Brexit is complicated, controversial, and confusing.
I almost can’t believe that I have been living in the UK for the entirety of Brexit. Perhaps you’ve heard of Brexit but have no idea what it’s all about. I’ll try to give as simple a rundown of the past, present, and future for you.
(Very, Very) Brief Overview of the EU and Brexit
The UK joined the European Union (EU) in 1973 – then known as the European Economic Community (EEC) – and over the years, people became unhappy with the UK’s involvement in the EU and a lot of pressure was then put on the government to hold a referendum.
On 23 June 2016, there was a UK-wide referendum posing the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” Of those that voted, 51.89% voted to leave and 48.11% voted to remain.
Funnily enough, as a Commonwealth citizen, I was allowed to vote, and Arek wasn’t. Despite the fact that Arek had lived in the UK at the time for almost 7 years and I’d been here for about 9 months. Go figure!
Since the results of the referendum, David Cameron stepped down as Prime Minister and Theresa May got shoved into the spot, and it’s been mayhem ever since. The government has been trying to piece together a deal with the EU that certainly will not please everyone, and so far, it’s not really going anywhere.
The UK was set to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, with or without a deal, but Theresa May has since asked the EU for an extension, to which the EU has agreed. If MPs approve the withdrawal deal this week, then the delay will be until 22 May. If not, then the delay will be until 12 April, and we could still possibly leave without a deal.
What This Means for Us
The fact of the matter is, Brexit matters for everyone, whether they realise it or not. British citizens won’t be able to freely move to EU countries anymore, food prices may go up, and cheap flights may cease to exist, just to name a few things. However, I won’t go into any of these topics in detail as I don’t believe it makes sense to speculate on what may or may not happen. Instead, I’ll focus more on the immigration and border control side of things as that is the most crucial element for us.
Because Arek is an EU citizen, Brexit affects us in a more direct, “worrisome” way. However, our lives will not drastically change due to Brexit, at least in regards to our right to stay in the UK. We were told by our immigration lawyer that we have absolutely nothing to worry about as we do and will continue to have legal rights to stay here.
With that said though, it does not mean that we necessarily trust the government. In August 2017, the Home Office sent around 100 letters to EU citizens living in the UK notifying them that they had to leave. The Home Office said that these letters were sent “in error”. Now, after seeing news like that, would you trust the government? We didn’t.
Because of freedom of movement, UK citizens can freely move to any EU country and vice versa. This also means that people who move between countries generally don’t require any proof of their status in that country. There is a Document Certifying Permanent Residence that EU citizens living in the UK can obtain after having lived here for 5 years, but it’s not legally required. However, with that letter-sending scandal mentioned above, we knew that Arek should get his document as soon as possible.
As for me, I hold a UK Residence Card as a family member of an EU citizen, which is basically a spousal visa based on EU laws (as opposed to UK laws). So when we come back into the UK after a holiday, I don’t have to fill out a landing card because when crossing the border, the UK now sees me as an EU citizen (as opposed to a Canadian citizen).
So Get On With It, What Does This Mean?
After Brexit, there will be a period of transition (regardless of deal or no deal) where all EU citizens and their family members will be required to apply for either settled or pre-settled status as a way to track everyone. Settled status is for those who have lived in the UK for at least 5 years, and pre-settled status is for those who haven’t quite reached settled status yet.
Initially, this new scheme was to be charged at £65 per person, but Theresa May has since scrapped this charge and it is now free for everyone.
For Arek, he should be able to easily switch his Document Certifying Permanent Residence to settled status. For me, it should also be quite straightforward as I have an existing UK Residence Card. The Home Office has stated though, that in our cases, we would not receive any physical documents confirming our statuses. Instead, everything will be held electronically on the Home Office systems. According to them, this is because “these [paper] documents can be open to fraud, or be lost or stolen.”
We certainly hope the Home Office’s systems are mega secure, because I’m quite sure that electronic systems can be hacked, and therefore open to fraud, or be lost or stolen! When we eventually switch our statuses over, we plan to print out our proof and bring it with us when travelling lest something goes awry!
Without getting too political or opinionated, I think we’ll leave what Brexit means for us at that. Like I said, I don’t believe it makes sense to speculate on what may or may not happen after Brexit. After all, what is meant to happen will happen when the time is right.
Do you have any thoughts about Brexit? How might it affect your life with the information currently available? Let us know in the comments!