I am Dutch. I met my husband Adrian in 1990 in Amsterdam where we were doing a Christian training school for 6 months. We got together early on and I decided to come to England with Adrian.
The first time I arrived in the UK was by ferry to this pier on the Isle of Sheppey. We didn’t know then that we would end up living on this island for 25 years! It was a night boat and I couldn’t sleep because I was excited to see Adrian, that was overriding the nervous feeling. I remember looking out of the window and seeing the pier, it was all new.
In the same year we got married, and we decided to stay in the UK as it was easier for Adrian to get work here. I did a few little jobs and then we had our first child in 1992 and the second in 1994 and we decided that I would stay at home with the kids and Adrian would work.
I always felt very welcome here and had no reason to change my nationality. I have found it very hard not being able to vote in this country, especially in the referendum but I didn’t want to loose my Dutch nationality.
Everything was fine until the referendum. I was completely shocked when I woke up and heard the UK had voted out. It felt like a physical blow. I couldn't believe it. I thought I would be ok as I am married to a Brit, but then I discovered that as a self-sufficient person I should have had comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI) to qualify for permanent residency. This was the first wake up call for me as I did not have CSI, I had never heard of it until January, it was completely new.
Now I cannot apply for permanent residency or citizenship, and I am not going to get the insurance now. We can’t afford it and it discriminates against women who stay at home. I have contributed to society, it may have been in a more old fashioned way but I don’t want to have to justify myself just to have the right to stay here.
I don’t want to move, I have nothing to go back to in Holland, I have been away for almost half my life. Home is here. But I don’t want to stay here where you are treated differently from Brits because that has never been the case, I have always been equal to everybody else.
I try not to worry about my status but it’s there, every day you are thinking about it. Held hostage by these politicians, and they don't know us. I think the worst thing is that they are willing to use us as bargaining chips as if we are some business deal. The disregard for people's lives is what I am angry about and what I am frightened of.
In 1966 I got married to someone who was in the British Army and then in 1967 we came here to Britain where we had our son, and I have never left. Eventually, I got married again, but not until 1990.
I have always worked here, apart from about 4 years when my son was little. I worked in the NHS which was good going because they had a creche where my son could be looked after until he went to school and I could work on the premises so that was good.
The last 10 years of my working life I worked for the Notting Hill housing trust which was fantastic, a really nice job. Everyone was very enthusiastic, you really felt like you were doing something positive for people to get accommodation. There were lots of reorganisations and it became extremely stressful, much more work with ever less people. In the end I wanted to paint full time and after ten years I decided to give up working for Notting Hill Housing Trust.
I had already started to do art courses but then I did a degree at Chelsea. It was a total change, it opened up a whole new life for me, it was very nice. Maybe when I was younger and my son was very little I would have liked to go back to Holland but I couldn’t, his father was here and had the right to see him so it was never really a possibility then. Then my son got bigger and I had built up a good life here, I had no wish to go back to the Netherlands. I am Dutch, it is my identity really but I do identify culturally, politically, socially, far more with Britain because 50 years is not nothing is it?
I have always found it hard not to vote here in the general elections. And with this referendum the fact that we were unable to vote, I found it so unacceptable. So I am reluctant but I think I will go for citizenship. For me voting is very important, especially in my later years. I couldn’t put my money where my mouth is. It’s not right. I feel strongly about that.
The referendum has affected me very much, I am totally shocked. All the things that the EU made possible for people in Europe, the fact that we have lived in peace for so long, for all that to be forgotten because of short term specific interests that are mostly to do with economics, not people.
I have had sleepless nights worrying about my status. It’s strange that you have to question all these things now.
Tibor came to the the UK from Slovakia in 2002 to study English. He worked in restaurants to improve his language skills and it was here that he met his wife Clotilde. Slovakia was not part of the EU at this time, and when it joined in 2004 work opportunities for Tibor opened up and he was finally able to follow his trained profession and started working for various fashion labels and suppliers from 2005.
Clotilde moved to the UK from France in 2000. She had studied catering and wanted to gain experience working in another country. She only planned to stay for a year but enjoyed the life in London, meeting people from all over the world, and after getting together with Tibor it became more logical for them to settle in London. They grew to love the cosmopolitan city and the opportunities it offered and felt it was more open minded than either of their native countries.
Tibor and Clotilde have two children and chose to register them as British citizens. Having grown up in a communist country, Tibor believed that one of the greatest things he could give his children was a British passport. He was proud that his children were born into a society that symbolised freedom, democracy and tolerance.
Clotilde explains that since the referendum their families identity has changed. ‘We were all European, and now we are not. I feel like I have lost that connection as a family and that makes me really sad and angry because we didn't get the choice to decide.’
The referendum has had a huge impact on the family. Clotilde remembers being in tears as she took her daughter to school. ‘I said to the kids, today is a very important day, it’s the day you lose your European status, some people made a very bad decision.’ She has also become more aware of speaking French to her children in public.
As a couple they feel betrayed by the country they had learnt to love more than their own. The option of moving back to France or Slovakia has been discussed, but the language and cultural differences would be very testing for them as a family.
Reluctant to be forced to apply for British citizenship, and restricted by the high cost, Tibor and Clotilde hope that their rights will be guaranteed before article 50 is triggered and that their life will not need to change. This reassurance would stop their daily concerns but it will take a while for them to recover from the uncertainty the referendum has brought them.
Joe and Eva met a year ago through mutual friends and connected immediately. They now have a 2-month-old baby boy and live together in Norwich with their 4 other children from previous relationships.
Eva first came to the UK from Portugal in 2008 to start a new life with her two kids and explore the opportunities that the UK had to offer. Her children were aged 3 and 4 when they arrived and went straight to school on their second day in the UK without knowing a word of English. “It was even more difficult for me than it was for them” Eva confesses, but they soon settled in and now feel more like British kids.
Established here for 9 years, the UK has become their home and Eva has no intention of moving back to Portugal, and since meeting her British partner Joe, they have made new ties to the UK with their baby and Joe’s two kids.
The result of the referendum shocked Joe and Eva and they are now concerned about the implications it will have on their family's future. Eva explains that ‘there were no immediate consequences, but the uncertainty brings instability to your life’.
Although she qualifies, Eva has chosen not to apply for permanent residency until the application process improves. Her and Joe will be giving their baby dual citizenship and they hope to get Eva’s kids British citizenship too. Their young children are aware of Brexit, and Joe and Eva don’t want them to feel like there is any instability in their life.
Eva and Joe feel optimistic about their future. ‘You have to keep a bit of faith in humanity really,’ Eva chuckles. But they get frustrated by other people's ignorance and apathy towards their situation, and Eva feels like she can’t talk openly about how Brexit is affecting them as a family.