500 days after Brexit, EU citizens are living in a bad break-up movie

As EU citizens in the UK (and UK citizens in the EU) face their 500th day in limbo over their right to remain, let's revisit Brexit as a rom-com of hopes and disillusions.

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It feels like ten years went by since that dreadful morning of 24 June 2016, but today is 500 days since the UK voted to leave the European Union.

For the three million Europeans living in the UK, that’s 500 days in limbo over their right to remain in this country. Happy anniversary, citizens’ rights of old, lost in the 2016 referendum, gone but not forgotten! In the spirit of the 2009 romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, here is a linear retelling of the falling-out-of-love story, lived right now and for the past year and a half by EU citizens everywhere in the UK.

NARRATOR
This is a story of EU citizen meets Britain.

(Day -60)
INTERIOR, AT BRITISH CUSTOMS. EU NATIONAL CARRYING BIG LUGGAGE, SMILING.

EU CITIZEN
Britain! Finally! The land of Shakespeare, the Beatles, JK Rowling and David Beckham’s right foot! The country I’ve decided to build my life in!  Oh, I just can’t wait to learn the quirky British way of life, to start drinking at 5pm, queue at bus stops and pay the royal tax!

NARRATOR
You should know upfront: this isn’t a happy story.

(Day 1 – 24 June 2016)

DAVID DIMBLEBY
The British people have spoken and the answer is: we’re out.

INT, 10 DOWNING STREET
DAVID CAMERON
Oh shit oh shit oh bugger.

EU CITIZENS, WAKING UP ALL AROUND THE UK
Surely the first thing they will do will be telling us we can stay, there's no way this will be a problem. Dave Cameron must have a plan.

EXTERIOR, 10 DOWNING STREET
DAVID CAMERON
Lads, I have no plan, and I hereby resign.

(Day 2)
EU CITIZENS
It is all right, for the Conservative Party must have a plan.

THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY
Let’s pick a leader and hope they have a plan!

NARRATOR
None of the candidates have a plan.

(Day 19)
EXT, 10 DOWNING STREET
THERESA MAY
I have no plan but my only wish is continued success for this great country.

EU CITIZENS
Glad we agree. What about our rights, Theresa?

BRITISH CITIZENS IN THE EU
What about ours?

INT, EU COMMISSION, BRUSSELS

THE EU
Dear UK, would you mind getting your shit together please

THE UK
Sorry bit busy right now, we’ll get right back to you.

NARRATOR
They did not.

(Day 278)
THERESA MAY
I am proud to announce that I am invoking Article 50, at the worst possible time in British history!

EU CITIZENS
What about our rights, Theresa?

BRITISH CITIZENS IN THE EU
What about ours?

(Day 363)
THERESA MAY
My dear friends the immigrants I can’t send home because they arrived here legally EU citizens, behold our master plan: a settled status, reserved for people who have been here five years, for which you will all have to pay to apply!*
*does not include your current right to vote in local elections or any certitude that this status will actually be implemented

EU CITIZENS
Are you kidding?

BRITISH CITIZENS IN THE EU
What about us?

EU CITIZENS
This is getting repetitive, isn’t it?

BRITISH CITIZENS IN THE EU
Quite.

NARRATOR
Citizens started to wonder: why was it so hard to deliver on basic human decency? Was this a very elaborate joke? Had they been wrong about the UK all these years?

(Day 484)
THERESA MAY
Dear EU citizens, I am writing this letter to let you know I still love you. Also, you must stay in the UK, because you are my only protection against Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier. I promise I’ll be better. Don’t leave me, xoxo, Theresa

EU CITIZENS
We'll leave the UK tomorrow. (Pause.) Unless Theresa guarantees our rights.

BRITISH CITIZENS IN THE EU
And if she does?

EU CITIZENS
We'll be saved.

(Day 500)
EU CITIZENS
Well? Shall we go?

BRITISH CITIZENS IN THE EU
Yes, let's go.

NARRATOR
They do not move.

Pauline Bock is a New Statesman contributing writer based in Brussels. She writes about Brexit, the EU, France and the Macron presidency.