What does the end of free movement mean to you?

With the end of the Brexit transition period upon us, two Young Greens – Marie Stadtler and Eleanor Morrissey – reflect on what the end of free movement means to them.

EU, British and German flags

© Stephen Bingham (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Marie Stadtler and Eleanor Morrissey

After exhausting years of debating what Brexit will mean, we have arrived at the supposed end. Negotiations are still going on while I am writing this, but one thing is clear: the relationship between the UK and the EU will not be the same.

Personally, the loss of the free movement is what hits the hardest. I don’t know any different than to be able to travel to and live in another European country whenever I want. In the last few years, I have lived in three countries, without problems and always welcomed. Now this ability is being taken away from my British friends, which is so frustrating. 

For me, I am still an EU citizen – I am German and able to stay in Scotland for now due to my settled status – but for my friends so many doors are being closed. If I decide to work in another country for some time, my Scottish partner couldn’t easily join me. So many doors are being closed to people who are like me and so many other young people in Europe. A lot of my friends loved their Erasmus semesters abroad, loved having the opportunity to experience cultures that seem quite similar but are still so different. A new generation of uni students are going to have a harder time having the same experiences – not to think about the EU students who want to study in Scotland or other parts of the UK full-time. My own degree has fallen victim to the more difficult relationship between the countries and was scrapped all together.

The end of free movement is a devastating blow to the future of so many of my like-minded peers here in the UK. For me, it is a headache that is constantly there but does not yet inhibit my ability to live in Scotland at the moment. However, what the future holds might be varied for the different UK nations. Hopefully, with Scottish Independence, the next generation can again enjoy the same rights and benefits as EU citizens.

Marie Stadtler, International Officer of Scottish Young Greens, is a German national living in Scotland 

I moved to Spain to work and save money for a year by teaching English before starting a postgraduate degree. I fell so in love with the country that I ended up studying for my Master’s in Spain as well. I took an Erasmus+ semester in Germany, before working in both France and Belgium. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness while living in Spain, but with EU citizenship I could afford my medical care in any EU country. Without this, it is likely I would have returned to the UK.

Having the opportunity to work and study in different European countries has helped me become proudly “European”. Not solely by having apéros with friends in squares (although yes, including that), but to learn from different cultures. Freedom of movement can help you look beyond a national lens, to learn from other experiences and be open to new ideas. Issues that Greens campaign for, such as climate and migration rights, need international cooperation to succeed.

Living and working in Brussels, I clearly see an “EU bubble” that is filled with privilege and can be disillusioning. As a British-born, Irish citizenship-holding, Belgium-based individual, I am aware that my experience of freedom of movement has been different from many others, especially those who move for economic or safety reasons.

However, freedom of movement is more than an Erasmus+ semester, or shorter waiting times at passport control. It is a human right: it allows people to choose their place of residence with legal protections. A UK, and Europe as a whole, without borders can help address institutionalised racism and marginalisation which allows “golden passports/visas” for the wealthy elite, while others are forced into illegal situations and/or precarious, low-paid work. Freedom of movement means offering a safe place to live, study, and work for everyone.

​​​Eleanor Morrissey, Co-Spokesperson for the Federation of Young European Greens, has dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and Ireland