Brexit opinion: why are UK citizens 'expatriates' and EU nationals 'migrants'?

By Bill Drysdale MBE

29 March 2017

Bill Drysdale MBE gives his opinion on Brexit and the classification of EU nationals as "migrants".

As someone who has lived and worked abroad for 20 years, I am shocked and embarrassed, as Brexit has reached the point of no return, that our government and most of our politicians, journalists and commentators, viewing “Global Britain” as if it was still an empire, describe EU citizens from the other 27 member states living and/or working in the UK as “migrants”, whereas they invariably refer to the British citizens living, working or retired in the whole of the rest of Europe as “expatriates”.

We Brits can’t resist distinguishing ourselves as a superior race in need of an elevated status.

The most obvious examples of this would define a Polish or Romanian site manager in a British construction company, a Bulgarian or Slovakian raspberry picker in our agricultural sector, or a Spanish or Italian waiter in a restaurant, all as “migrants”.

In contrast, a British manager in a German bank, an English nanny with a family in France or a Scottish ski instructor in the Austrian Alps would all be described as “expatriates”. A truly unpleasant distinction and barely veiled discrimination which has to stop before further damage is done to our relationship with the other EU nations.

I’m sure Messrs Juncker, Barnier and Verhofstadt will not be amused if Theresa May and the “Great Brexiteers” don’t see the writing on the wall and persist in the labelling as “migrants” all EU citizens entitled by law to live and work here.

After running and expanding the practices of a leading multinational professional services firm in Poland and then Bulgaria in the post-communist era, the most interesting subsequent post I held as a “migrant” in Bulgaria was as an adviser to their then Prime Minister.

It was my pleasure during this period to meet many other UK “migrants” who had bought property in Bulgaria as a place to retire to. Since I myself retired back to Scotland, I have observed the amazing and indispensable contribution citizens from both these countries (and many other Eastern Europeans) make to the economy, public services and communities of the United Kingdom.

The views expressed are the author's own


  • CA life
  • Brexit

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