Letter: Scarboro's hard-working incomers
I am an Italian citizen who has lived in the UK since 2013, and I am writing this letter to focus your attention on the importance of European citizens' rights being guaranteed in future on the same basis as we have now.
In June 2013, I moved from Italy to the UK with my husband and two children. It was a carefully-considered decision which was based on a true and honest love for British culture, and characterised by an open-minded, honest and inspiring attitude. My husband and I left our jobs and rented out our home in Italy. It was a complete fresh start for us. We were happy to adapt to a different language, different habits, a different lifestyle, and of course different weather!
We never missed our country, not even when in order to rent a flat in London we were asked to pay six months’ rent in advance because we were foreigners with no credit history. We understood the initial diffidence, and we always demonstrated our good will and our commitment towards earning the trust of the people around us. Moreover, we have always believed that we are exercising the rights granted to us by EU treaties.
Now I am asking the British citizens, who could still voice their opinions over the coming months, to put pressure on this government to give the unrestricted right of residence to those who are working and supporting themselves and whose children feel as British as if they had been born here.
I understand the reasons that are at the heart of the Brexit process, and I can see for myself how immigration rules must change in order to achieve and maintain a more sustainable and fairer economy.
However, it is not acceptable to let millions of decent, honest people who play an active and important role in society to live in uncertainty and fear of the immediate future.
I hope you all understand that we were invited to come here, and now suddenly we cannot simply go back to our country of birth. Our home, our friends, our jobs, our lives – all of these are here now. We would be destroyed. All of us simply desire to be accepted and treated in a fair manner.
I am aware of the reciprocal argument the government has on this, in that it does not want to weaken in advance its negotiating position with the European Union. However, since it is the UK that wants to leave the EU, would it not be a smart negotiating move to start with a massive goodwill gesture by giving us guarantees that we can keep our existing rights and legal status?
I believe that, by taking the high moral ground, this would give the UK a better negotiating position. In addition, on many occasions the government has told us and continues to tell us we are invaluable members of British society. However, if negotiations go badly or are not concluded in time, how can the risk of losing us be good for the UK or the British citizens in the EU?
The government keeps saying that it is the EU which is not willing to settle this. I believe that 25 out of the 27 countries have indicated that they would immediately reciprocate. However, while the UK is free to give us these guarantees here and now, EU countries cannot officially respond before Article 50 is triggered. This is an excellent opportunity for the UK to use its sovereign power to act independently by giving us those guarantees now.
Furthermore, guarantees to us as EU citizens who have made their home here are not just guarantees to us, but also to all British spouses, children, grandchildren and British extended families. I assure you that this is not in any way suggesting or implying disrespect with regard to the will of the British people. Many British friends have assured me that they do not want Brexit to mean that my family and I are put in an uncertain legal position for any period of time. The result of the referendum is clear - but our fate, and that of our British counterparts in the EU, was not a part of that referendum, and I am confident that all those people who voted will agree that we must not be treated in the same way as bananas, trade tariffs and fishing quotas etc.
In a simple majority referendum, people in Britain advised the British government that they wanted to leave the EU.
Now it is the responsibility of the sovereign powers here, the Houses of Parliament, to demonstrate leadership for this country and its citizens – here and in the EU – and for those EU residents who continue to contribute so much to it, in order to achieve the best possible outcome of the negotiations which are going to take place.