Shortly before the colossal act of self-harm inflicted by a narrow majority of voters in June 2016’s advisory Brexit referendum, I wrote an angry plea with readers of my blog not to ruin my life by voting to leave the European Union. Well, the voters on that day spoke and the country remained split into a small majority in favour of Brexit. The rest is – as they say, history in the making, but with the multiple possible outcomes – all of which look like worse deals than EU membership to me – delightfully uncertain.
What does this mean for me? I don’t know how many parts this series will have, but I’m sure there will be years of fun to come. Let’s start somewhere – with costs: the most direct impact so far has been on my finances. One positive, one negative – but both demonstrating how damaging Brexit will be for people like me (the small number of probably around 3m people), once it really gets going.
The pound is down
Positives first – the pound went down, my German bank account – in lovely, stable Euros – became instantly worth more to me. While I was originally planning to move what I had inherited after my father’s death (he thankfully did not have to see what happened before his death) into the UK, will now stay where it is – in a low-growth, but relatively stable and safe environment. Even better – whenever I transfer money over to the UK, I get more pounds for it. Thanks, Brexiters, I’m involuntarily benefiting from the exchange rate mess created by your choices. As an old leftie, this makes me feel a bit dirty, but I guess this is a case of force majeure.
Legal costs are up
The second impact is that I continue to fork out money to solve problems created by Brexit for me: I am not a UK citizen – before the decision to plan to renege on forty years of trust and friendship enshrined in contracts and agreements, I didn’t need to be – now I have to secure my existence here. Like many other EU citizens in the UK, I am not keen on waiting for our Brexit-spooked government (did I mention that the referendum wasn’t legally binding?) decides what to do with us. EU citizens are for the time being protected by EU law, but we’re depending on whatever deal the UK and EU will work out over the time of the Article 50 negotiations. Just imagine that you’ll get a letter telling you that your legal status in your country of residence (where you had a legal right to stay indefinitely) will now be reviewed. ‘Nothing will change for you’, Brexiters told me to my face. Looks like they were wrong.
Well, hundreds of thousands of us are now deciding to exercise our treaty rights and secure permanent residency (PR) in order to secure our existence here. PR is now a requirement for naturalisation – so I can’t become a dual citizen (which Germany frowns upon outside of EU member states – can you see a future issue coming up?) until I’ve jumped through a legal hoop not created for EU citizens. It’s a blunt legal instrument and as a matter of fact, many fail – those who for example don’t qualify because they didn’t have five years of income statements, due to raising their partner’s children, or giving unpaid social care for a dying relative (not knowing that they needed to self-insure their health). Incidentally, just this week two cases have become public where long-term EU citizens were hilariously told to leave.
Simples, I’m told – you will get that for sure. I’ve got a permanent job, so I provided five years of bank statements (yep, for every month), pay slips and a complete record of every day I spent outside the UK (yep, also five years). And I did what I had never done before – I hired a lawyer, who took all those documents and who handles my application now – so I don’t run into the same problems in the examples above. So far, my bills (including English language and citizenship test – for later) amount to c.£1.3k. Yes, I could have tried this on my own – for a lot less money, but not all of us are great legal minds – and over a third of applications are currently being rejected. I’m naturally uncertainty avoidant – and I’m still keen to help the UK economy; as my lawyer said, the legal permanent residency business is booming now. Finally, an economic sector doing well out of Brexit.
The bottom line
The legal and administrative costs dwarf of course the benefit I’ve gained from the plunging of the pound – but with all the talk of leaving the single market, a ‘hard’ or probably better called ‘bone-headed’ Brexit may offset that over time. I’m an optimist after all. So far, dear reader, the majority decision to leave the European Union has – although it actually hasn’t happened yet – has cost me money.