Everyone misses one thing. For some, it’s fairly particular: PG Suggestions, Branston pickle, correct curry. For a lot of, it’s extra intangible: the environment of an English pub; that greenness, in every single place; tolerance; and British openness.

Then they pause. Truly, many previously British-resident EU nationals say, what they miss is an concept. Or, to be exact, the concept of Britain they’d earlier than 24 June 2016: all of them bear in mind, in painful, pin-sharp element, how they felt, and what they did, the morning after.

Whereas it’s clear that EU immigration into the UK has declined sharply since 31 January last year, when Britain lastly left the bloc’s orbit and free motion got here to an finish, it’s laborious to say precisely what number of EU nationals have left because the Brexit referendum. The figures are complicated. The ONS says Brexit and the pandemic prompted greater than 200,000 EU nationals to go in 2020, leaving a complete of three.5 million within the UK – however the Dwelling Workplace says it has acquired 6m functions for settled standing. Jobs information suggests 9% fewer EU nationals were working in Britain final yr than in 2019. Immigration consultants, nonetheless, say the official information is inadequate, and nearly definitely underestimates the true variety of departures by a major margin.

Elena Remigi is a translator and interpreter who, after the shock of the referendum end result, arrange In Limbo, a Fb group for EU residents within the UK and Britons on the continent. She reckons greater than 20% of the 100-plus EU residents whose testimonies she revealed within the first of the venture’s two books in 2017 have now left Britain.

“Some went proper after the vote,” says Remigi, who has lived in Britain for 15 years. “Others waited for job gives. Extra left in 2020, within the transition interval, when British companions may nonetheless settle simply within the EU. The pandemic satisfied one other lot to go.”

However for all of the confusion across the precise numbers, few consultants doubt that the bitterness created by Brexit, mixed with longer-term considerations about turning into second-class residents, have prompted many to go. Early studies of unfair “hostile setting” therapy of legally resident EU residents have spurred the exodus: EU nationals arriving for job interviews have been locked up, and others legally resident in Britain have been detained.

When the Unbiased Monitoring Authority, which was arrange underneath the Brexit deal to guard the rights of EU residents settled within the UK, surveyed 3,000 EU nationals within the UK final summer time, it discovered one in three lacked belief within the authorities, and one in 10 had been planning to depart. Final month, the identical physique launched legal action against the Home Office, accusing it of breaching EU nationals’ fundamental rights.

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Many, in fact, have determined to remain, regardless. For individuals who determined to go, the choice was hardly ever straightforward. Usually, they’d been residing, working and citing households in Britain for many years. Some took British companions – usually with equally robust emotions about Brexit – with them. Others separated.

They’re nonetheless scarred. We settled, they are saying, contributed, constructed lives in Britain, felt it was our house – after which, with out us having any say, you all of the sudden modified the principles. The phrases they use to explain how they really feel are invariably the identical: forgotten, misplaced, deserted, unprotected, unwelcome, betrayed, belittled, unvoiced. Many had been requested once they would depart. Most believed that in future a point of discrimination – over jobs, housing, healthcare, financial institution accounts – was inevitable.

However returning to the EU has not all the time been straightforward. So sure, there are issues about Britain they miss. Although they’ve additionally misplaced their illusions of what Britain was. Essentially the most succinct abstract she has heard, says Remigi, goes like this: “Farewell, Britain. You had been as soon as good to me. And you then weren’t.”


‘I miss multiculturalism. Correct customer support, inexperienced bushes. Not the climate. Not the meals’: Maria Candela, Spain

Maria Candela in Barcelona
Maria Candela lived in Britain for 23 years, however moved to Barcelona after the Brexit vote: ‘The day I left was the saddest of my life.’ {Photograph}: Paola de Grenet/The Guardian

Candela thinks her expertise is a standard one. “Come to England, discover a job, meet somebody, get married, have kids,” she says. “Then get up one morning, see the results of the vote, and realise the whole lot has modified. Go away. There are numerous like me, aren’t there?”

She nonetheless believes Britain is a tolerant nation. “I all the time thought it,” she says. “Maybe it is a hiccup of historical past. Perhaps Britain has simply stepped again to maneuver ahead. What I do know is the day I left was the saddest of my life.”

Candela spent 23 years in Britain, coming first to review English, then working for a Japanese buying and selling firm. She married a Japanese man in insurance coverage, and raised two kids, now aged 15 and 20.

“We purchased a home in Orpington,” she says. “It was our house. The day we left, 4 August 2017, I cried so many tears. I really feel emotional speaking about it even now. I’ve stored {a photograph} of it, all emptied.”

Brexit was “such a shock. British folks all the time appeared so respectful of foreigners. And the vote introduced the whole lot out that was hidden. All this pleasure in being British, this dislike of different cultures, all within the open.”

The morning after, taking her daughter to highschool, she remembers different mother and father “trying on the ground. Individuals who knew me.” They appeared responsible, she remembers. “A remainer good friend got here spherical and introduced, ‘We love you.’ Very dramatic. A number of folks mentioned, ‘It’s not in opposition to you.’ I believed: nevertheless it’s in opposition to folks like me.”

What additionally modified, she says, is that she began “questioning about folks. Which approach they’d voted. I’d by no means thought that approach earlier than. Feedback you wouldn’t have considered twice, you began noticing.”

Simply over a yr after the vote, her then husband (they separated a number of months in the past) was provided a job in Spain, and took it. “He was over the moon,” she says. “The solar, the meals … He wasn’t very pleased in England.”

For Candela, there was “a reverse tradition shock”. She was “feeling unhappy that my nation isn’t able to doing that a lot better. The entire Catalan independence factor kicked off as we arrived – the identical points, a divisive referendum, over again. It wasn’t straightforward.”

Now she is working in Barcelona, for a startup. Though her kids are British nationals, her son simply instructed her: “Mum, wherever I am going, I’ll be a foreigner.” Her daughter is finding out at Goldsmiths, and pleased; she a minimum of feels at house. Candela misses “London’s multiculturalism. Correct customer support. Inexperienced bushes. Not the climate. Not the meals. And I wouldn’t return.”


‘At UK universities there was a wealthy change of concepts, this nice multicultural welcoming of overseas minds’: Andrea Mammone, Italy

Andrea Mammone in Rome
Tutorial Andrea Mammone has returned to Rome: ‘In Italy there’s a post-pandemic renaissance; London feels the alternative.’ {Photograph}: Antonio Faccilongo/The Guardian

“There are blended emotions, however no regrets,” says Mammone. Now a senior researcher in up to date historical past on the Sapienza College of Rome, for the previous 10 years he was at Royal Holloway, College of London.

An knowledgeable on the far proper, nationalism and European politics, Mammone, whose first expertise of Britain was an Erasmus yr in Tub in 1999, watched the Brexit course of unfold with an curiosity that was as a lot skilled as private. He acquired it half mistaken, half proper. “On the one hand, I believed the go away marketing campaign didn’t seem like it was profitable,” he says. “On the opposite, I used to be completely sure, taking a look at what the Conservatives had been saying, that if it did, it might be a catastrophe.”

There are many folks like Mammone in UK universities, “individuals who got here for this very open British system, this wealthy change of concepts, this nice multicultural welcoming of overseas minds”. Now, he says, “many are leaving. You see a distinction of method. It looks like sure subjects or themes have gotten nearly out of bounds. A sort of nationalism has come again. Add within the marketisation of upper schooling within the UK, and the schools will not be what they had been.”

Professionally, Mammone says, he may see this was “demagogy in motion. The Brexiters’ evaluation was so poor; it was clear they may by no means ship all they promised. We used to speak about British pragmatism, however leaving Europe truly brings Britain nearer to the populist politics of components of the continent.”

Personally, he feels “a kind of betrayal. Like a rejection of the European identification. It was a shock when it occurred, definitely. Politically, culturally, Britain confirmed a special face. It not thought-about me a citizen. I had no cause to remain – not household, not the climate, not the meals. It was not particular any extra.”

Mammone does miss London. “Or a minimum of, a nostalgic, romantic imaginative and prescient of London – dynamism and greenery. However I used to be again for a month this autumn and it’s modified. In Italy there’s a sort of post-pandemic renaissance underneath approach; London feels the alternative. Day by day I’m extra certain I made the suitable alternative.”


‘I miss my buddies, my outdated educating job. My husband actually misses an excellent curry’: Joke Qureshi, the Netherlands

Joke Qureshi and her husband, Ray, standing by a country road with a dog
When Joke Qureshi left her job as a particular academic wants trainer within the UK, her husband, Ray, moved along with her to Staphorst in The Netherlands. {Photograph}: Sanne De Wilde/The Guardian

After 19 years in Britain, Joke Qureshi has come to spell her identify because it’s pronounced in Dutch: Yoka. It’s additionally the identify of the brand new band she has fashioned along with her British husband, Ray, a yr after returning to the Netherlands.

“It hasn’t all been straightforward,” she says. “I felt like a foreigner in my very own nation: a lot was the identical, a lot utterly completely different. I didn’t know the way issues labored. We felt lonely at instances, usually misunderstood.”

She was dissatisfied, too, to find escaping Brexit didn’t imply escaping a few of what drove it. “All of the ‘our nation is full’ rhetoric, the concept that immigrants are taking folks’s jobs, that they’re the reason for the housing scarcity, solely after ‘our’ cash – that exists right here, too,” she says.

Qureshi landed in London in 2002, aged 29, from Amsterdam. She discovered a job in a pub, then as a recruiter, then in a journey company, and spent her weekends gigging. Ray, who drives vehicles for a day job, joined the band as a guitarist in 2011. She studied for a social coverage diploma from the Open College, volunteered with a youth offenders service, and ultimately turned a particular academic wants trainer, a job she liked.

In August 2016, weeks after the referendum, they moved to Kent. “There have been nonetheless go away posters in every single place,” she says. “Within the pub, folks would simply assume we agreed with them. I felt nervous, uncertain what to say. However after we went to see my mum within the Netherlands, the whole lot simply felt really easy. I felt like I belonged. Like I didn’t should fake. Ray liked it, too.”

After they lastly determined to maneuver, in June 2020, it was a scramble: Ray wanted to be resident within the Netherlands earlier than the tip of the transition interval or face a collection of problems, together with a Dutch language check. However the whole lot fell into place. Earlier than they left, Qureshi discovered a job in youth care; Ray began driving vehicles as quickly as they arrived. They discovered a house with a backyard and a workshop for Ray’s interest, guitar-making.

The pandemic hasn’t made life simpler, however they really feel on observe, Qureshi says. The band is on; a social life beckons. “I miss my buddies, I miss my outdated educating job, I miss the British blues scene, which was so heat,” she says. “I miss good Brits. Ray actually misses an excellent curry. However I’m pleased we left.”


‘I miss English pubs. I miss PG Suggestions. I miss talking English – I really like this language’: Laure Ollivier-Minns, France

Laure Ollivier-Minns
Laure Ollivier-Minns’ marriage fell aside after Brexit: ‘I fell out of affection with the nation after which my husband.’ {Photograph}: Simon Torlotin/The Guardian

English was Ollivier-Minns’ worst topic in school, which is why she got here to Britain in 1986, aged 19, to enhance it. “I actually thought I might spend the remainder of my life there,” she says. “I liked that nation. I embraced the tradition. It actually was house.”

In additional than three a long time within the UK, she labored as an au pair, an auxiliary nurse, a French trainer and, lastly, as a sculptor, residing first in London, then close to Nice Yarmouth, and – for twenty-four years – in a “huge home with a beautiful backyard” in Norwich. She married a Briton (“an excellent man”) and had two kids, now 24 and 27.

In September 2018 she moved again to a one-bed home close to Nantes, the place she grew up and has household and buddies. “I needed to go away,” she says. “The burden of Brexit turned so huge. The division, the apathy, the sense of betrayal. I couldn’t keep. It turned nearly bodily.”

Her final two years in Britain had been “suffocating, insufferable”. The architects of Brexit “stole my buddies”, she says – they felt uneasy in regards to the vote and stored their distance afterwards. Brexit additionally “robbed me of my lovely house: it not felt like house. They tarnished the British values we shared, and dirty me within the course of. They left me feeling unsafe.”

Ollivier-Minns didn’t belief the EU settlement scheme. “I may see the discrimination coming, that harmful ‘us v them’,” she says. “I needed to get out.”

Brexit additionally value her her marriage. “I fell out of affection with the nation, then I fell out of affection with my husband. So after greater than 30 years collectively, we divorced once I returned to France. It was immensely annoying.”

Rebuilding a brand new life in France after so lengthy away, wrestling with the paperwork and doing up a brand new house have proved “an enormous problem, but in addition a distraction”. She has rather a lot much less cash. “I ended November with €35 within the financial institution,” she says.

“I miss my kids most. They’re British; they don’t really feel within the least French. That’s the largest sacrifice, an enormous sacrifice. I miss English pubs. I miss PG Suggestions. I miss talking English – I really like this language. I used to be lacking it a lot I arrange an English dialog group right here.”

But she stays indignant. “I nonetheless care about Britain, however the deep feeling of betrayal received’t go away,” she says. “I’m disgusted by what occurred, by what’s nonetheless occurring. However I’m happier out of it. I needed to take care of myself. There’s no worth for freedom and safety.”


I miss my job, my pretty colleagues’: Susanne Aichbauer, Austria

Susanne Aichbauer, her British husband, Craig, and their daughter, Judith, at Weissensee, Drautal, Austria.
Susanne Aichbauer, her British husband, Craig, and their daughter, Judith, at Weissensee, Drautal, Austria. {Photograph}: Matjaz Krivic/The Guardian

Aichbauer headed again to her native Austria in October final yr, with a British associate and daughter in tow. “It was a aid,” she says. “I may have stayed, made essentially the most of it. However I’m so grateful Craig wished to depart too.”

An inveterate traveller, Aichbauer arrived within the UK in 2001, aged 28, in pursuit of an Irishman she fell for on a motorcycle tour of India. She settled in Brighton, working at a museum cafe to fund extra street journeys. She met Craig in 2009 and travelled round Asia with him for 14 months. Then she turned pregnant with Judith, and moved in with Craig’s mom within the Fens. Later they purchased a house of their very own close to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire.

“I educated as a child swimming trainer and being pregnant yoga teacher, and liked it,” she says. “Craig did warehouse shifts, then discovered work as a plumber. We had an entire life there. A cheerful life.”

The referendum was “devastating”. Craig’s entire household had voted go away. The pub not felt so pleasant. “I acquired a number of ‘When are you going house?’ feedback, and I simply thought, I don’t have to do that,” Aichbauer says.

“Craig was very sincere,” she says. “He simply mentioned he didn’t have the center.” However then Covid shut down her office, and in Could 2020 Aichbauer took Judith to Austria for six weeks. “We had the very best time ever,” she says. “We known as Craig day by day. Nevertheless it was an English good friend who satisfied him. He mentioned it was clear the place Britain was heading.” She received’t simply neglect the date. “The sixth of July. He known as, mentioned he’d spoken to the property agent, that the home was available on the market. From then on, issues went actually quick.” (They needed to transfer rapidly: as with the opposite British companions of EU nationals, Craig wanted to be in Austria earlier than the tip of the transition interval.)

They had been fortunate: Aichbauer’s huge outdated household house, now owned by her sister, was principally used for vacation lets, in order that they had been in a position to keep. Within the Alps, the place Austria, Italy and Slovenia meet, most jobs are seasonal, however Aichbauer has discovered everlasting work as an assistant to the native vet, and Craig is working as a plumber. Judith is loving faculty.

“I’ve no regrets,” Aichbauer says. “I miss my job, my pretty colleagues. Craig struggles a bit with the winter, the sheer weight of the snow. However you look the place Britain’s heading now and also you suppose, I wouldn’t have been true to myself if I’d stayed.”


‘I miss the openness, the tolerance – I miss my concept of Britain because it was, earlier than Brexit’: Eva Pavelková, the Czech Republic

Vet Eva Pavelková in Prague
Earlier than she moved again to Prague, vet Eva Pavelková ‘was a bit naive about Brexit’ and ‘didn’t suppose anybody could be so silly as to vote go away’. {Photograph}: Bjoern Steinz/The Guardian

Pavelková is again the place she started, in Prague, and there’s not rather a lot she misses in regards to the nation that was her house for 15 years. “I’m not an enormous tea-drinker,” she says. “I do miss the openness, the tolerance – a minimum of, I miss my concept of Britain because it was, earlier than Brexit.”

Pavelková left for the UK after graduating from vet faculty within the Czech Republic in 2006. She discovered work in Lancashire; it was laborious to start with. However after a spell travelling, she returned in 2010, settling in Cheshire, qualifying as a veterinary heart specialist in 2014, then working in an animal hospital in Manchester.

“I believe I used to be a bit naive about Brexit,” she says. “I didn’t suppose anybody could be so silly as to vote go away. However I began to fret because the referendum neared, and other people round me began saying they’d.”

The end result was, Pavelková says, “a life-changing occasion. It utterly threw me. I panicked in regards to the implications – for my job, my work, free motion. It was clear EU residents would by no means have the identical standing, that the nation wouldn’t be the identical.”

She overheard a nurse telling a colleague she had voted out “as a result of I don’t just like the immigrants”. A neighbour requested when she was leaving. A shopper who introduced his canine in was proudly sporting an “I voted go away” T-shirt.

“The entire environment was completely different,” Pavelková says. She utilized for everlasting residency within the UK – earlier than realising she didn’t qualify as a result of she had not had non-public medical health insurance whereas she was finding out.

Then, in 2018, she met her British husband, Stuart. “I’d calmed down a bit by then,” Pavelková says. “However neither of us felt our future was within the UK. Neither of us favored the place the nation was going. We determined to depart in January 2020, and we knew we’d should be passed by the tip of the yr.”

Pavelková utilized for British citizenship. She says: “I’m not pleased with having twin nationality; it was crucial simply to maintain the rights I already had.” However final December the couple moved to Prague. She has arrange her personal veterinary cardiology apply, and Stuart, an environmental officer within the UK, is working from house.

Pavelková has returned a number of instances since then for locum stints, however has blended emotions. “I do miss my colleagues; we’re a small, shut, very pleasant neighborhood,” she says. “I really like seeing my family and friends. However Britain has modified. Life is cheaper right here in Prague, and simpler. The standard of life’s higher. We’re happier.”



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