French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP
The French ambassador to the UK said her country’s citizens now feel like foreigners in a place they have long called home because of the Brexit referendum result and the abuse that has followed it.

Just as the Brexit referendum has plunged the lives of Brits in France into uncertainty the same worries are held by the 300,000 French nationals living in the UK.

But according to the country’s ambassador Sylvie Bermann many of her citizens have had to suffer the added trauma of being abused as the Brexit referendum provoked a rise in xenophobia and racism.

Bermann told a parliamentary committee in London: “In the aftermath of the referendum some French nationals were subjected to negative or aggressive language.

“They were not used to this sort of abuse in a country where many of them have lived for decades and which they regarded as a success story in terms of dynamism and respect for others.

“And some of them now view Britain in a different way and are ready to change their plan in the short run.”

The ambassador lamented how her French citizens went from feeling like locals to outsiders in just one day.

“Some of them told me that before the 23rd of June they felt like Londoners and now they feel like foreigners, which is different,” said Bermann.

“A lot express a sense of sadness and of course are waiting for answers.” 

The deep anger and uncertainty felt by the French in London was made clear the day after the shock Brexit referendum.

“I am disappointed, shaken and angry, Charlotte Buton, a Frenchwoman who has been living in London for the past two years, told The Local. “I was hoping to build my future here and now I can’t stop asking myself if I am going to have to return to France.”

Nadege Alezine, editor in chief of French expat news site, said: “This vote is clearly a vote against foreigners living in the UK and when you no longer feel welcome somewhere, it is probably time to go.”

And even British expats returning from France have experienced abuse.

Andrew Martin said: “I'm English and have a French registered car and have been racially abused 3 times whilst driving in the UK since June. The latest was being called a f****** French c*** and intimidated about 3 weeks ago. This was reported to the Police.”

British authorities reported a 41 percent rise in hate crimes in the month after the referendum compared to the same month in 2015.

And it's not just French who are being abused. A Polish man was killed in what is believed to have been a racist murder and The Local Spain reported on shocking case of a man who was attacked by a racist thug just for speaking Spanish.

The British government has yet to confirm the rights of EU nationals living in the UK but it is expected a deal will be done that will guarantee their status as well as the rights of the hundreds of thousands of Brits living across Europe.

Last week a special meeting in the French parliament heard how the loss of rights would be “cataclysmic” for Brits in France unless deals are made.

In contrast to the abuse handed out to the French in the UK, many Brits in France have been offered sympathy from the locals since the referendum result.

“Far from being hostile, everybody has been very sympathetic to our plight as British people living in France,” said Adrian Fox. 

Matthew Pilcher added: “We've had nothing but support from our commune.”

How France could do more to ease the worries of 'Brexpats'

Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.