I've not been able to write, to express myself in any cohesive way, for months. The words are continuing to come out in a tangled mess and I've essentially given up on trying to make sense of things and instead have stuck to emotional ranting on Twitter.
Our bureaucracy nightmare continues. My business is safe in Estonia, and it's doing well. Whilst this year might not see the same growth as the last few years (two frozen shoulders and the stress that's been dumped on us has understandably taken it's toll) not being dependent on an ever devaluing Sterling means we're actually better off. Despite paying accountant fees once a month, not having to pay exchange rates and fees on everything and earning in the main currency we're now living in means that what I'm earning is going further. We lost a lot of money when Sterling took a tumble two and a half years ago (pennies to most, but a lot to us) and we're unlikely to ever recuperate that, but it's reassuring to not be losing more.
Moving the business was the best thing I ever did. I completely understand why more and more businesses are moving out of the UK, and I don't blame them. My only wish is that I'd done it sooner, but the route we've taken wasn't available then. But it's done now and it's one of the few positives to come out of this whole mess.
This week all of our paperwork has fallen into place and we're going to start the procedure of applying for residency in Italy. This won't be quick and there's no guarantee we'll get it, but we have no choice but to try. Residency won't guarantee us anything in light of a no deal, but it'll at least put us on a par with other British migrants.
When we faced eviction some 5 or 6 years ago, we had nothing to our name except our rusty old bus and we had to knuckle down and save and somehow build ourselves a safety net. We did it, slowly, and although we were barely a quarter of the way to having 6 figures in the bank by this summer, we finally had ourselves some 'life savings'. It made me mighty proud, especially as we were still living below the poverty line. But I knew most of that would be disappearing, and it has already.
Getting everything in place - separating the business from me and parking it safely somewhere other than the UK or Italy; getting married and getting all our paperwork sorted out; taxes settled and advice taken - has cost us thousands and thousands. And we still have so much more to pay out. Whilst we've had to deal with all of this, especially over the summer, we've been living on our savings, which has depleted them further. We will earn some of that back, but for now it's all tied up elsewhere.
So right now, we've about a third of what we had saved left. And we still don't have residency. And there are more costs to come.
We'll need to start paying tax and national insurance in Italy. There's no threshold here, so our tax bill is going up. We'll have to sell the car after a year and get an Italian car and insurance, and those cost about 3 times what they'd cost in the UK. The list goes on. It'll settle down after a few years, when HMRC refund me my overpaid tax and we get access to the money that's tied up. But that doesn't help us now.
The residency application itself is less than €100; it's everything else we have to do to comply that costs big.
And then there's the issue of us losing rights. This is hurting me more than anything right now.
The UK press and politicians are all saying that EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU27 will be able to carry on their lives as before, that our rights are protected. But that's pure propaganda.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that Freedom of Movement will end. Shes actively celebrating it. But what she's not saying is that this is reciprocal. Which means we are ALL losing rights. For some of us, ourselves especially, those rights have been critical in allowing us to life and work as we do. I won't be able to teach at events that aren't in Italy or the UK, for instance. And those FoM rights are what have allowed us to live in a place that doesn't have a residential address (which is one of the reasons we are not guaranteed residency).
So whilst everyone is being told in the UK that it's fine, you'll still be able to go on holiday without a visa, what they're not telling you is that it's going to be very difficult to live, work, study, retire or fall in love in a different country. I'm sure for a lot of people that doesn't matter, and most people don't care until it affects them. But please be aware that we've been utterly screwed by this.
I've spent a lot of time trying to deal with all of this in my head. I've tried to rationalise it, understand why people would vote the way they did, despite the lies and deliberate smearing of facts and fact givers. I've tried to manage the anger at being abandoned by a government; the anger at the naivety or ignorance of old friends and family back home (none of whom have shown any concern at our situation. NONE. I'm assuming that's because they don't know; because they're believing what they're being told or somehow still believe in British Exceptionalism (the believe that we'll be ok just because we're British. Which is a myth, btw). Or maybe it's because they feel guilty). The only people who have shown any care are our Italian friends and our Woolly friends, and for that I'm eternally grateful.
But I can't make sense of it. I'm still so incredibly furious at what we've been thrown into.
What people are failing to understand is that none of this was ever meant to be permanent. Friends and family should know us well enough to know that. That just because we're here doesn't mean we're staying here. That's what the freedom of movement rights provide - they provide everyone with the opportunity to move on. To try living somewhere else. To try a different culture. Those rights always left the door open. And we're angry at being forced to stay in one place, which is what the loss of FoM rights will do - we'll be landlocked. Without FoM rights, moving country is costly and eyewateringly steep in bureaucracy. It's prohibitive to anyone but the wealthy without those rights.
In my mind, hopefully with a successful residency application in hand, come next March we'll be cutting ties to the UK and not looking back. I've still a few things, a bank account and stuff, but otherwise we're done. With the Brexit vote the door was slammed on people like us and we've no intention of trying to open it up again. We've been held in limbo all this time, not knowing how our circumstances might change. But now we do know. We've been shown our value, how little we matter.
Its sad. But we don't really have any choice. For our own sakes we need to move forward and not look back.