Ulrike’s story: the human cost of Brexit

The In Limbo Project gathers and shares the heart-rending stories of people caught up in the Brexit crossfire. Here is one of their most recent testimonies, reproduced by kind permission. It epitomises the senseless, casual cruelty that is just one of Brexit’s toxic legacies.

You can sign a petition asking givenment to extend the deadline for applying for settled status here.


I‘m writing with a heavy heart about fears I hoped I would never have to deal with.

I am Austrian, my husband of 43 years is British.

Because of our jobs we have lived in many different countries of the world. Our four children are true citizens of the world, or as one might call them now, citizens of nowhere. My husband and I currently live in Austria, our children are all in the Uk, where they went to university and met their life partners.

We are delighted with our 11 wonderful grandchildren. But life is unpredictable and one of our daughters is now a single mother of three children. She also has a very demanding job that often involves long days and nights in stressful environments. Since my retirement I have, as much as I could, helped her look after the kids, so that she can do her work with peace of mind. I used to travel secure in the knowledge that I as an EU citizen was simply going to another EU country that happened to be the home of my children, a place where I also felt comfortable, welcome and at home.

But now, everything has changed and I‘m not referring to the pandemic. Brexit has been an absolute disaster for everyone in my family. My children grieve over the loss of their EU  citizenship, my grandchildren feel trapped and are angry that Erasmus will no longer be available to them and I am very aware that I am now ‘the foreigner’,  someone to be viewed with suspicion, someone who can be held up at the border and refused entry.

Dare I tell the border guards that I have come to care for three of my grandchildren? Of course not. This might be construed as doing unpaid work, which I am not entitled to do as a tourist. Dare I tell them that all my children live here? Of course not. This might mean I have too much of a stake in the country and might try to stay on illegally.

Can I apply for settled or pre-settled status? Of course not. I do not live in the UK. I am someone who falls through all the cracks in the system. There does not seem to be anything I can do to guarantee I can see my children. I want absolutely nothing material from the UK; I have everything I need, but I so very much want free access to the 18 people I love the most.

© Ulrike M.,67, Austrian

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