Brexit, my call to James O’Brien

It’s taken me a little while to get this online, but here we are. This is my call to James O’Brien’s LBC radio show on 21st January this year.

This was the day that the UK government opened up applications for “settled status” for all EU27 citizens living in the UK. If you could prove you were an EU27 citizen who’d been living in the UK for over five years and you had an Android phone and you had a lot of patience and £65 you could apply to get to live in your home and possibly be accepted.

Good, isn’t it? The fact the government removed the £65 charge the same day they started charging it doesn’t help very much but I suppose it’s not nothing.

I took the opportunity to call in and talk about my situation, but it came out much more emotional than I’d intended. The short version is my wife’s German and doesn’t want to live in the UK anymore solely because of Brexit. It makes her feel unwelcome as an immigrant but also, and I didn’t touch on this in the call unfortunately, it’s becoming ever clearer that a better quality of life awaits her in Germany. The economy’s doing so much better in Germany and there’s no way Brexit is about to let the UK catch up any time soon.

So this leads to the inevitable conclusion that we have to leave the UK. We either do that in a panic by the end of March or we do that towards the end of some sort of transition period, depending on how things go in Westminster over the next few weeks (we are watching very closely). Moving is tricky enough anyway but this scares me particularly because I’m that rarest of creatures, an autistic person with a career. As of October 2016, only 16% of autistic adults were in full time work. It’s a damn good career I’ve got as well. I’m a Systems Engineer in the NHS and I’m incredibly proud of that fact.

My employment history could be generously described as “patchy” before I landed this job. All throughout my working life I’ve had trouble with employers due to my disability and this is the first time in my life I’ve ever felt stable. I have incredibly supportive managers, the policies and procedures around mental health support are all there, and I’m doing something I love to do while feeling like I’m making the world a better place.

My wife works in a shoe shop.

To be fair to her she’s also doing a PhD but she can pretty much do that anywhere.

I don’t want to leave the UK, but ultimately she’s right. It would be a better quality of life if (and this is a big if) we can figure out employment for me.

So that’s what I rang James about. There is some positive news out of this though in that one of the other callers asked to be put in touch with me (we later found each other on Twitter) in order to advise on mental health support for employment in Germany. I haven’t got back to her yet because I’m still rather frightened of the whole prospect, same reason our pets don’t have passports and I’ve been resolutely terrible at throwing out some of my clutter. I’ve got stable work for the first time in my life; I haven’t had the opportunity to really enjoy the stability and already I have to lose it.

Can’t let fear keep you from a better life, though. We’ve got obstacles, sure, but we’ll overcome those and we’ll be better off. Just have to take that leap.

Fucking Brexit though.