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.

———

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

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Hunting pink in my village

Never mind the rain, when the local hunt meet in the village all gather and life goes on.

Every year in January the local hunt meets in The Square in my village. Not that it is a square Square as in a French village. It’s more of a crossroads surrounded by houses, cars going past as if it is quite normal to meet horses, which it is round’ere. Only generally they’re not in hunt attire, with hounds, drink in hand, sandwiches from the local pub handed around to all who have gathered.

What always catches my eye is those coats that stand out in a sea of browns and blacks. They look rather red to me (and you I imagine), proper scarlet red, but it’s not called red, it’s hunting pink. Maybe because of a tailor called Pink, though nobody knows for sure. If Tailor Pink existed he seems to have left no address, no date of birth or death, nothing apart from a very un-British way of calling a colour by a name that has nothing to do with the real thing. Maybe.

Today, the weather certainly was very British, country folks met in The Square smiling, laughing forgetting they were wet. It’s only water. My friend and neighbour Maddie took pity on me and sheltered me from the worst shower, gave me a cup of hot tea, and let me take a few pictures from her special view point overlooking The Square. All in all, a great morning in my new village in the middle of the West Dorset countryside.

Welcome to village life.

 

Did Tailor Pink exist?

 

Beyond rural infinity

Hurrah! Fibre broadband has landed in my village. Is this the end of slow Skyping yokels? Or is there a catch?

Hurrah! The Fandango Fibre broadband has landed in my rural village.

BeyondRural_Infinity

No more photos uploading at night to avoid Mr Franglais’s moods over our precious bandwidth when he needs to have a conference call over the net. At least I can upload at night, Mr F is sick and tired of looking like a scary slurring yokel or a frozen pile of pixels.

Scary-Yokel

Hell O . Ha Who Ee Z It Go Ing Too Day In Sing A Poor?

Speed and efficiency on my mind, I contact my supplier, Utilities Warehouse, and ask them to switch to fibre. UW being more of a broker than a direct supplier, I assume they can buy the Fandango Fibre from OpenReach since I know that BT can provide the magic speed.

Only, I don’t want to go to BT.

“Let me see”, says the very polite UW man on the phone, checking the fibre offering at my postcode.
“Sorry, Mrs Franglais, we can’t provide you with fibre. BT may have installed it, but if they have, they have not enabled us to use it yet”.

Oh.
If ?
BT have installed it.
I spoke to the nice man digging the road behind my house.
Or is it OpenReach?
You know, that BTish company that is not quite BT because BT got too big; but kind of still is BT.

BT guarantee 74 megabytes.
Seventy four. GUARANTEED.

I am now perfectly puzzled.

The Mr and Mrs Franglais of the English countryside will sign a 12 months contract, with no superfast alternative. I thought this was called a monopoly. Hasn’t there been some kind of Monopolies Commission in the UK since 1949? Who else will protect these rural households and businesses, busy working hard and making work pay, trying to live within their means, when they are hooked to a contract that will just roll on and on, for months and months, with their easy monthly direct debits coming straight out their bank accounts?

I had sworn I’d never get back to BT.
You too?
I know, there are so many of us.

But I have no choice. Believe me, I slowly searched for hours during the day in between Mr F’s conference calls.

Virgin are not fibre friendly in my village. Sky, even more of a big NoNo than big bad BT in the Franglais household are nowhere to be seen round’ere anyway.

Nor any other supplier that I could find.

Begrudgingly I investigated this Infinity 2 Fandango Fibre Optic. Mr F was not only adamant that he needs this super speed for his conference calls, he was rather keen on the free Sports package. And what a great package it is too. Football fanatics and rugby nuts can equally jump for joy in front of their fibre enabled televisions when England scores. No mean feat.

As we want unlimited access so the whole family can finally jump into the 21st century after five long years at the end of the line on top of windy hill, we have to take the £30 Fandango package. The advertised everywhere £10 BT offer is slower and allows you less download. Oh, and we now need a BT landline. That’ll be another £17.99.

Thank goodness we get a free double ball BT Sport with the Fandango package.

Wait there.
What’s this under the word FREE?
£49.
One off fee.

So I asked Kirstie, who offered her BT help via a chat screen, whether Sport would then be free forever after.
“It is free on a 12 months contract” she replied.
What happens after the 12 months?
“The price could remain the same, and it could change also”

Puzzlement pursues.

Is the meaning of free not quite the same for BT than for others? Do they not have British in their name to help them with language? Does the English word free now mean a one off fee in our free market world?

Never mind. Let me get back to my free to a point £52 per month package that does not facilitate HD nor allow me to use more than one TV at a time (they’re extra) BT tell me that they can change their tariffs when they feel like it, once I’ve signed on the virtual dotted line.

You can leave if you don’t like it.

I wonder, once I’ve tasted the Fandango fibre, and if nobody else offers as speedy a service in my village due to some kind of monopoly, will the competitors’ offers ever taste good enough?

Am no business guru, clearly, but I do understand that BT, who are not a charity. have just forked out millions to enable fibre here, there and pretty much everywhere in England -in a coincidental twist of fate that they should win almost all council contracts in England- have to recoup their huge investment.

But hang on a minute, where did that £1.2 billion come from, and that further £250 million?

Taxpayers’ money I hear you say?
Well. Yes. So it is.

I need to go and do some research.

How did one subsidised company get all the contracts, bar exceptions to confirm the rule, then kept the fibre facilities for themselves in some places? And many more questions.

Great thing is, give me a fortnight or so and I’ll be able to do that research in no time. Mr Franglais will watch his sport. That’ll keep him quiet. Or shouting at the TV screen when England scores. I’ll try not to get distracted by all these new channels I don’t really want, although I can’t wait to watch that American channel I’ve heard lots about: Fox.

Mr F and I can have a shouting at the tv competition.

But hey, it’s a free market, in a free world. If I don’t like it, I can go back to Slow And Stop When It’s Windy Broadband with another provider. Maybe EE (formerly T-Mobile and Orange, formerly part of Deutsche Telecom and France Telecom).  Ah yes, I forgot, it is now BT/EE,  as allowed by the Competitions and Market Authority (the latest incarnation of the monopolies commission).

OK, Talk Talk then (who bought Tiscali UK and AOL UK) BT’s main competitor who dared attack the giant for monopoly practice. Not very safe with your personal details and bank accounts though are they, hacked as they were by 15 year old teenagers.

Weird how when the news of BT/EE came out, we were all busy Talk Talking about scary hackers.

Conspiracy theorist me?
No. Stop saying that. I’m not.
Coincidences amaze me, that’s all.

Anyway, next time I post I’ll have Fandango. I’d love to find an alternative, and maybe I will. My village has an amazing community that runs a community shop. Not sure they’ll go as far as an alternative to BT Fandango though.

But you never know.

Hackers and cyberbullies: school advice and real life.

I wondered why my teenager son had changed his name on Facebook “I haven’t. Some stupid idiot has hacked my account. I know who it is. And I’m gonna sort’im out”.

Heart sinks. “Don’t go and fight OK? He is an idiot, don’t you go and get yourself in trouble at school. Please”. Son mumbles some kind of aw’right, shrugs, puts his phone down and gets back to his Netflix series.

His Dad and I have always told him Don’t fight, Don’t look for trouble, Stay away from nonsense, Play at playtime, Listen and behave at lesson time. What kids are told to do and what kids do at school is, if my family is anything to go by, not necessarily quite the same. They have to interpret in their young mind what parents say, what parents mean, what they actually want to listen to, and apply the whole thing in a different environment, when we’re not on their back keeping an eye.

Son has also been told “If you are provoked, defend yourself”. It’s all very well this turn the other cheek, but if somebody walks all over you once, and you let them, they’ll trample you again, won’t they, they might not get bored as suggested they will; and then what in adult life?

Change jobs?
Move away?
Get sick?

Kids have to understand how to apply the advice we give them. And learn how to deal with bullies. They’ll meet big bad bullies at school, the teasers that take it too far, and at work, the losers that don’t know how to play fair and square and have to put others down to make themselves feel big and important.

Will kids have learnt how to deal with these bullies with the advice they get from school?

If my son’s school is anything to go by, No.

I received an email from my son’s Head of Year. “I have advised him to get off Facebook”.

I know my son was hacked, not bullied, quite different. But the hacker is apparently a bit of an online bully. No surprise there. Not that anybody has any proof. Or maybe they do and they’re waiting to have enough evidence to contact the police. Anyhow, I was just stunned that teachers advise kids to get off Facebook. In 2015.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of time for my son’s Head of Year. She contacts me when she thinks trouble might be brewing, she’s arranged for a fantastic male teacher my son looks up to to act as a mentor, she has boys of her own, she cares. She totally gets it as a mother, how difficult it is to navigate this new to us online world, and the real world of boys. And then, she has school guidelines to follow. I actually don’t know what school guidelines are for bullying as I couldn’t find them on their website and I luckily have never had to ask for them. Hopefully kids who are bullied won’t go via their school’s website to get help.

So my son didn’t headbutt the hacker, or thumped him in the stomach, or kneeled him in the balls, you know, what most boys really want to do when faced with some kind of abuse (and let’s admit it, many girls too). He went to see a teacher. As advised to do. Time and again. Very grown up really, in a school kind of way. And was told to get off Facebook. I don’t know if the hacker was questioned. I do know my son was hacked again two days later. In fact, the hacker gave one of his hacking cyber mates my son’s password. Allegedly.

Now, I don’t blame the Head of Year for giving antiquated advice. She’s got enough on her plate with her GCSE year students, the boys who can be so silly, the girls who can so stress, the kids with learning difficulties, the kids with behaviour problems, the exams, the mock exams, contacting the parents about this and that, oh and the lessons, being a teacher and all.

I don’t even blame the school for being overwhelmed with cyber stuff. This is a pupil to pupil thing that happened outside of school. And to be fair to the school, it was his mentor who helped my son change his password and put his proper name back into Facebook. Thank you Mr C.

So let’s forget about the hacker for now, he’ll get his come uppence. Let’s think about cyberbullies. Who actually deals with them? The police? Do we have enough white hat hackers in the police to deal with cyber crime? Which leads us to thinking about hackers again, as in today’s news, a large telephone company -that happens to also be an internet provider- has been hacked. That’s pretty major. A communication provider sure has a heck of a lot more consequences than a boy’s Facebook account.

My son is lucky. He now knows what it’s like to be hacked, with no major private information divulged, no financial consequences, and he’s been told about changing passwords, and how to do it.

Thank you mentor.
The school did help after all.
Best they could.

One day, our children will look back at Facebook as we look back at our parents’ brick phones and remember the days when they learnt how to deal with everyday life. As we do. Cyber is no longer sci-fi, and it’s not going anywhere. Let’s now make sure we train enough white hat hackers to protect us from the nasty black hat hacker monsters that roam the back end of telephone companies, banks, supermarkets, and anything else they can get their dirty keyboards on.

Now, go and change those passwords of yours. Don’t just have one for everything, don’t use your child’s name, or your pet’s name, certainly not your date of birth or your mother’s maiden name. Be one step ahead of those black hat hackers.

Revenge of the nasty nerds is so last year, the power of the positive introverts is where it’s at these days don’t you know?

Well it is in my head anyway.

What do you think?

Le penseur, Rodin, St Paul de Vence, France.
Le penseur, Rodin, St Paul de Vence, France.