British? 

No borders for these commenting guys and gals are there? 

I mean, it’s hard to know what and who to believe these days isn’t? 

We know full well that the media make up facts to invent news, and that politicians twist the truth. 

And we seem to accept this as perfectly normal.  

When I say ‘we’ I mean the British, and those people who live in the UK and feel part of its society. 

I’ve been doing this for years. 

Although these day, I struggle to say ‘we’. 

You see after 30 years of bent/straight bananas talk, that I let pass because life is too short to worry about the shape of European bananas, it seems there are a lot of stories about EU banana growers if you will, i.e. people, namely EU migrants. 

Thing is, most British people don’t mind about the French banana growers, we do fine bananas and all things cuisine my friends. But when the media keeps vilifying all EU banana growers we don’t know anymore if you mean us, them, the other ones or what the hell to think anymore. Some of us are a bit worried to talk to our kids in French, or Spanish or Portuguese (and most definitely Polish) in case an angry British banana grower tells us to go home and then we think what now, what next, because, you know, we thought we were home. 

You see every time they (the media) bash EU migrants (actually is it just me or are politicians on the right and even on the left EU-migrants-bashing too these days?), well, are they bashing me? No, they don’t mean you. They mean, you know, the others. Are they not bashing all of us then? Some of us, a few of us, the skilled ones that are welcome or the unskilled ones that can get the hell out of here by the front door? I am so lost, I have no idea what EU migrants have been up to in the UK for all these years, who is who, what is what and who is supposed to be hated. Of course when I write migrants I jump on a big bad bandwagon. 

We are immigrants. Immigrants. aka Expats. So lost, we are. 

Where I’m not lost is in a few core beliefs. If you build a relationship on lies, you’re stuffed. It will come out, your partner will realise you’ve lied at some point (90.73% chance* according to TrustMe think-tank) and that’s the end of that trusting relationship. You can forgive, try and forget, but if you keep doing it my friend, you are not trustworthy. Goodbye. 

* I’ve made this figure up because sometimes figures don’t matter. The alternative is you don’t find out it’s a lie, so you’ve been conned. Call me stupid, but I hate being conned. Don’t you? 

So back to my bananas, bent, straight, never mind. Hang on. Actually it does matter. Because just now, we are saying we no longer want to buy bananas from our geographically close neighbours, because they impose what shape they should be. How very dare they? Fair enough then that we should now turn to the rest of the world, where they grow bananas in shapes you would not believe. Especially our Alt-friends across the pond. They have the best bananas. And they love the UK. Fact. Take their word for it. (Just don’t look at their newspapers headlines the day after the Prime Minister visited the White House to see quite how important the UK is in their news).  

Now, I’ve been wondering, are British banana growers going to be sued (via their government) if they start preventing these new really cheap Alt-right bananas that taste so good but are a bit modified (and some say a little bit bleached too because it makes them last longer)? Nah, British banana growers would never put up with this nonsense would they? 

Oh yes, I know, some people think I’ve gone bananas. Might’ve.Then again, seems the world around me is more bent than straight sending most of our brains as mushed as over ripe bananas. 

EU referendum: no pressure 

“Tough” she said. “If you want to vote in the referendum, you should have taken the British nationality”. 

I should have seen it coming. And to a point, I agree with her. How I hate to admit it. I don’t need to give away my Frenchness to have a British passport. I can have a dual nationality. 

I could have my cake and eat it, if only I’d played the game. 

Thing is, I would have to swear allegiance to the Queen. I’m quite happy to volunteer to help my local community, to swear I will not knowingly do anything that could harm the British people, but the Queen? I am French for goodness sake. You’re asking me to lie. I care a lot, on the other hand, about the British people. I married one, gave birth to a couple, and have built my life in England surrounded by wonderful British friends and extended family. Infuriating friends, sometimes, and family headaches, at times, but still, I love them with their imperfections. As I hope they love me with my countless foibles, French and otherwise. 

My not wanting to pretend I am British for the sake of a vote comes at a cost.
I gave away my right to vote in matters that affect me, and my country of adoption.
I have no idea what the consequences of my choice will be for my living in the UK. 

Tough. That’s the rules.  

When the French president said there will be consequences to Brexit, he also said there will be consequences to staying in. Hollande was only stating the bleeding obvious, just as the papers only chose the narrative that suited their Brexit story and foreign bashing agenda. Of course there will be consequences, surely a trading nation such as the Brits realise that when you negotiate a deal, it’s give and take. There will be “general presumption of continuity” in law if the UK leaves the EU, it won’t all crumble overnight and the UK is not going to fall in a dark hole. Equally, deals may not remain the same as now. Maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. Probably either and both. 

The question is, will pro-Brexit politicians please send answers on a postcard, what will the consequences be? 

Presumption of continuity is not the same as guarantee of continuity. So nobody knows and Brexiters have different agendas within the common ‘life after EU’ scenario. I love the optimism of the Brexiters, and respect the pride they have in their country. But in reality, will there be lower wages to be competitive with Asia, will taxes rise when the poorer areas of the UK are no longer helped by the EU, will there be more tax cuts to multinationals to keep them here? 

Yes there are monetary savings for being out of the EU, but where will these millions be directed? Brexiters can dangle them in front of the nose of all who shout, but all Brexiters sing different songs, and most of them won’t be the ones deciding where the money goes. Who will win this EU money windfall? The ones who need it, or the multinationals via their lobbies? 

I understand claiming sovereignty as a reason for leaving. But no Brexiter can tell us the cost of leaving. Just looking at the EU, why should any country be able to trade within the Common Market of old, the European Economic Area of now -with its rules- without applying the rules of that European market. The British would not let another country come in now and be let off the rules, so why should the UK be any different once out of the EU but in the EEA (favoured by many Brexiters)? I know the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and therefore has clout, but does it really have enough clout to convince Germany, France and the 25 others that they can dictate deals on their terms without being part of the gang? 

It’s like me wanting to vote in the UK without being British. If I can’t have my cake and eat it, why do Brexiters tell us they can? It’s great to believe your country is great, which it is in many ways, whether it is great enough to eat the cake, I do not know any more than they do.  

But it’s not just about trade.  

Beyond commerce, however important it is to feed mouths, politics are at play. Our global political system is changing, groups of young people all over the world are no longer accepting the status quo, the ridiculous differences between the richest and the poor. Some do want to fight for the future of the planet when their back yard is being destroyed by corporations. Indigenous people all over the world are fighting for their right to a clean land and for their survival, against governments and corporations, against what they see as colonialism whether of old for which the UK and France have a lot to answer for, or of corporations. Many tribe or group leaders have lost their life, making their brothers and sisters all the more determined to keep on fighting, finding strength from like minded people on the other side of the world, working together. 

The left is shifting, however hard the press tries to discredit or ignore Corbyn, Sanders, Podemos or Syriza. The right is crumbling with the far right gaining ground all over Europe, and the US. History teaches us about similar turmoils. That’s how the world has evolved to where we are now, totally imperfect but a damn side better than it was when we had kings with everything and peasants with barely a roof over their heads. There always were consequences to change, the 20th century is not that far in the past that we cannot remember the millions of lives lost. Only now, communication between people with similar beliefs is possible like it never was before. Now there is hope that people can shift the direction of travel without as much bloodshed. 

When deciding which way to vote on the referendum, how many people will vote against Cameron, against Brussels diktats, or vote to leave for fear of a migrants’ crisis that can only get worse whilst the countries they come from are still at war, armed by the countries who now refuse to take in desperate families. Will voters look at the bigger picture and wonder: will the EU without the UK lead to a better Europe? Will a politically crumbling EU without the UK lead to a safer neighbourhood for the British people? 

Like it or not, the United Kingdom is part of Europe. Europe is in part ruled by the EU. What needs to change is the EU, not the important place of the UK within Europe. Should the UK fight for a better Europe via its MEP and its national government, or give in and say “Not my problem”. If the UK says “Not my problem” how will the UK be perceived in the rest of Europe, and the changing world, and what will the consequences be when negotiating deals? In or out, Europe’s future is as much UK’s problem as it is France’s, Germany’s or Poland’s. Like it or not, the UK referendum is like the Scotland’s one, the Scots (as well as Commonwealth and EU nationals living in Scotland) got to vote for the future of the whole of the UK. They’re still Scots. They can still change their mind if they think it’s got worse for them and demand a new referendum. Cameron and Johnson might say there won’t be another referendum. It’s not up to them. It’s up to the people of the United Kingdom. If they demand one, surely their elected leaders will have to deliver one. Now that’s sovereignty isn’t? 

How the EU moves forward is now in great part in the hands of the British and Commonwealth nationals living in the UK. 

23 June 2016: no pressure.