By introducing his ballot in urn, in his London borough of Chiswick, Dane Mette Rodgers said Thursday morning goodbye to his right to vote. In any choice, anywhere. "In Denmark you cannot vote in legislative elections if you live outside country. I can't do that in UK generals eir. And after Brexit, I will no longer be able in premises or, obviously, in Europeans, "explains this journalist, married to a British and mor of two daughters with dual nationality.
For many Europeans, ballot with which y voted on this Thursday was last physical manifestation of rights to which referendum put an expiration date. And way to polls has served to remember everything that has changed in two years. Anxiety for future, contingency plans, sudden division of society on two sides, difficulty of understanding friends who voted for Brexit, verbal abuse.
About 3.7 million of citizens from or EU countries reside in United Kingdom. This Thursday, in local elections held in part of England, y have had ir first chance to vote since ir neighbors turned ir backs on 2016 referendum. And it's probably last. Community law gives every European citizen right to vote in local and European elections wherever y reside within EU. That Europeans in United Kingdom retain that right after Brexit is unlikely.
The government took a year to announce its proposal of "seated status" for European citizens. A year later, it is not yet known how it will be implemented. Moreover, possibility of Brexit happening without agreement is becoming less disposable. And that would mean little less than losing everything.
Still, many are reluctant to take action. It is case of Alberto Barba, architect Cadiz of 43 years, which ago 11 was installed in London with his wife Madrid. Here y were born and grow ir three children. "My personal conviction is that I want to be an immigrant," he explains. "It is an act of resistance and personal struggle against negative concept of immigration that has been gaining ground in recent years. One of reasons we came to London is that it was a city that opened arms of immigration. We are happy here for that diversity, and we want our children to grow up in that environment. But context has changed. I want to be in a place where I am not categorize by a quality that is purely bureaucratic. So I'm not going to do anything. If day comes when that is a problem, we will have to ask ourselves if we really want to be in such a country. "
The groups that represent this group encouraged Europeans to vote thinking about all this. "We encourage you to choose those candidates who are commit to guarantee rights of European citizens," explains Joan Pons la Plana, a nurse arrived from Barcelona 20 years ago, a member of 3 Million platform, very active in defending this Collective. "We published questionnaires so that our supporters would ask candidates in campaign about ir commitment to our rights, so we could vote accordingly."
In London, where 1.1 million citizens from or EU countries reside, influence of European vote can be decisive. "The European citizens ' sense of vote will have an impact on some districts where result is adjusted, that y voted for permanence and that y have an important European population," explains Tony Travers, policy professor at London School of Economics.
It is very probable that Brexit despite in sense of vote of se citizens, according to Travers, and a polarizing phenomenon is seen since generals of last year, according to which partisans of Brexit tend to vote Conservative, and pro-Europeans tend to vote Labour. If Laborism achieves feat of winning in London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Barnet and Wandsworth – Conservative but pro-European-some of merit will be of European citizens.
The Europeans not only have this Thursday right to vote: Also to present mselves to local elections. This will leave, starting tomorrow, several elected officials in confusing situation of not knowing wher ir rights are recognised after Brexit. There are, for example, 117 Polish candidates. Two of which, curiously, are presented by anti-European party UKIP, with a hostile discourse towards immigration. There is even a political formation in London called Polish Pride, which presents 48 candidates. Its founder is a supposed Polish prince named John Zylinski, who came to tabloid headlines by challenging a sword duel to Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP.
In absence of conclusion of recount on Friday, says Travers, what seems clear is that participation of that group will be higher than on previous occasions. After all, not every day is voted as if it were last time.