I’m delighted to announce that we have a new arrival in our household. Her name’s Ozzy. She’s a black Labrador puppy. And she’s now coming up to ten weeks old. I know, you want a photo, so before we go any further here she is.
An open letter to Theresa May
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
On 19th October 2017, we received a letter from Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, ahead of her meeting with the European Council as part of the UK’s Brexit negotiations. Given that she had taken the trouble to write to us, we thought it only polite to reply. This is our response.
Thank you for your letter explaining what you are doing to secure the rights of European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom and of UK citizens living in other EU member states. We were relieved to hear that you are taking this issue so seriously. Because your actions and those of your government since the referendum in June 2016 have given a very different impression.
You say that the rights of EU and UK citizens are your first priority. This is reassuring. But it would be slightly more reassuring, we feel, if it had not taken you sixteen months to come to this conclusion. You have left three million EU citizens living in the UK and over a million UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU in a state of increasing anxiety. And you have done nothing.
The freedom of European Union citizens to live and work without hindrance in any of the twenty eight member states has been one of the most positive and profound impacts of our collective European endeavour. As a married couple of one British citizen (Simon) and one German national (Natalie), it has formed the bedrock of our shared life together. And of the future plans that now lie in tatters. And we are not alone.
The three million EU citizens living in the UK work hard, pay their taxes and contribute to our society. They are our doctors and our nurses. They are our office workers, our builders and our taxi drivers. They crew our fishing boats, they look after our elderly and, yes, they pick our strawberries. But your inaction has created a climate where they no longer feel welcome. Where they fear for their future.
And it is not just these individuals who are affected, Theresa. You have left their – often British – spouses, their children, their friends and their employers in a state of enduring limbo, too. Punctured with vile threats from various members of your government about complex registration procedures, loss of rights, compulsory fingerprinting, exorbitant fees and more. Oh, and with your Home Office writing to numerous EU citizens demanding that they make immediate preparations to leave the UK.
You could so easily have given reassurance to these people that their rights would be protected. Or at the very least that they were not about to be rounded up by the goon squad. But you chose not to. While our family and our friends have shown nothing but love, kindness and compassion, our government has done nothing. And for that, Theresa, we are afraid that we cannot forgive you.
You complain that your government has been accused of treating EU citizens living in the UK as ‘bargaining chips’ in your negotiations with the European Union. Yet it was Liam Fox, your very own Secretary of State for International Trade (and our constituency MP), who claimed that EU citizens in the UK are ‘one of our main cards’ in negotiating a Brexit deal. So please forgive us if we find your protestations somewhat disingenuous.
You also seem a little optimistic about the current status of the negotiations between the UK and the EU.
You imply in your letter that a formal agreement is almost complete, with only minor issues left to negotiate. But that is patently not true. You must surely recognise this. There is no agreement. And there is no immediate prospect of one.
So you are, in our view, either hopelessly out of touch with your own government or not being entirely straight with us. Or, quite possibly, both.
But let us be honest, Theresa. Your letter is not really aimed at us. You have not given a monkey’s about our rights until now. You have only written to us because the European Union is furious at your lack of action in this area and you are trying desperately to dig yourself out of the colossal Brexit black hole that you, David Davis, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and others have created.
You are not ‘putting people first’, as you claim. You are putting your government first. You are putting yourself first. You are putting your party’s ideological loathing of all things European ahead of the future of your country and of those who have chosen to call it their home.
You are right that we are seeking certainty about the future. But the only certainty here is that you and your government have failed at every turn. And one letter is not going to change that.
Natalie Fey & Simon Perks.
It’s a bit embarrassing, really, but I have a confession to make. Something that’s been nagging at me for a little while now, and that I feel I ought really to bring out into the open. Daylight being the best disinfectant and all that. So here’s the thing. I appear to have, well, sort of misplaced a small ninja. Continue reading
The RNLI has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I come from a seafaring family and my dad taught me to sail on the winding rivers of East Anglia. After a career in the merchant navy, he found his way into the RNLI as a training officer. And he was smitten. He loved being out on the water and was soon responsible for all of the lifeboat stations on the east coast of England, from Berwick-upon-Tweed down to Rye Harbour. Continue reading
I had an interesting conversation with my mother last night. That in itself is not, I hasten to add, sufficient reason to devote a blog post to it. But the topic of the conversation is, because it explains quite a lot about how our country has got itself into such a pickle about the European Union. Continue reading
I don’t remember much from my time at school, but one moment has remained in a dusty corner at the back of my mind for over twenty years.
I was at a weekend conference for teenagers to learn more about the European Union, which had brought together people like me from across the continent. And we spent a fun couple of days listening to and questioning representatives of the various EU institutions and learning about the different countries that we all called home.
On the first day, though, we’d all had to introduce ourselves and say where we came from. So there was me and a few others from the UK, some Germans, some Italians, and so forth.
But then this tiny, dark-haired girl from Spain stood up.
“Hello,” she said. “My name’s Maria. And I’m a European.”
A simple statement, maybe, but a profound one, too. And the cheering and applause that followed were as heartfelt as they were enthusiastic. Continue reading
To say that things have been a little hectic recently would be somewhat of an understatement. And they haven’t really calmed down, to be honest. So I guess I’m just going to have to live with this new level of frenzied activity. Which means I’m going to have to become a whole lot more disciplined about setting aside time to, you know, eat, think… and write! Continue reading
My mother has big plans for her garden. And these plans, perhaps inevitably, involve a fair amount of digging, heavy lifting and general gorilla work. Which, perhaps even more inevitably, is where I come in. And so we found ourselves spending a tiring – but ultimately rather enjoyable – weekend tearing up a small portion of Somerset. Continue reading
I wrote last week about the first half of our recent visit to sunny Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. After a fairly hectic weekend, which saw my extremely jet-lagged wife returning from a week working in even sunnier Texas, I’m finally getting around to telling you about the second half.
We started day two of our adventure by wandering into the centre of St. Helier and taking a bus out to the western end of the island. Given that the previous day had been so glorious, we were somewhat surprised to find the whole island shrouded in a dense cloud of white. It was so foggy, in fact, that the airport was closed and they hadn’t even managed to fly in the morning newspapers.
We wandered northwards along the beach, listening to the sound of early morning surfers and dog walkers emanating from deep inside the murk. In the distance, we saw a group of horses and their riders out for their morning exercise. It was kind of spooky as they loomed up out of the mist, only to disappear again as they headed on their way. (In fact, we thought it might be the apocalypse, until we realised there were only three of them.)
After our walk, we leapt onto another bus (Jersey’s bus system is very good, by the way) to the Durrell Wildlife Park, one of the island’s main tourist attractions. As you can see from the photo below, by this time the weather had cheered up significantly, with the sun now just as brilliant as the day before. The newspapers were, no doubt, well on their way.
The wildlife park is home to all sorts of animals and birds, from gorillas to meerkats. (My wife would like me to point out at this juncture that she has been a fan of meerkats since long before they became famous and got their own adverts, TV series, etc.*)
The frogs were particularly photogenic…
They were also adept at posing for the camera. This little fella clearly has designs on his own TV or postcard franchise…
I was rather jealous of the Orang Utans, who had an amazing enclosure that I would have absolutely loved to have had as a kid. Admittedly, their native forests are being destroyed so that we can have cheap peanut butter (buy palm oil free peanut butter, people), but some of the lucky ones do get to hang out in places like this. Note in particular the one right at the front, who has found himself a sack to sit under.
I’m not sure whether zoos are a good or a bad thing, but if they can help more people to understand that animals like Orang Utans are essentially just like us but more hairy, and should be treated with respect, then that’s clearly a good thing. In fact, we should treat all animals with respect, whether they look a bit like us or not. Sorry, rant over.
Oh, and on a lighter note, we even had our very own ‘bigfoot’ moment…
As the weather got warmer, the animals sought out shelter wherever they could find it. The ducks, on the other hand, headed for the water to cool down. This one seemed to be having a particularly good time. (And despite the impressively huge fountain of water, I was surprised to see that the duck itself was actually really, really tiny.)
After the wildlife park, we caught another bus (I’ve never been on so many buses in just two days, or possibly even in my entire life) and headed out to Gorey, a fishing village on the eastern end of the island. Over the village looms the castle of Mont Orgueil, which was built in the early 1200’s to protect the island from the French. So yes, it is perhaps a little surprising that they decided to give it a french name. But it does provide a very stunning backdrop to the village, perched on its rock looking out to sea.
France is only a short hop across the water, so close that we could just see it through the haze. France is the darker line along the horizon, in case you’re wondering, not the little rock with the stick on it. That’s still Jersey.
Beneath the cliff, a little lobster boat pottered about just off the beach. They didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry, but there again who would be on a day like this.
In fact, looking out across the tiny harbour from the end of Gorey pier, it’s difficult to see how anyone could want to be anywhere else. All in all, a great couple of days on a fantastic and extremely beautiful island. We’ll definitely be back.
* For any readers not in the UK who are wondering what on Earth I am talking about, I should point out that cuddly – though somewhat disturbing – meerkat toys are used in the UK to advertise a particular car insurance comparison website. And meerkats in the Kalahari – actual ones, this time – are the subject of a fairly long-running TV documentary series.