Review of IN LIMBO: Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK

IN LIMBO: Brexit testimonies from EU citizens in the UK collected and edited by E Remigi, V. Martin & T. Sykes. 2017; foreword by George Szirtes
ISBN-10: 1548026085 ISBN-13: 978-1548026080 (not-for-profit project)

Review by Pamela Stevens

The 2016 Referendum on leaving the EU called by the then Tory Prime Minister David Cameron unleashed a series of events which continues to divide UK society. The Tory strategy to placate its hard right supporters led to a maelstrom of negativity toward those who were seen as “other”. Not only did the Leave result exacerbate the existing malicious view that austerity was the fault of migrant workers, benefit recipients and foreign nationals but it gave the green flag to normalising a rejection of anyone who was different.

Where there had been friendship and acceptance, tolerance and appreciation now the poisonous drip of xenophobia bled through into many communities via the resurgence of an emboldened far right, aided by the right wing bias of much of the media.

Caught in the fall out of Cameron’s referendum are the EU citizens who have made their homes here, lived, contributed their skills and affection, raised families and called the UK home. What next for them? What would be the long term implications for them if and when Brexit happens?

Elena Remigi et al have gathered testimonies from EU citizens in the UK whose stories illuminate the stress and anxiety wrought by the spectre of Brexit. In these personal accounts we hear from a sample of the three million UK residents who, under the free movement of EU citizens between member states, have been coping with an increasingly hostile environment in the UK. They are true experiences and each testimony shocks and saddens in its own unique way. These are people who have contributed so much to a UK which they have felt allegiance to on so many levels but now are being pitched headlong into nightmare dilemmas the rest of us need to know about. This from a French doctor:

“I am told by the government I may not belong here anymore after Brexit, and I am called a bloody foreigner who should go back to where she came from by xenophobes empowered by your anti-immigration stance…our very own identity is being challenged, our future, our life.”

And this from a German woman who has lived in the UK for many years:

“Suddenly I am a foreigner, and have no right to have an opinion on Brexit, even though I’d be one of the people it’d affect the most. To me the EU is all about trying to work together and trying to get along too. I don’t know where this hatred of the EU comes from…..Brexit has brought out the worst in so many people.”

IN LIMBO is a book which aims to inform but also help us to fight the discrimination and prejudice levelled at members of our society who, like us, are also EU citizens.

As the editors say, the powerful thread running through all the testimonies is the question of identity and belonging: who am I and where is my home?

A must-read for the insights the testimonies give to what Brexit is doing to ordinary people in the turmoil of rejection within the communities they call home. How spiteful and inward looking are those who would tear apart people’s lives like this. Shameful.

The copy which I have is inscribed thus:

“For R. from L….Despite pain and suffering and anger we will make this work….”

I hope they did.

By Pamela Stevens of Wales Left Unity

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