Today, events have been taking place around the UK for #1DayWithoutUs. It is being held to celebrate the contribution that UK migrants make to the UK. The event coincides with the House of Lords meeting today to debate the Article 50 Bill, where Peers will also consider the rights of three million EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.
According to the New Economics Foundation, the UK economy would take a £328m hit and daily GDP would fall by 4% if all non-British citizens if all migrant workers stayed at home for a day. But this isn’t just about finances, it’s also about families, friendships… and even food.
Family and Friends – what would we do without them?
EU citizens such as my friend Frederika Roberts, have been busily tweeting under the hashtags #BargainingChip and #RighttoStay. A businesswoman and mother of two tri-national, university-aged daughters, Frederika is Italian and German, grew up in Luxembourg has lived in the UK for over 25 years.
She says “I have lived here since 1990 and have built my entire adult life here. Even assuming I can stay after Brexit under whatever new rules will be in place, the system doesn’t seem able to cope with the required paperwork. It could grind to a halt with 3+ million people needing to get documents.
Without those documents, we could end up in limbo for years, effectively trapped in the UK for fear of being denied re-entry after holidays or business trips. And we could end up living here without access to the NHS.”
The last point is especially poignant. Both of Frederika’s daughters were born with congenital heart disease. Her eldest had open heart surgery at four years old and aged 12 had an out of hospital cardiac arrest. Her youngest was born with a rare heart disease; pulmonary atresia. Frederika was advised to terminate the pregnancy but chose not to. At just ten days old, their baby stopped breathing and her heart stopped. Amazingly, both girls made complete recoveries, and her eldest has recently started university.
Frederika and her family have been present at today’s Leeds rally and have been sharing their experiences via Social Media. Most appear to be positive, yet in one social media post, her elder daughter wrote: Handing out leaflets for today and just got reminded why I’m doing this. I gave a guy a leaflet, he went away, read it, came back shaking his head and said: “Sorry love, I don’t agree with it.”
Migrants & Freedom to Travel
EU migrants have contributed to healthcare, business, education and other sectors. As a daughter of immigrants with British citizenship, I see the value of broadening horizons. Having studied and worked in the EU (Germany) myself, I often remind others that we are equally as free to migrate to other EU countries for our own personal or professional reasons.
Here in the UK, I’ve worked in international teams and have built close friendships with people who are now worried about their future right to stay and what that means for their partners or children.
I and others that have lived in the EU have experienced goodwill towards British residents in the EU. The attitude in mainland Europe seems to be that migrants are simply citizens exercising their EU citizenship rights. I hope that our leaders will recognise the value of EU citizens too.