An Italian born mum who has lived in Britain for nearly 30 years has revealed how she has spent £2,000 on securing British citizenship – to secure her future after Brexit.
Doncaster-based Frederika Roberts was awarded British citizenship at the Mansion House earlier this week – and admits that she felt forced into the move over fears for herself and her family’s future after Brexit.
She said: “It is bitter sweet for me. I’m happy that I’ve got British status because I love Britain and have lived here for nearly 30 years but I’m also angry that I’ve had to do this. Angry that it has caused a lot of stress and upset to protect myself and my family after Brexit.”
Frederika, 47, was born in Italy and grew up in Luxembourg before coming to the UK in 1990 to study.
The positive psychology and character education speaker, trainer and author, who also holds German citizenship, ended up staying after meeting husband Simon and the couple ended up settling in Doncaster.
She said: “I never intended to settle here, but I met my husband - a British citizen - in my first year and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Frederika, who has two grown up daughters, says she had never worried about living in Britain – until the UK’s vote to leave the EU in 2016.
“That was when everything changed,” she said.
“Overnight, I was left unsure what it would mean for me and my family.”
But as the March 29 date for Britain’s scheduled exit looms, she says she became fearful over what the future held – and worried over what rights the government’s ‘settled status’ scheme would give to EU nationals living in the UK.
“I don’t trust Theresa May’s ‘settled status’ programme one bit,” she said. “I could see the loss of rights that that would give me.”
“The Windrush scandal scared me. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I wouldn’t be allowed back into the country or treated differently.
“You hear these horror stories of people being stopped at airports and I didn’t want that sort of thing happening to me and my family.”
So in December she set about the “expensive, stressful and time consuming” process of applying for British status.
“I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else,” she said. “It’s my home. But all of a sudden I was being made to feel like some kind of intruder and not welcome.”
“I’d been resisting because it’s so expensive but it is the only way for me and my family to be safe and secure for the future.”
She has had to provide reams of paperwork proving she lives in the UK including bank statements, her marriage certificate, driving licence, utility bills, doctors' letters, copies of her German and Italian passports and even her degree certificates.
“I shouldn’t have had to do all this,” she said. “I’m angry that I have had to do it. I’ve lived in Doncaster for more than 20 years, my husband is British, my daughters are British and I consider myself British too,
“All in all, it has probably cost me more than £2,000 to be able to safely stay in a country I’ve lived in since 1990.”
Frederika, who has campaigned for a People’s Vote as part of the Best For Doncaster group, said: “When the letter came through announcing I’d got British citizenship, I cried.
“It was just such a relief to get it all done and dusted before Brexit. It has been so stressful for the entire family not knowing exactly what the future holds.
“I love this country and I’m passionate about Britain.”
But she admits she couldn’t resist a little ‘statement’ at her citizenship ceremony.
”I wore the EU colours of blue and yellow and had my nails done in EU colours too,” she said.
“I had to have a little joke somehow.”