Introduction to “The World”. Couples of Italians, Spaniards or French are arrested upon disembarking at Heathrow or Gatwick, placed in a detention center, and then sent home. Poles, Bulgarians and Romanians also had to turn around because they were suspected of looking for work. For EU citizens, Brexit now appears as a relentless customs hub.
In the first quarter alone, 3,294 of them were turned away at the UK border, which is six times more than the same period in 2020. Since the implementation of Brexit,he is January, to work and, a fortiori, to settle in the UK requires a visa which is issued only to holders of a job offer proposing a salary of at least €2,500 per month.
This suppression of freedom of movement and installation, which is the prerogative of EU citizens, is a direct consequence of the British decision to leave the EU. This was not surprising given that the end of this freedom was the first argument put forward by Brexit supporters during the 2016 referendum. Boris Johnson, President of the European Parliament, has echoed the far-right’s demand to close the borders, including Europeans. Campaign leader in the form of a beating emblem ‘Let’s take back control’ to our limits.
While Europeans applying to work in the UK are at the mercy of a British customs officer’s temper, other EU citizens, already established across the Channel, had to submit a stack of documents to obtain “resident” status. More than 300,000 cases, out of 5.4 million applicants, are still pending as the June 30 deadline approaches. Hundreds of thousands of European expats risk finding themselves in an uncertain legal situation.
Pawns on the British political spectrum
The citizens of neighboring countries, united by history, geography and decades of freedom of movement, see themselves in such a precarious situation that no citizen of Europe should please. Neither those in the European Union – who asked for something – nor the British, whose freedom of movement and settlement on the Continent is symmetrically restricted. The average European now suffers from the indignities of immigrants knocking on the doors of a hostile country and the political exploitation of their situation.
Because European “immigrants” in the UK are above all pawns on the British political spectrum and a bargaining chip in the great confrontation with Brexit that is still ongoing. The mistreatment of Europeans pleased a large part of Johnson’s voters, who knew how to play it perfectly. It also closely resembles a letter his government sent to the 27, while huge political and economic disagreements — Northern Ireland, financial services, fisheries — remain on the table.
The experience of Europeans in the UK is a concrete example of the massive regression represented by Brexit, which is re-creating forgotten barriers between economic players and between citizens. The European Union has no reason to be intimidated by such maneuvers or to allow its own citizens to be bullied. You should not accept that the UK visa tax varies, as it is, between EU countries. The insidious “domestic xenophobia”, which is returning Europe to its old demons, must also not be allowed to be exploited.
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