I’m sending you this message because I care about you, because I care about this country, and I think you care about me and the people I care about, too.
The general election is happening on 12th December.
My message is simple:
EU citizens I care about can’t vote in this election, but we can.
So much will change if the UK leaves the European Union. In the legal upheaval that will follow, we will see many changes to areas as diverse as trade and customs, worker rights, healthcare services, immigration, and free movement.
The EU citizens I care about will lose many of the protections currently assured by the UK’s membership of the EU – despite promises from both sides in the lead up to the referendum in 2016.
Free movement benefits British and EU citizens alike.
There are already 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and 2 million British citizens living in Europe. They exercised their free movement rights to the fullest extent possible – by building a life in a different European country. This right is also exercised by many Brits and Europeans every day, as they travel across borders to work, study, visit and care for relatives, and simply go on holiday.
Upon exiting the European Union, the rights of EU citizens living in the UK can be changed under secondary legislation at any time. They already stand to lose existing rights as diverse as the right to work self-employed and the right to leave for more than 2 years, for example if temporarily moving abroad to look after sick relatives.
The Withdrawal Agreement only covers the Settled Status scheme, a scheme so flawed it’s been criticised by human rights and data privacy groups alike. For example, many have only been granted temporary leave to remain despite being eligible for more, while others have had difficulties applying due to changing their name upon marriage or only owning an iPhone (!). They’ve been unable to find out why applications have been denied, and still have no idea with whom their extremely personal data can be and is being shared.
Settled status? More like unsettled status.
Without adequate efforts to protect their rights, EU citizens face terrible uncertainty going forward, despite us being in every way settled here in the UK. They are people with jobs, students, parents, partners, co-workers, neighbours, and friends. They are a vital part of British communities they have lived in for years, and in many cases, decades.
EU citizens have no voice in this election, but we do.
Please register here: gov.uk/register-to-vote
You have until midnight on 26th November to do so, and 5pm for a postal vote.
Then all you need to do is to get out and vote on 12th December.
I can’t and won’t tell you how to vote. But I will ask that you think of this plea, our EU friends, and the importance of exercising your right to vote when so many people who will be drastically affected by the actions of the next Parliament have no voice at all.
PS: If you were especially moved by this message, you can also ask your local candidates to sign the3million’s pledge to support the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK after Brexit: https://www.the3million.org.uk/thepledge. Thank you.Photo by Alex Iby
Forward Democracy is a non-partisan organisation. We have published this letter by a collection of anonymous authors to allow them to exercise their freedom of expression and contribute to democratic debate.