The Brexit effect – What it means to be French in England now

We ended our membership of the EU with more of a whimper than a bang in the end and the whole event was overshadowed by the pandemic . It will be a while before we’ve worked out the effects, but for some residents of Chiswick, coming to terms with the changes is a more urgent task than it is for others.

EU nationals living here have until 30 June to register on-line for ‘Settled Status’. Refusal to apply would put them at risk of forcible removal, but Sophie Atkinson, a French woman who married an Englishman and has been here for more than 50 years, has yet to register. She can’t quite bring herself to do it, because she says, she is so upset at being made to feel ‘like a criminal’.

By Sophie Atkinson

My name is Sophie Atkinson. I am French and I have lived in the UK, in fact mostly in Chiswick, without interruption since September 1968.

From 1968 to 1974, I was an “Alien” and had to go to Holborn every year to renew my green card.

Then in 1974, all at once, I got married to a British Citizen, the UK joined the EEC and I after five years of living in England, I was free of the yearly ordeal in Holborn.

I loved England, I loved the British, I worked, I had children, I paid taxes and I adopted the British customs as my own. I did not feel the need to apply for a British Passport because I was European and my French passport allowed me the same freedom across the world as the British one.

I am distraught about Brexit. For quite a while, I could not even talk about it without bursting into tears. I am angry that Europeans and British citizens living in Europe were not allow to vote in the referendum.

I am offended that I have to register to have the same rights as I already had. I am punished for being ‘a foreigner’ yet, I have lived in this country for more than 50 years, paying taxes, bringing up my children as British citizens. I have never been in trouble with the law. I worked for charities.

I still have not registered because every time I think of it, I want to scream at the unfairness and stupidity of it. When I tell my English friends how I feel, they are not aware of it and when I explain, they say “Well why don’t you do it then, I shall help you.”

My European friends all know what it feels and however different we are, we all feel betrayed and upset and angry.

Some people suggested that I apply for a British passport. I now would not want one now even if it was offered for nothing.

My life is here in England, my friends, my partner, my children and yet unless I ‘register’ like a criminal, I will go back to being an alien. I am sad because a lot of British people are also going to be penalised for the lies and the stupidity of a handful of politicians.

Read more stores on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Dog or husband? Brexit quandries

See also: The Three Old Hacks podcast – Britain and Europe, where did it all go wrong?

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