‘It’s as if I’m invisible – a non person’ Brits in France share their Brexit day heartbreak

'It's as if I'm invisible - a non person' Brits in France share their Brexit day heartbreak
Photo: Brunel Johnson, Unsplash
As the day dawns at last, British people living in France have been sharing their feelings about Brexit - disappointment, depression, fear, anger and betrayal.

We have known it was coming for three years now, but repeated Brexit delays and chaos within UK politics had allowed some a glimmer of hope that maybe it wouldn't after all.

But now that has been snuffed out and at midnight today (11pm in the UK) the UK will exit the EU and British people will lose their EU citizenship.

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Many British residents in France travelled back to the UK to participate in the huge anti-Brexit marches. Photo: AFP

We asked some British people living in France about their emotions now that the day is here.

Linda Fisher, who has lived in Charente for 16 years said: “I feel immense sadness that we will no longer be part of this family of nations.

“We are going to like-minded friends in France for a dinner tonight – not of celebration, but probably commiserations.

“My main worry now is the bloody British government cocking up any and all relationships with the EU. Health cover and freedom of movement worry me too.”

Jeremy Burston, who has lived in France for 17 years, said: “I think the UK is making a catastrophic mistake which they don't understand yet. My friends and relatives are going to suffer.”

Frank Grisaffi, who has lived in France for nine years, said: “I feel devastated and miserable. The social, political and economic costs to the UK will be significant and will reverberate for many years.

“I'll probably spend the day apologising to my French friends and neighbours.”

Des Coulam, who has lived in France for 21 years, said: “I am very disappointed but not at all surprised. Britain has always been a reluctant member of the EU. Britain voted for Brexit so now they will get what they voted for. Sadly, I'm sure that most of those who voted to leave haven't a clue about what they voted for or what the consequences will be.

“There is a lot of continued uncertainty for me personally.”

David Ash, who has been living in Drôme for five years, had an unusual idea for marking the day. He said: “At midnight I will play Ode to Joy on my bagpipes in front of an EU flag draped over my balcony.”

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Some say they have no confidence in the UK government to protect its citizens who live abroad. Photo: AFP

Frank Andrews, 27, has lived in Paris for three years and is currently completing a Masters degree at Sciences Po University in Paris.

He said: “As someone who voted remain, I had hoped for a while that there might be a second referendum. But I have gradually realised that trying to reverse the referendum would be undemocratic and sow so much rage and ire in the country that it would not be worth it. It would give [former UKIP leader] Nigel Farage ammunition 10 years ahead.”

Catherine Bennet has lived in France for nearly eight years now and has French nationality. 

She said: “I’m fortunate that the practicalities of Brexit don’t affect me, seeing as I have a French nationality. But, on a personal level, I feel like one of my two nationalities doesn't really count for much anymore. That is really upsetting.

“Brexit makes me horrendously sad. It’s a huge loss for the country. I feel like I’ve had so many opportunities thanks to being European and I’m horrified that future generations won’t have the same opportunities.”

Rafi Nispel, 27, has lived in France for a year and does part-time shifts in a bar and a restaurant.

“Brexit is a bit of a tricky situation for me personally,” he said. “Everything seems pretty uncertain right now. I’m not sure about what the visa requirements are going to be like, which makes it difficult to plan ahead.

“I don’t work full-time, but have a lot of extra jobs while I work on my own projects, which is a source of worry with respect to what happens after the transition period.

“All of my family voted leave except for me. We only spoke about it a year after the vote. I don’t feel disappointment towards my family. They had their reasons for voting for Brexit. I think there was more confusion than a feeling of real division really.” 

Colin Young, who has been in Paris for five years, said: “I'm tired of feeling angry about it. I'd like to be proven wrong in my pessimistic outlook for Britain.”

Susan Smith, who has been living in Narbonne for 16 years, said: “I feel disassociated. I belong nowhere. I can't vote anywhere. It's as if I am invisible, a non-person.”

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For many the loss of European citizenship feels like an illness or an amputation. Photo: AFP

Barbara Mary Osborne, who has lived in Normandy for 24 years, said: “I feel kind of jilted by those who voted brexit for all the trouble it has caused us here in France, and they knew none of it before they voted!

“I worry about healthcare, but also the attitude of the French people to us as people here living amongst them.”

Charlotte Ann Swift, who started her life in France as a seasonal worker in the French Alps and made the move full time in 2014, said: “It's awful. I feel as though my legs have been cut off.”

Martin Ryley who has been in France for 19 years said: “I feel sad, let down, ashamed that the people have been duped by power hungry manipulators.”

Fernley Thompson, who has lived in France for seven years, said: “I'll probably get drunk and fly my French, Scottish and EU flags on my house.”

Paul Burges, who has been in France for 17 years, said: “My biggest concern is that the attitude of the British Government will be 'out of sight, out of mind'. Which I believe will cause many problems for the older people who settled in Europe in all good faith, and the younger generation who made the decision to live and work within Europe.”

Rowland Buckland, who has been in France for 15 years, said: “I feel depressed and if we cannot stay here as a couple we will not have a country to live in unless we end our marriage and go back to our respective birth countries of UK and America.”

Kevin Baughen said: “In the short-term, life is going to get much more expensive and that is a worry. Longer-term, we suspect our business will suffer as it is built on experience tourism – over 55 percent comes from the UK.

“On the day itself we will spend time with friends celebrating what we have in France rather than thinking about the UK.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to send us your thoughts and feelings, we didn't have room to include them all but it was very powerful to hear so many voices from different parts of France and people in different situations.

 

 


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  1. Rowland Buckland – I don’t know about England, but you could get a green card in the US based on your marriage to a US citizen. Most countries allow spouces of citizens to stay somehow, so I have a hard time imagining the UK not allowing it as well. That said, hopefully you can work things out so you can just stay in France.
    I pray it all works out well for you.

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