Today is our last day as Europeans.
I enjoyed being European. I took full advantage of the rights it gave me, particularly the right to travel and work abroad.
All those immigrants that we’re apparently overrun with? I was one of them, in the Republic of Ireland, from 3rd January 2007 to 16th December 2010.
I had the right to just decide to move to Ireland, the same way as I could just decide to move to Hull or to Sheffield.
All I had to do was buy a ferry ticket. I’d already got myself signed up for a training course (filled in the forms, ticked the box that asked if I had the right to live and work in Ireland, popped over on a Ryanair flight for the interview) – and after I’d passed the course I walked into a job, which I had every right to do.
Of course there was a bit of paperwork – I needed the Irish equivalent of a National Insurance number. That meant going to the local council offices with my passport (which was all I needed to prove that I had the right to work there) and they gave me my PPS number. I wasn’t the only person applying. Mostly it was people from Eastern Europe, who of course also had the right to work there. They still do. We don’t.
Renting a place was easy – you just had to confirm that you had the right to live and work there, and pay the deposit. After four months you officially become an Irish resident – we were Irish residents but British citizens.
We were allowed to vote – not just allowed, but actively encouraged. When the local MP came round canvassing, he produced the forms we needed from the folder he was carrying, there and then.
It’s farewell to all that. Those rights have now been taken away from me, and you, and our children.
I will not be celebrating New Year tonight.
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