I would like to share a conversation I had at work last Sunday.

I have worked in the NHS for over 20 years now. I am Spanish, and, with sadness in my heart, obtained British citizenship around a year ago (dual national).

As the NHS is quite an international environment, I can’t say I have been at the receiving end of open xenophobia (often in our operating theatre team the only British person is the patient!).

So there we were, a group of us working the Sunday shift. Three British (2 English, 1 Northern Irish), one Indian, and myself chatting over coffee.

The Northern Irish colleague is telling us about how Brexit is going to affect the fragile peace agreements in Ireland, and how it may affect her family there.

It really brought it home for me.

Then I talked about how expensive and difficult the process of obtaining the citizenship was, and how many people have it worse than me because they are in a couple/ with kids and not in an easy situation with settled status, and how what ‘settled status’ means may change after Brexit. My Indian colleague then tells us how expensive it has been for her to obtain a visa, and how they are charged £200 just for making an appointment.

We are all calm and just commiserating with each other, and suddenly there is an awkward silence, and one of the English guys says ‘who would like a coffee’? As in ‘end of conversation‘.

The three of us just went quiet and I realised that all along they had listened politely, but not expressed their views at all. It made me think they either didn’t really care, or hadn’t thought about how Brexit affects people’s lives. I know this is nothing compared to what some of you have experienced.

I now wonder if, in the future, I will express my views openly, believing I am among sympathetic colleagues, or be more cautious…

Lucia, Spanish in UK

First published September 2019

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