I, a British citizen, have fewer immigration rights in my own country than does any citizen of one of the other 26 EU member-states. Let me explain how this state of affairs has arisen. Let me explain why I am leaving my country of birth and my job, surrendering my savings, and taking a risk and moving to another country with my wife.
Whilst working in America during the Summer of 2013, I fell in love with a beautiful Ukrainian woman. I am currently writing this in a coffee shop overlooking the Maiden in the centre of Kiev, scene to the protests and ultimately bloodshed which overthrew the Yanukovych administration. This is the happiest time of my life, yet on top of all the usual procedural hurdles of getting married comes the problem of how to live together once we are married.
No, I don’t mean the usual problems of me leaving the toilet seat up and her taking an hour to straighten her hair. Rather, the problem of literally being able to live together. What country are we to reside in? We chose Britain.
Yet obtaining a marriage visa for my wife is no easy matter, the result of reforms introduced by the current Government in 2011, a response to rising public discomfort at many years of very high immigration levels. Now, to move to Britain as a spouse of a British citizen, the couple must earn over £18,000 annually, live somewhere which must not be ‘overcrowded’, prove they love each other (proof of which can include living together for some time, which of course, is rather hard to accomplish without the visa in the first place), speak a certain level of English and have an exam to prove this, as well as various smaller things, like proof we do not have Tuberculosis.
Besides this, applying for the visa costs more than £1,000, successful or not. And given the current mood of the country and subsequent pressure I can only imagine the Government, one year before an election, is impressing upon the Foreign Office to limit the number of marriage visas, we have elected to enter Britain another way. This is especially so given the plethora of grounds for refusal and the seemingly subjective nature of many of the criteria (having a wedding with few attendees is frowned upon, but is it grounds for refusal, the guidelines are unclear).
Under the EU freedom of movement rules, anyone who is a citizen of an EU member-state can move to and live in any other EU member-state. If they are married to a non-EU citizen, they too can move with them and possess the same rights. However, this does not include the EU citizen’s own country, which can apply its own procedures to its own citizens.
Thus, increasing numbers of British citizens are becoming residents of other EU member-states in order to then re-enter Britain with their non-EU spouses. And given we speak no EU languages besides English, the list of possible countries to reside in for the six months it takes for the ‘centre of my life’ to have been transferred out of Britain, is quite short. I will be moving to the country of my mother’s ancestors, Ireland.
It is a big risk. I have few skills, little money, and no contacts. Ireland has an unemployment rate above 11%. But at least there is hope. Yet, overlooking the Maiden, I do not find myself in agreement with those who currently (still) occupy it, that the EU is a good thing.
It is the EU which has forced my country into introducing such draconian rules against British citizens’ foreign spouses in the first place. The government is seeking to curb levels of immigration into Britain which the vast majority of Britons (my second-generation immigrant, soon-to-be husband-of-a-foreign-national self included) feel uncomfortable with. The main reason for this is the freedom of movement rules enshrined within the EU, which ironically are the very same which will allow me and my wife to emigrate to Ireland.
And it is these rules, which are sacred to the European Federalists so many of the pan-European political elite belong to, which cannot be touched or altered (despite what they might try to fool the British public into thinking with misleading slogans like ‘British Jobs for British Workers’). And so the Government, in order to reduce the level of net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands, has taken a sledge hammer to the category of immigrants which should be considered most sacred; the loved ones of its own citizens.
Unable to respond to its citizens’ wishes effectively by, for instance, limiting the number of EU citizens with no connection to Britain, it will instead force increasing numbers of British citizens like myself to either forego a truly basic human right of living with the one that you love, or move away from Britain altogether.
Ireland, here I come.