Monday, April 19News For London

What Theresa May’s Open Letter to EU Citizens Really Means to Them

Prime Minister Theresa May has emailed 100,000 EU citizens living in the UK to reassure them that Brexit will not affect their lives here, though millennials are not convinced. Despite her efforts, young people fear that their dreams of working, studying and living in the UK will be ending sooner than they hoped.

May’s open letter promised EU citizens low-cost application methods for “settled status” after Brexit, and that they would not be used as “bargaining chips” in Brexit negotiations. The letter was also posted to her Facebook page.


Theresa May speaking about the UK and EU on October 20th. [Video: Facebook –Theresa May] 

For some students, the thought of Brexit’s impact on their futures in the UK only makes them homesick.

24-year-old Lauranna Bruninx chose to study in the UK as part of her Erasmus exchange from Belgium. The Law student is already set on her return home to Belgium in light of the Brexit ordeal.

“I would not consider living and working here. I am a European and I’m proud of that,” she said. “I am convinced of the positives the EU has to offer and even though things could do with a little change, I don’t think I would want to live anywhere but in the EU.”

26-year-old Jozefien Sienaert also came to the UK from Belgium after not being able to find work in her field. The appeal of job promise is not enough to prevent fears of what’s to come with Brexit.

“For now, the word Brexit is still a bit surreal and abstract to me. I can’t quite imagine yet how it will go, but for now, it has a rather negative meaning to me,” she said.  “It sounds harsh and cold. Like there is no other way.”

While EU citizens will be able to stay in the UK no matter the outcome of the Brexit deal, the rights they will have are in question. May said that “important progress” was made during last week’s EU summit meeting, but some millennials are not sure what to believe.

“I think [Theresa May] believes that what she does is right, but I am saddened by the mass amount of misinformation that has been spread around about the Brexit before and after the referendum,” Bruninx said. “I don’t really feel like people in general had the right information to make such a big decision in the referendum and that a lot of people have voted on misguided principles.”

London, home to many EU citizens [Photo: Flickr user Pedro Szekely]
May has made sure that “citizens’ rights are [her] first priority” throughout the Brexit process, which she made sure came through in her letter.

She wrote: “We want people to stay and we want families to stay together. We hugely value the contributions that EU nationals make to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the UK.”

The letter aimed to “provide helpful certainty to the four million people who were understandably anxious about what Brexit would mean for their futures”, but it has some millennials asking more questions than receiving any answers.

“The whole situation is just a mess, right? In my eyes that’s just not fair, but politicians will do anything for a piece of land, or so I believe,” Sienaert said. “I personally believe a second referendum should be held before continuing, just to see if Brexit still is what people want.”

Theresa May’s letter aimed to provide solace for EU citizens, and while uncertainty remains, millennials like Sienaert and Bruninx stay hopeful.

“It’s like I’m on some ridiculous big roller coaster not knowing what’s happening next, but when the ride’s over, I’ll be a little older and hopefully a little wiser,” Sienaert said.