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The expats who don’t want to come home

After four years in Stockholm, Jason Knight was getting sick of the dark, subzero Nordic winters. He’d broken up with his girlfriend, desperately missed his family and was mulling a return home to the UK. But once Britain voted in June to leave the European Union, his mind was made up – he was staying in Sweden.

在斯德哥尔摩住了四年后,詹森·奈特(Jason Knight)已经受够了北欧那黑暗寒冷的冬天。不仅如此,他还跟女朋友分手了。所以,无比思念家人的他考虑返回英国的家乡。但当英国今年6月通过公投决定脱离欧盟后,他却下定了决心继续留在瑞典。

“I was gutted with the result and I had a strong feeling that living away and enjoying the current benefits of being an EU citizen was a real privilege that I should make the most of,” says the 37-year-old teaching assistant, who is originally from Brighton in southern England.


He felt that many people decided to leave Europe without actually experiencing life there. “That kind of attitude made me angry and less keen on going home, when I have a job and a good quality of life here in Sweden.”


Britain’s vote to leave the EU came as a shock to many in the UK and around the world, and some in the country quickly started looking for an exit strategy of their own. Visits to immigration websites in Canada and New Zealand soared after the vote – as they have in the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected US election win.

英国脱欧公投的结果令英国内外的很多人都感到震惊,有些身在国内的人开始寻找离开这个国家的办法。公投结果公布后,加拿大和新西兰移民网站的访问量飙升——这与唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)意外赢得美国总统大选后的情况如出一辙。

But UK expats, who already live abroad, are more concerned with what happens to their current immigration status. More than 1.2 million Britons are currently living in other EU countries and legal experts agree that it is very unlikely that they would be deported after Brexit. However, with the UK yet to formally trigger the process or negotiate the terms of its departure, it is currently unclear if these expats will forfeit their current automatic rights as EU citizens, which include the opportunity to work without a visa and enjoy the same access to healthcare as locals.


Knight is one of a growing number of Britons who are looking to bypass this uncertainty by applying for citizenship in their adopted countries. While not all member states have made their figures available, one recent study of 18 EU countries suggested a 250% increase in applications during the first eight months of 2016, compared with 2015 figures.


“None of us know what the future is going to hold, and it may be that I don’t actually need citizenship, but I am not willing to take the risk,” says Vicky Hampton, 36, a British food writer who is applying for Dutch citizenship after spending 11 years in Amsterdam.

“没有人知道未来会是什么样子,我或许不需要公民身份,但我不愿冒险。”英国美食作家维姬·汉普顿(Vicky Hampton)说,36岁的她已经在阿姆斯特丹居住了11年,目前正在申请荷兰公民身份。

Dubbed “the Brexit Bride” by her friends, she and her American boyfriend have even decided to get married in the wake of the referendum, to make sure they are both eligible to live in the Netherlands after Brexit and return to Amsterdam if they decided to try working in the US for a while.


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“As a feminist, I'd never really intended to get married as I have issues with a lot of the patriarchal traditions surrounding it. Now marriage seems like a sensible, if antiquated, solution. Plus, obviously we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't love each other!” Hampton says.


But what happens if you haven’t lived abroad for long enough to meet the criteria to apply for citizenship in another country? What if you plan on returning to the UK in the medium term? Or what if you can’t ever imagine going back to Britain, but want to remain “British” on paper?


Looming uncertainty


These kind of questions about the potential implications of Brexit on Brits abroad are fielded daily by expat bloggers such as Catharine Higginson, who runs the website survivefrance.com from her home near Biarritz in southwestern France.

专门撰写海外侨民问题的博主凯瑟琳·辛集森(Catharine Higginson)拥有自己的网站survivefrance.com,她每天都会碰到关于英国脱欧对英国侨民的潜在影响的问题。辛集森目前居住在法国西南部的比亚里茨。

“There is huge anxiety about Brexit in the expat community, nobody knows when and how it will happen and that’s making people nervous,” says Higginson.


She reflects that the drop in the pound against the euro in the wake of the referendum is already affecting UK expats who are paid their salaries or pensions in sterling.


“For people on a tight budget it has made things 10 times worse. Many already feel stuck because they’ve bought their houses in parts of France where the French don’t want to live and work in, so they can’t sell them and move home. I know of people who can’t afford to heat their bedrooms this winter.”


In Spain, the most popular destination for British expats, Richard Parnell, 45, recently launched a new Brexpats Spanish nationality course. Running from his existing language school in the Costa del Sol, it is designed to equip students with the language skills and cultural knowledge required to pass Spain’s citizenship test by the time the UK leaves the European Union.

在西班牙这个最受英国侨民欢迎的目的地,45岁的理查德·帕内尔(Richard Panell)最近针对英国侨民举办了新的西班牙入籍课程。这些课程都在他经营的位于Costa del Sol的语言学校内进行,目的是帮助学员掌握必要的语言技巧和文化知识,以便在英国正式脱离欧盟时通过西班牙入籍考试。

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He says many who have signed up for lessons are pensioners who worry about losing their right to access free state healthcare as EU citizens.


“It’s especially frustrating for a lot of people who’ve lived in Spain for more than 15 years and didn’t even have the chance to vote in the referendum” he says, referring to rules which prevented expats not registered at a UK address in the last 15 years from having a say in the vote.


Both sides of the argument


While 52% of UK voters backed Brexit, Leave supporters are less popular within the British expat community. Nadia Cann, who lives in Portugal’s Algarve region, is among those who voted for Brexit.

虽然有52%的英国选民支持脱欧,但支持这一决定的英国侨民群体比例却很低。目前居住在葡萄牙阿尔加维的纳蒂亚·坎恩(Nadia Cann)就是英国脱欧的支持者之一。

“I feel sorry for people who’ve lost out financially, but nothing is ever definite in life, you could plan anything and things unfortunately happen that get in the way,” says the 40-year-old. She hopes to retain all of her current rights, especially as her young daughter has Portuguese citizenship.


Cann believes that trade will be stronger “and we can get better deals with places like China that are not part of the European Union.”


Emma Butler, a CEO based in Indonesia, disagrees. “I personally don't see the UK being able to negotiate better trade deals with Asian countries as we would be a smaller economy after Brexit,” argues the 37-year-old, originally from Glasgow.

艾玛·巴特勒(Emma Butler)是印度尼西亚的一名CEO,她对此持不同意见。“我个人并不认为英国可以与亚洲国家洽谈更好的贸易协议,因为他们退出欧盟后,将成为一个规模更小的经济体。”37岁的巴特勒的家乡是格拉斯哥。

Butler was planning to return to Britain with her husband when their son started primary school, but Brexit has caused the couple to reconsider their future.


“We’re concerned about the economic uncertainty of the UK economy, finding jobs if we wanted to live outside London and the right to live and work elsewhere in the EU in future. So we are looking to stay, even if that means spending a lot of money educating our child privately here instead.”


Fear of hate crimes


Other expats have expressed concerns about returning to Britain with their foreign spouses, following reports of a 60% rise in reported hate crimes in the wake of the referendum.


“I am discouraged at the narrow-minded place Britain seems to be becoming,” says one woman, who works for a charity in Bucharest and wants to remain anonymous to protect her employer.


“I am worried if my partner will be attacked for having the nerve to be Romanian in public. Perhaps I am being too pessimistic but I honestly cannot see things getting better quickly.”


Back in the Algarve, Brexit supporter Cann argues that while she “feels sorry about the attacks”, she favours limiting migration to the UK, despite having benefited from freedom of movement as an EU citizen herself.


“Immigration is a huge factor for me even though I moved into someone else’s country,” she says, adding that she would like the UK to introduce an Australian-style points system to “make sure all immigrants are skilled”.


At the same time, she remains highly optimistic about the rights of British expats after Brexit.


“Everyone needs to calm down... ride it out and see what happens.”




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