Letter: Brexit has meant I am now foremost known as a “migrant”

Anti Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Houses of Parliament

Anti Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Houses of Parliament - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Maria Bates on how her identity has been changed because of Brexit. She no longer feels she is an individual.

My identity, or more specifically the way in which I am perceived by others, appears to have changed since Brexit. I used to be seen as a friend, colleague, teacher, neighbour, customer, volunteer – the list is long and reflects many aspects which made up the way in which I was perceived as an individual. The fact that I was born outside the UK was one of those facets, but by no means the defining one.

Now I am seen, first and foremost, as a 'migrant'. I am no longer an individual, I belong into a category. People within that category appear, by definition, to all share certain negative characteristics or behaviours: We are health tourists and benefit scroungers, we take away jobs and housing from the indigenous population, we clog up the NHS, we are more likely to be criminals. All of these assumptions are based on emotions rather than hard fact and have been clearly disproven time and again, but that does not appear to change them one iota.

They lead to comments from, kindly, 'will you return home now?' to, aggressively 'f**k off back home'. And that's the irony: I am home. My home is a small and friendly market town in Cumbria and it has been home for 35 years. Home is not where you were born, but where you put down roots and where you contribute to society, financially through taxes and so on, but above all through social participation.

I am afraid that whatever happens, a soft or a hard Brexit or no Brexit at all, this particular beast can no longer be put back into its cage. It will take a long time to return to the tolerant, open and welcoming Britain in which I put down my roots in 1983. And everybody in this country is much the worse for that.

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Maria Bates


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