“It is a very vulnerable position here” – continued Brexit uncertainty for Finns in UK

The clock is ticking on Britain's departure from the EU with a number of deadlines for parliament this week, and a crucial European Council meeting as well.

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It’s another important week in Britain’s departure from the European Union, with time running out for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to agree on a withdrawal agreement and get it approved by parliament in London, or ask for an extension on the 19th.

Before all that there’s a European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday where Brexiteer Johnson will face EU27 leaders.

It’s been more than three years of uncertainty, disbelief, anger, slowly emerging indifference and boredom for Finns in Britain, and the whole of the UK is now waiting to see what happens after for whatever happens after 31st of October.

The ongoing Brexit impasse is keeping many foreigners in Britain on tenterhooks.

While it seems clear that Finns and other EU nationals will not be summarily kicked off the island on the day after Brexit, nobody is quite sure what lies ahead if and when the previously abstract thought of Britain leaving the EU becomes a reality.

Rules for Finns in the UK are changing

Whether they want it or not, the rules for Finnish people living in the UK are changing. The security minister Brandon Lewis says EU citizens without settled status will face deportation by 2021.

Out of some 20,000 Finns living in the UK, only 2,800 have applied for the scheme so far.

Many have moved to Britain before the word ‘Brexit’ was even in the vocabulary. Some moved for work, others for love and a lot just for the sense of adventure. And for many more, it is simply a place to call home.

The feelings of those most directly affected by this looming change are often overlooked. A lot has been said about a hostile environment in the UK towards foreigners since the Brexit referendum vote, but how does it feel living your everyday life in the country?

We talked with two Finns: one who has lived in the UK for more than two decades, and the other a recent arrival, to get their take.

File picture of Anu Hyttinen / Credit: Saara-Maria Salonen, News Now Finland

The former legal alien – Anu’s story

Anu Hyttinen moved to the UK in 1993, before Finland was a part of the European Union.

“Back then I had a card, my legal alien card. I had to show myself once a month at the police station to get the pass stamped” she laughs.

Her situation changed in 1995 when Finland joined the EU, and opened more doors for Finns to live and work abroad.

An avid traveller from an early age, 42-year old Anu kept the UK as a staging point during her travels in Asia and Australia, before settling down in London and Brighton 10 years ago.

“I remember turning on the radio to hear the referendum results, thought it was a joke” she recalls the day she found out the UK had voted to break away from the EU.

The prospect of Brexit has had some direct effects in her life.

Anu has worked as a self-employed tattoo artist for 18 year but has now switched to Monday to Friday office work.

“I don’t feel comfortable being self-employed after Brexit. I did not want to see Brexit through as a self-employed person, it is a very vulnerable position here” she tells News Now Finland.

The referendum results have made her consider moving to mainland Europe later on, and Brexit has spurred her on to learn a new language and plan for a possible move.

“And if I don’t go, at least I gain a massive amount of knowledge of another place, which won’t go to waste” she says.

“But if I had children who go to school here, or if I was married, or if I was not able-bodied and was more dependent on the health service, I think my answers would be so different” she adds.

File picture of Veera Lahtinen / Credit: Saara-Maria Salonen, News Now Finland

The new arrival – Veera’s story 

The situation is very different to Veera Lahtinen, who moved from Tervakoski to Hove on the south coast of England just over a month ago to be an au pair.

Veera has always dreamed of living abroad, and the UK is an easy place to move when you already know English.

However, Brexit was not on her mind when she decided to make the move.

“There is not that much information going around, and nobody knows what will happen this year” says the 19-year old.

Her answer reflects that of many foreign citizens in the UK, but her actual worry was more topical for her generation.

“The biggest worry was my mobile phone plan” she laughs.

Britain leaving the EU could well bring back roaming charges to the UK, which were previously scrapped, and mean an increase in tariffs.

“But I have had a very relaxed approach to the situation, what will be will be” she says.

For Veera, the only time Brexit has caused any drama in her life was when an angry Irishman man kicked up a fuss at the local fish and chip shop.

“He was badmouthing the Brits for the referendum, but the situation was soon okay when I said that I am from Finland” she says.

File image of UK and EU flags, Brexit / Credit: iStock

Brexit bringing remain supporters together

In some ways it seems that Brexit has brought some people closer together.

Regular remain solidarity marches have been held, stickers opposing Brexit are stuck onto lampposts and more British citizens are applying for passports in other countries.

“I haven’t heard anyone complain about the EU, at least not before the buses” says Anu Hyttinen, referencing the infamous advertising slogans on the side of red buses used by the anti-EU campaign in 2016.

Anu has also been on something of a personal journey when it comes to supporting the European Union .

She voted against Finland joining the EU, but has since changed her mind.

“I would not vote like that now. Unity is so much better than separation” she says.

Anu and Veera’s stories are not unique in the UK. As with everything, opinions of Brexit change from person to person.

Some people do not worry at all and barely glance at the news, others are filled with worry and the dread of not feeling welcome in the country where they have built a home.

These past few years since the vote have given Finns living in the UK time to come to terms with the reality of leaving the EU.

While British public opinion has been torn apart by Brexit, Finns who make the UK their home should not see too many big upheavals – especially if they apply for, and receive, settled status.

Although there is still uncertainty about what the future holds, the UK is still home to more than 20,000 Finns and for most of them Brexit is not going to change that.

Brexit graphic / Credit: iStock