Saturday 11 February
Whenever I have been asked how the UK’s decision to leave the EU affects me personally as an EU national, I have said that it doesn’t really. At least not yet. Last week I was made to doubt that.
As a relatively recent Edinburgh-to-Glasgow migrant, it's about time for me to register with a local GP. For the past four years I have been registered at Edinburgh University’s health clinic and, frankly, never thought that registering with a GP would be an issue for me.
Having finally got around to going to the local GP, I was asked to fill in a general NHS registration form, a registration form for the particular branch, and to hand them in at the counter together with my ID. The receptionist looked over my papers, looked up at me, and left, saying she would come back in a few minutes.
She came back with many papers, and many more questions. Was I living in the area? Yes. Had I been registered with a GP in the UK before? Yes. Was I currently in full-time education? No. Had I been employed for three months or more and could show proof of that? No, and no.
She double-checked something with a colleague and then told me 'sorry. I am afraid you can’t register with a GP unless you are in full-time education or employment'. I said thank you anyway, have a good day, see you later, goodbye. I thought, if I get a full-time job now, the next time I can get sick is in May.
Monday 13 February
I am still thinking about the GP. I am wondering what rights EU citizens have and if they have changed since Brexit. Maybe I’ve missed something big. Everyone I have mentioned it to seems surprised, and I start looking into what rules and regulations actually apply. The UK government’s website quickly informs me that 'there has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, as a result of the referendum'. Although this is reassuring, I remain confused.
I have the right to emergency healthcare, for which I am grateful, yet I am also a little bit worried about my iron levels. It will have to wait until May. There must be many individuals in the UK, from countries all over the EU, with more serious concerns – yet perhaps not making the A&E cut – who are faced with the same confusion.
Later, I come across an article discussing the rights of Swiss nationals. I, along with what I presume to be most others, do not understand Switzerland’s relationship with the EU, and did not think I would ever need to. However, I start thinking that maybe the receptionist at the health centre confused Sweden with Switzerland, and assumed that I had fewer rights than citizens of other EEA countries.
It happens very often in other contexts – people praise my country’s fine chocolate and excellent skiing, and I smile politely and agree, aware that they are actually thinking of Switzerland. It wouldn’t surprise me if the receptionist at NHS made the same mistake. I will go back next week with my national ID and a pocket map, and see if anything changes.
Wednesday 15 February
This week, my mum and brother have been in Glasgow to visit. They have come to visit several times throughout my studies, and my younger brother is now considering whether or not to apply to universities in Scotland when he finishes high school.
My brother and I were born only four years apart, yet the context in which I applied to university in 2012 is drastically different now. When I applied, the EU’s existence was not questioned (although the Eurozone was), and so neither was my right to study, live and work in the UK. As an EU national, my tuition costs would be subsidised by SAAS, and I could quite safely assume that this would be the case throughout the course of my undergraduate studies. I had the right to work both part-time and full-time, and have done both. When I moved, I assumed that if I wanted to stay in Scotland to work after completing my degree, I could. (I guess I also assumed that I would be able to register with a GP whilst looking for work, although it never crossed my mind.)
My brother is in a different position. He is in many ways very fortunate and has access to opportunities in Sweden and elsewhere, yet he is more limited than I was four years ago. The Scottish government has confirmed that tuition will be free at universities in Scotland for Scottish and EU students enrolling in 2017. My brother, however, is considering applying in 2018, for which the cost is unknown.
If he would not be eligible to work in the UK whilst studying, he might not apply. If he would not be able to stay in the UK to work after completing his studies, perhaps it is more valuable to build up social networks in another country.
Thursday 16 February
In terms of Brexit, its direct impact on me and my family has so far been small. I am much more concerned about the rapidly deteriorating political climate in the UK (and globally), and the societal consequences of growing anti-immigrant rhetoric and racism.
My experience of being an EU migrant in the UK is by no means a given, yet nor is it exceptional. I have for a long time been living in a sheltered student bubble, and many of my friends are active campaigners for a more open and welcoming society. As a Swedish national, I have been the target of far less hate crime than many individuals and families of Eastern European origin. Immediately after the Brexit vote, there was a 46% spike in hate crime, and many fear that there will be another spike once article 50 is triggered.
As an EU national, Brexit does affect me. Most strikingly, it has made me aware of my identity as an EU migrant – an identity I wasn’t aware that I held, but that has made me part of a community that must look after each other when society at large does not.
Nannie Sköld will be contributing a diary to SR every Friday