It took nine months but Britain has finally delivered Brexit.
Britain’s EU ambassador Tim Barrow (L) hands PM Theresa May’s notice of UK’s intention to leave the bloc to EU President Donald Tusk #Brexit pic.twitter.com/gjrK4nZbbM— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 29, 2017
One of the biggest hurdles up next: what do about the free movement of EU citizens, a cherished principle of the European project.
After 40 years Britain and the EU have become perhaps inextricably intertwined: there are now 3 million EU citizens living in Britain and 1.3 million Britons in the EU.
Many of those millions are now worried about their immigration status after Britain formally leaves the EU in two years’ time. Will they be allowed to keep their jobs and will they be allowed to live where they are now?
Around hundred thousand Brits are living in Germany, such as Dale Carr who runs the Broken English shop in Berlin. “I would feel much happier if we get that citizenship through because there I sort of feel my rights as an EU citizen,” she said.
Elizabeth Wood and her partner moved to Berlin 8 years ago with their daughters. She’s now preparing to pass her Citizenship Examination so that she can be granted German nationality in April, although there is a waiting list of three months.
“I have decided to do what I used to do for school exams and I have written out all 301 – well I am half way through – questions of the German constitution that you need to pass a certain percentage of. So I am just trying to learn them off by heart,” she said.
She’ll also have to pass a German test, demonstrate that she is not dependent on social benefits and do other paperwork to secure a German passport and so stay inside the European Union.
German teacher Dieter Volker has lived in the UK for 28 years and he has a British girlfriend and children. Now he will have to undergo a similar process if he wants to remain in the UK.
“Suddenly you are being told ‘Well, actually you are now a second class citizen’,” he said.
And Spanish national Monica Obiols has lived in the United Kingdom since 1989 and she is married to a Dutchman. Brexit, sher fears is a legal labyrinth from which her family may never successfully navigate.
“The form is a complete nightmare, it was very complicated and I eventually got it but unfortunately I didn’t give enough information about the children and so their indefinite leave to remain has been rejected,” she said.
It’s clear that Britain itself still remains very divided over Brexit, as the narrow 52 – 48 result in the referendum proved.
And until the divorce settlement is finalized there’s going to be a lot of very unwelcome uncertainty.