We are please to confirm three of the most dedicated campaigners for citizens’ rights as speakers for the #GreatNorthernMarch on 24 March in Leeds – Joan Pons Laplana, Elena Remigi and Sue Wilson.
The daily stories about the economic impact of Brexit often overshadow the fact that its human costs are just as significant, if not more so.Following the EU Referendum in 2016, almost 5 Million people on both sides of the channel found themselves in limbo. EU citizens in the UK suddenly lost all sense of security as they found their right to live and work in Britain under threat, and British citizens in the other EU states were faced the same worries about what the future would hold for them.
Over one and a half years later, these concerns have not gone away. While the UK and the EU came to a tentative agreement over the fate of these people in late 2017 nothing is set in stone, leaving them no choice but to continue the campaigning they started in the aftermath of the referendum.
Joan Pons Laplana
Joan Pons Laplana is a healthcare professional from Spain, who has dedicated himself to the NHS for over 17 years.
Unable to understand the Yorkshire accent when he first arrived, he got used to it over the years after treating thousands of patients in hospitals in Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster. He has since settled in Chesterfield, where he and his family felt at home until Brexit transformed their lives.
“My daughter, aged 11, came home crying from school the other day and when I asked her why she told me that I was not welcome in the UK and that I would be thrown out soon”
Joan’s passionate appearances at numerous rallies over the past one and a half years have turned him into one of the most prominent spokesmen for EU citizens in the UK who readily identify with his experiences.
“I love Britain and I have raise my family here. My kids are British. I have never had any problem or felt discriminated against, but since Brexit, I’ve started to feel like a second class citizen just because of my accent. I have been attacked on social media and what makes me even angrier is that my kids are affected”.
The quotes above are extracts from Joan’s testimony in the book, In Limbo, which was conceived from an idea by Elena Remigi, who joins Joan as one of the speakers at the march.
Elena Remigi is the founder and director of the Our Brexit Testimonies group and a co-editor of the book In Limbo: Brexit Testimonies from EU Citizens in the UK.
Originally from Milan in Italy, she came to the UK to work as an interpreter and translator, and like Joan she saw her children grow up here, and felt at home until that that fateful day on 23 June 2016, when everything changed.
Determined to do something, she started Our Brexit Testimonies as group for EU citizens to share their mutual experiences of fear, abuse and apathy in Brexit Britain, which in turn led to the development of In Limbo as a permanent record of these experiences.
Since the book was published in June 2017, she has toured the country, speaking at workshops, protests and other events, including an appearance at the StopBrexit Manchester march at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2017 alongside her co-author Veronique Martin.
Following the wide critical acclaim that the book received, there have been many calls for compiling a similar account of the plight of British citizens in other EU countries, with which Elena agrees;
“It’s not just EU citizens in the UK whose lives have been plunged into deep uncertainty – Brits living in the EU are facing similar worries. This is why we decided to tell their stories in a second book called “In Limbo too”. More than 4 million people and their families have been affected on both sides of the Channel. This is the human cost of Brexit we cannot overlook”.
This new project has brought Elena to work closer with Sue Wilson, the third speaker we are pleased to announce today.
Sue Wilson is the chair of Bremain in Spain, a group campaigning for the UK to remain in the European Union and to protect the rights of British migrants living in Spain, as well as a steering committee member of British in Europe.
Passionate about Freedom of Movement, as well as the many other political, economic and social rights that the EU grants to the citizens of its member states, Sue is well-known for her tireless work in defending the interests of the community she represents;
“We must continue to keep Brits in the EU on the political agenda & reinforce the message that citizens’ rights issues, despite what you are hearing from the UK government, are not “done & dusted”.
“There are many significant issues still outstanding, including our Freedom of Movement. Not only that, but none of those issues already “agreed” are even guaranteed in the event of a no deal scenario – so we must demand that any deal on citizens’ rights is ring-fenced.”
Aside from her work for the rights of British citizens in Spain, Sue is highly respected for her strong opposition to Brexit in general. Her wider work across the pro-EU movement includes numerous appearances at high-profile events, such as the #StopBrexit Manchester march.
Sue, Elena and Joan join a strong line up of speakers, which already includes Lord Andrew Adonis, Prof Anthony Grayling and Richard Corbett MEP, with many more high-profile speakers to be announced soon.