Living in Limbo-land

My British passport which still currently declares me to be an EU citizen © Ricky Yates

My British passport which still currently declares me to be an EU citizen © Ricky Yates

Just over two weeks ago, the UK voted by a small majority, in a non-binding referendum, to leave the European Union (EU). This result has left me, and around two million other UK citizens residing in other EU member states, living in Limbo-land, totally unsure about our future.

I have lived and worked in the Czech Republic since September 2008, on the basis of being a citizen of another EU member state. The free movement of people and labour is one of the founding principles of the EU. And as I wrote in a post earlier this year, it is my intention to retire in 2017 and live somewhere else within the EU, most likely in Spain. Now, because of the referendum, my future plans maybe completely scuppered.

There are two big questions to which I need answers. Firstly, will I as a British Citizen, be able to continue living within the EU, once the UK has made its Brexit? Secondly, what will happen to my UK state pension after Brexit? Let me explain more about each of these in turn.

The migration of many citizens from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into the UK, and the perceived strain this has put on health, education and social services, was one of the major complaints of those arguing for people to vote ‘leave’. This despite the fact that most of these ‘immigrants’ are in employment, paying tax and national insurance, and frequently doing the jobs that British people don’t want to do. This news item that I read this morning, illustrates precisely the point I’m making.

If, as part of the UK leaving the EU, the ability of EU citizens to live and work in the UK is curtailed, the governments of the other 27 EU member states will not look kindly upon us Brits living in their countries. I would like to use the lump sum from my Church pension scheme, to purchase a small home in which to spend my retirement. But what do I then do if I’m told I cannot live their because I’m no longer an EU national?

I may have to seriously consider changing my nationality. I am given to understand, though have not yet thoroughly checked it out, that I could apply to be Czech as I’ve lived here for more than five years, and being over sixty, would not be required to pass a language test. The other alternative would be to become German because of being married to one. Sybille and I have been married to each other for nearly eleven years. Apparently, I could become German after being married to her for just three years. However, those three years of married life together, need to have been spent living in Germany 🙁 Ours have been spent in the UK and then in the Czech Republic.

Before leaving the UK in 2008, I had just completed paying sufficient National Insurance contributions to be entitled to receive the minimum UK state pension upon retirement. Since beginning work in the Czech Republic, I and the Church as my employer, have been making Czech social security payments, which means I will in due course, receive a small additional pension from the Czech state.

Under current EU regulations, those two state pensions would be combined and paid to me wherever I would be living within the EU in retirement. More importantly, that pension would be regularly uprated each year. But if Brexit happens, there is every likelihood that the UK part would be frozen and not increased in future years.

Unfortunately, nobody can provide answers to my two big questions, nor can they tell me when I might reasonably expect to receive answers. All those responsible for this mess are busy resigning. Messrs Cameron, Johnson and Farage have rightly been described as ‘rats abandoning the sinking ship’. They only concern they seem to have is for themselves. Meanwhile, I’m left living in Limbo-land 🙁

14 comments to Living in Limbo-land

  • Jonathan

    Hi Ricky

    As the Brexit negotiations unfold, I would like to hope that common sense will prevail and due consideration will be given to the situation of immigrants who have already settled in the UK, as well as UK immigrants such as ourselves in other EU countries.

    I must take the article you mention – – to task, as it highlights one of the basic flaws of freedom of movement within the EU and the general attitude towards it.

    Notwithstanding each individual’s right to move to another country to better him or herself and the undoubted benefits for the country he or she moves to, much less attention is paid to the negative effects on the “source” country.

    With regard to skilled labour, the fact that some EU countries feel it right and proper to raid the education and health budgets of others to prop up their healthcare services and the like is something which demonstrates what an abject failure the EU is, in that it exacerbates the wealth gap between the richer and poorer nations, as the former benefit from the human resources that the latter lose, with little or no compensation.

    So too with unskilled labour – strawberry pickers and so on. It’s all very well to justify immigration by claiming that nationals don’t want to do the work, but categorizing work like this suggests, however unintentionally, that unskilled people are welcome to come here as long as they are happy to hang on to the lowest rungs of society. Is that the right message to convey? I would also question the basic premise – many of these jobs are advertised abroad without nationals even having the chance to apply for them.

    In short, the EU is failing in (what at least should be) one of its basic aims, to create and distribute wealth equitably throughout its member States.

    • Ricky

      Hi Jonathan,

      Firstly, thank you for commenting here & not just on Facebook. I will post this reply there as well as here.

      With regard to your first paragraph, I still hope that Brexit won’t happen. But if it does, they’ll be no negotiations until Article 50 is activated. And if it is, then if the UK insists on limiting the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, then obviously the same will apply to UK nationals like you & me, currently living & working in other EU states. If the UK does agree to the continuing free movement of people and labour, which in turn will protect us, what on earth is the point of the UK leaving the EU in the first place?

      I do have some sympathy with what you say regarding the way free movement of labour has ‘negative effects on the “source” country’. I’ve always taken issue with the UK recruiting nurses and other medical staff from places such as Indonesia, Philippines etc when they clearly are needed in their own home countries. But you cannot really stop people wanting to better themselves, particularly within the EU.

      I would not support the idea ‘that unskilled people are welcome to come to the UK as long as they are happy to hang on to the lowest rungs of society’. But several Czech people who are or have worked in the UK, tell me that their abilities & qualifications are not always fully recognised. When I wrote that new arrivals from Central and Eastern Europe are ‘frequently doing the jobs that British people don’t want to do’, I was only describing reality. It is exactly the same here in the Czech Republic where Ukrainians, (the largest immigrant group), do the jobs the Czechs don’t want to do.

      The EU is far from perfect but it has done & continues to do, a lot of good. What the UK should be doing is working for reform and change from within.

      • Allan Schoenherr

        Whilst I tend to agree with your points Jonathan with regard education and health services I’d second Ricky on his points regarding unskilled labour. I’d suggest that those jobs on the lowest rungs are at least offering a new arrival a chance to make a living whilst they look for something better. Monika herself did a few manual labour jobs in the UK before moving into more well paid positions.

        • Ricky

          Thank you Allan. Often new arrivals are not so fluent in English but, after some time in the UK, their language skills improve and better employment opportunities open up.

          • David Hughes

            Hi, Ricky.

            This is a situation that many of your blog’s devoted readers also find themselves in.

            While not wanting to involve myself in the effects on employment debate at the moment, I’d like to comment on your suggestion that “What the UK should be doing is working for reform and change from within.” Unfortunately, David Cameron’s disastrous negotiation at Brussels in February 2016 meant that this wasn’t ever realistically possible for the UK to do. Europe was/is going one way and Cameron dealt his way out of Britain having any real say in that process.

            I voted Remain for selfish reasons – my own life would be much easier if Britain were to be in the EU even as a non-core member of the EU – and because I feel I have a European identity. However, after seeing what the EU did when riding roughshod over the Greek people, I would’ve done so with mixed feelings.

            • Ricky

              Hi David,

              I’m well aware that I’m not the only one living in Limbo-land!

              Likewise, I’m not singing the praises of David Cameron’s negotiation skills – he went about it totally the wrong way. My point is that the best way to bring about change is to work from within – not walk away in a huff. The EU isn’t perfect – the implementation of the common currency was probably done too quickly & the Greeks cooked their books. That having been said, I agree with you that the Greek economic situation could have been handled with greater generosity.

  • Martina

    Just checked the age for not having to pass Czech language test and it is 65. But the law has a lot special circumstances clauses so there is a hope that Brits might get some exceptions as the Brexit negotiations progress.

    • Ricky

      Many thanks for this clarification, Martina. However, I may yet be saved as I’m 65 next February.

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    I’ve read this particular post many times since you first posted it. I am at a loss for anything to say in reply except that you have my heartfelt sympathy in this situation. You got it absolutely right when you said that none of the three ‘Honourable? Members’ give a damn about anyone except themselves; and today we see Boris elevated to Foreign Secretary!
    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean,

      I’m most grateful for your ‘heartfelt sympathy’. And as I acknowledge, I’m not the only one in this situation. So are several members of my congregation who didn’t even have a chance to vote in the referendum, because of living outside of the UK for more than fifteen years.

      The Boris appointment is beyond belief. Or as I expressed it on Facebook, ‘Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. Good Lord, deliver us!’ But maybe my new Prime minister is just being an astute politician. As another friend wrote, ‘Putting the Brexiteers in charge of Brexit means they will have to sweat blood to try and make it work. When they inevitably fail they’ll have to come back and explain to the country why they haven’t managed to get the deals they all said would be so easy to achieve’.

      In the meantime, I’m most grateful for your thoughts and prayers.

      • Sean Mccann

        I too have had the ‘tactical appointment’ idea put to me, I agree that it might be correct but I’m not sure the result will be any better for all that. I am well aware of the many other ex-pats affected by the madness of your electorate. I heard a retired British man, (living in Ireland for about 10 years), interviewed on an Irish radio station post referendum – he had voted leave. The interviewer kept asking him why he voted that way when he had already left Britain and gone to live in the EU!! The repeated answer was ‘because we’ll all be better off now we’re leaving the EU, our nation will be great again.’ There was no way he could be persuaded that it would be different for himself now living in a country remaining within the EU. Divine intervention may well be necessary.

        • Ricky

          I’ve heard of a few idiots like the one you describe, Sean. They think that because they’re English, residence rules & the like don’t apply to them. And like some Brexit voters, they also believe that the British Empire can be re-created!