Never have I ever thought that France could eventually become a better prospect than the UK for me. I speak both French and English fluently but have done all my further education in the UK. Though I live in-between these two countries I have lived most of my adult life in England and I am more than glad and proud I did so. In spite of having all of my friends in the UK, my flat, my independence, my whole life really, with the uncertainty of Brexit and the prospect of unemployment; it just seems too much to handle after all the money and time I invested in my studies.
It is hard to ignore the handful of examples of people I know who started to study in the UK (British and non-British people) before they went somewhere more incline to provide them a future and a career that would allow them to do more than just survive. It is definitely understandable why some would contemplate a better life outside of the Brexit we did not even vote for and which was imposed on us by some old, archaic, elitist minority who have lived their lives, travelled above and beyond but for whom it took nothing to steal our future from us.
If my heartfelt opposition to Brexit enabled me to make friends for life and allowed me to meet inspiringly amazing people who have become some of my closest friends and the most important people, I have in my life. Fighting against Brexit was one of the most difficult things I got to do whilst living in England. Nothing really prepares you to fight for your rights more than fighting against Brexit. It would be an understatement to say that it took all the feist I had in me, reminding me why I wanted to become a lawyer in a first place: fight for rights and liberties. Unquestionably, everything starts to look a bit different when for once, you become the victim of an unfair, undemocratic system that is looking at nothing but restrain you and limit your rights, taking away your future and career plans to profit some oldy thirsty for some pseudo sovereignty and desperate nationalism. I, for the first time in my life endured targeted xenophobia. I was told to go back to my country multiple times and was judged for my accent. I was called foreign and often referred to “French” or “frog”. However, I stayed, proud to be part of the “youth of Britain”, proud to attend British universities, wearing my university hoodies with pride at every opportunity I got. I fought for what I believed was right for the country and I made the best memories of my short life living across the channel, and Brexiters will never take this away from me.
It certainly feels like Brexiters finally managed to get what they always wanted: to get rid of us. They succeed in making us feel unwelcomed, abandoned, and isolated from what we thought was our home. They made the people we love start to treat us differently because we are European. Even if some of us (Europeans) will decide to stay in England despite the hostility, it has become harder and harder to find a place to feel good about when living in post Brexit England. However, there is definitely one thing Brexiters haven’t anticipated. That is the risk of losing their own compatriots and citizens who are too, looking to leave the UK for a better life elsewhere. They simply can no longer feel at home in a country so intrinsically xenophobic. Who would consider a future in a country that is looking to self-deprive on a flat island, rejecting 21st century multilateralism and internationalism for some old-fashioned isolationism?
Brexit is taking away from us far more than just some rights and freedom of movements. it prevents us from making lifetime memories in Europe that our parents had the chance to live which ultimately changed their lives, allowed them to find love and create a family. It puts under lock and key experiencing European lifestyle and practice a new language. In sum, it will participate to create a generation of ignorant self-centered young people who will know nothing but their own British history or culture in a world where open-mindedness is a key competence for the professional world.
I do not only speak personally, I speak for all of us, young Europeans, students, young workers, all those of us who came to England, in the hope of building a better life with more prospect and opportunities but ended up nothing but disappointed, abandoned with more uncertainties and a worse, hopeless future to look at. Within months, job openings closed down and jobs description or training contract application started to add a little box asking for a proof of residency status participating in putting us aside, excluding us from the future we worked hard to set up. Of course, this does not mean we cannot live, work or study in England anymore, it just means, that from now on it will just become harder for us to stay and that it is now okay for employers to implicitly and indirectly refuse to recruit somebody on basis that their residency status is not unlimited. I am not saying that is what they do, I am saying it is a possibility that they could, and it can only get worse if that is the case.
England just has lost this hint of Europeanism that made it so attractive to all of us. It has completely lost this spark that made so many of us, young Europeans, leave our home country. We all came to the UK in the hope to find a better place to start our lives up. We were promised better employment, better prospect and open-mindedness. We got unemployment, isolation and depression instead. If that is not the evil of the century then what is? Living through Brexit and the covid 19 pandemic at the same time has been the most hectic thing we had to go through, and I am only a quarter of a century old. When the job market is already hard on all of us, how do you expect it to be for newly grad, experience-less, non-British people in the middle of a pandemic and Brexit aftermath?
Living through the pandemic when you just got out of university and hoping to build a life of your own, make a living and grow up is just impossible… Not only have we seen our opportunities been seriously limited and our possibilities constrained but our future also became inexistent or unthinkable because all we could do was to think about how we could live for the day and the next to come. It is hard to transpose what it feels like to feel so abandoned and hopeless that all you can think of when you are in your twenties is to potentially die because there is no prospect and you simply cannot see how life could get any better and what is the point of keep going. It feels incredibly over-dramatic writing this down when over 100,000 people have died of the covid in the UK. But I honestly do not think that the impact of both Brexit and Covid on our mental health deserves to be undermined because, like death figure, it exists.
For most of us, our career plans got delayed, sometimes even canceled whilst we also lost our student jobs which were helping us to stay afloat both financially and psychologically. We lost the little stability that remained in our lives, we lost touch with reality when already it was hard to find our place as members of the society in which our worth which was already constantly put in question because of our age or lack of experience. We were taken away from our lives, our friends and the little hope we had to remain positive in the aftermath of Brexit. It is not complaining to say that this year has been hard to say the least. It has been hard for everyone, and everybody had a really hard time living through the first part of the pandemic. But Losing track at university, feeling miserable and lost, dispirited was never a fatalism that felt on us. It could have been prevented and avoided. Falling in the trap of depression and anxiety was never inevitable, it became it when for months we got abandoned by the government and when for weeks, our mental health became the last priority on the agenda. So, what’s next for the “generation of covid” if it is to hope for the best, work harder and harder towards some uncertain hereafter. So what is out there for us other than being responsible for looking after our parents and grandparents, protecting our friends and ourselves?
© Em, 25, French, in the UK since 2015
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