OPINION: I feel betrayed by the UK over Article 50. Will Sweden offer hope?

OPINION: I feel betrayed by the UK over Article 50. Will Sweden offer hope?
Theresa May signing the letter invoking Article 50 (left) and the Swedish and European Union flags (right). Photo: Christopher Furlong/AP & Fredrik Sandberg/TT
After British PM Theresa May triggered Article 50 to officially begin the process of the UK leaving the European Union, Tomas Spragg Nilsson explains why he feels betrayed as a Brit living in Sweden.

I talk, write and rant about the politics of Brexit often enough. But today – the day the process begins to feel much more real – I’ve been reflecting on the situation Brexit personally puts me in.

I feel betrayed. I left the UK a number of years ago to live in Belgium and since then I have moved to Sweden. In the time I’ve been outside of the UK, I’ve been the archetypal exerciser of freedom of movement. I’ve travelled, worked, studied and yes, even claimed benefits in countries I wasn’t born in.

I feel betrayed because I led this life, safe in the knowledge that the EU would afford me the rights to do so as a citizen of one of its member states. I’ve paid taxes in these countries, I’ve contributed to the communities in which I’ve lived, I’ve gotten married, had a child and bought property – all because I knew my passport would allow me the security to make these financial and emotional investments.

Last June the rug was pulled from under my (and 1.2 other million Brits abroad in the EU’s) feet. Nine months on and our world seems just as upside down as it did on that fateful day. We feel betrayed, as in this time the British government has failed to reassure its citizens abroad. So too has it failed to reassure EU citizens in the UK enjoying reciprocal rights. On the contrary – Mrs May’s government has even been criticized for using EU nationals in the UK as pawns in the negotiations.

Now I have no doubt that in all of this, the Swedish government (I hope) is likely to look kindly on UK citizens in Sweden, as would many other EU member states. After all, like EU citizens in the UK, we often contribute more to the economies we live in than we take out in benefits (if you discount the thousands of British pensioners on the coast of Spain). But if I was the Swedish government, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to safeguard the rights of Brits in Sweden, knowing that the British government was willing to hold Swedes in the UK hostage.

So I'm torn. I feel betrayed by a British government unwilling to stand up for my security, and I look to a Swedish government I greatly admire to simultaneously stand up for Swedes abroad whilst extending a hand of friendship to Brits who’d much rather stay than head back to Blighty.

This opinion piece was written by Tomas Spragg Nilsson. You can follow him on Twitter @tjspragg.