British Prime Minister Theresa May has written an open letter to the three million citizens of other European Union states living in Britain.
“I know our country would be poorer if you left and I want you to stay,” she wrote after striking the initial agreement, which promises to secure their British residency rights after Brexit and allows the negotiations to move onto trade relations.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, for some EU nationals – who have endured uncertainty over their rights since the Brexit vote in June 2016, not to mention an unpleasant feeling that many Britons do not want them around – May’s December 8 deal is too little, too late.
It’s too late for French accountant Nathalie Duran, who is planning early retirement in France because after 31 years as a taxpayer in Britain she objects to being told she has to pay a fee and fill in forms to be granted a new “settled status”.
“I will have to regretfully decline your generous offer for settled status and oblige your lovely countrymen’s wishes and go home,” she wrote on Facebook in a response to May laden with irony.
Duran told Reuters that May’s “late outpouring of love” for EU citizens, after years of tough talk on the need to cut immigration, could not mask negative attitudes towards immigrants unleashed by the Brexit vote.
“I think it’s turning ugly,” said 56-year-old Duran. “It’s now OK to say ‘go home foreigners’.”
However, not everyone is making plans to leave. According to Reuters, 28,500 EU citizens applied for British citizenship in the 12 months after the referendum. This is an 80% year-on-year jump. With personal and professional roots often running deep, many more have applied for permanent residence documents.