My mum is 84. Her life partner is French and lives in France. They have always taken it in turns to stay with each other, with gaps in between, so they can each live in the same country as their own children and grandchildren.
It’s always worked well. They have been together for 33 years. In April of this year my mum‘s partner fell down the stone stairs of the farmhouse where she lives in France. She had a serious injury to her head and was put into an induced coma. They did not know if she would live outside of the machine that was doing the breathing for her.
My mum went straight away to France to be with her and to visit her in hospital every other day. She was slowly recovering. But after 90 days my mum had to leave her in hospital and come back here.
Can you imagine?
At 84, having anyway barely seen each other due to Covid, she could not stay by her side. And they were separated again. It was terrible.
From here, my mum heard how she was. By phone and email only. Her partner made progress bit by bit and was eventually allowed home to her family. But she has damage to her brain and needs care. In October my mum was finally allowed back out to see her, after 3 months enforced separation. She then had to stay for an exhausting 90 days so as not to miss any. And has now arrived back home for further separation, exhausted and sad.
This is her life partner. She is ill and needs help. They are in their 80s. Time and life are short. How can we be in a situation where they are forced apart?
My mum needs the freedom to travel the (short!) distance to France to see and care for her partner when she wants and needs to, not dictated by Brexit restrictions.
When she tried to do something about it and was sent the link for the appeal/one year visa route, it was so complex and stressful my mum could not cope. Her summer was dominated by anxiety and stress around the system (all run, ironically, by a US company…) and the possible need for interviews in Manchester and goodness knows what else. We tried to help. But in the end she gave up. She could not cope with the stress.
And so we have a situation with more barriers, more isolation and separation, more stress and anxiety.. and two women in their 80s who have been life partners for over 33 years – one of them now with brain damage and needing care – being forced apart every 90 days.
I see my mum, and hear how her partner is, and I feel very very angry that they are paying this price for Brexit. And it’s a huge cost. Our family has always been connected to France – it’s how they met! And to us France is a neighbour and a friend and ally. I went recently, and the loss of the joy of free movement between our countries is to me personally a deeply sad and disastrous (and utterly foolish and pointless) change.
And.. if something happens to either one in the 90 days they must keep being apart?
I hope and pray it will all be reversed.
Nanda, 55, British
This testimony was first published December 2022
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