A lot has happened in UK politics and society since my post on the eve of the Brexit referendum result. I suppose many Britons may be wondering how millions of EU citizens who made the UK their home are feeling right now (a subject the media have barely grazed). This is my small attempt at conveying it in a way that, I hope, most Britons will be able to understand.
Imagine being an Englishman who has lived in Edinburgh for the past 20 years. Your kids grew up there so they feel Scottish and speak with Scottish accents. You are a fully-integrated member of your community, though of course you still feel English. But that’s all right because you also feel British and Scotland is part of Great Britain – so you have every right to be where you are and lead the life that you do.
Now imagine that the the Scottish government decide to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. So far, so plausible. But let me ask you to imagine one more thing – perhaps not so plausible. Imagine the Scottish government decide that, this time round, the English men and women who, like you, live in Scotland, will not be allowed to vote. Moreover, to your shock and horror, the UK government accept that.
Now suppose that the whole referendum campaign revolves around whether Scotland should allow so many English people to settle there. There are two sides of the debate: some who say that the influx of English people into Scotland is intolerable (completely ignoring the scots who go the other way); the others, far from defending your positive contributions, grant that having too many English people around is a bad thing, but argue that it is a price worth paying in exchange for free trade with the rest of the UK and other benefits of being in a Union with England.
Pretty bad, eh? But that’s nothing. Suppose now that the pro-independence camp win. Moreover, when asked whether English people like you, who are long-term members of Scottish society and have Scottish children, will be allowed to remain they answer that they cannot rule one way or the other, because they intend to use you as “bargaining chips”.
Have you managed to imagine such implausible sequence of events? Then you now know exactly how millions of citizens of other European countries who chose to make the UK our home feel.
I still do not regret the choices I made. But the fear that I will is there, breathing over my shoulder, every day.