But I Fled The UK At The First Opportunity
In the Spring of 2021, I resigned from my job, gave up my flat and put my belongings in storage, with a view to spending time with my parents in France. Prior to March 2020, I had been a regular on the Luton Airport to Geneva route, travelling back and forth to my childhood home. This year’s travel restrictions put an abrupt stop to my regular trips and accelerated my plans to relocate to Continental Europe post-Brexit and as it happens, in the middle of a global pandemic!
In ordinary times, I would have secured a new job before resigning from the old one and would have made arrangements for a smoother transition. However, these are far from normal times. My priority was to be reunited with my elderly parents after nearly 2 years in exile. As a British-born but a European-bred person, I’ve always thought of France and neighbouring Switzerland as Home. Even after spending almost 30 years in Britain, my feelings haven’t changed.
In fact, on a trip home via Geneva Airport about 3 years ago, I was really puzzled when the border guard asked me why I had travelled to Switzerland. I responded to him in my native French explaining that I was visiting my parents and that I’d grown up in the area. He handed my British passport back to me, nodding and waved me through.
This summer, I wasn’t even fortunate enough to travel into Switzerland. After 4 cancelled flights to Lyon, I nearly threw in the towel. With a week left on my tenancy, I gambled and booked a Eurostar ticket from London to Paris. If that trip were to fall through, at least I’d have a few days to regroup.
The benefit of travelling by train is that you go through the border at the start of the journey. On the morning of my departure, I nervously joined the queue with my fellow travellers, who were mostly French citizens, I imagine. I was equipped with all the necessary documentation or so I hoped.
As I approached the first kiosk, the border guard asked me for my passport and my forms. He told me that entry would’ve been easier for me, if I’d already been vaccinated. I can’t remember at which point the conversation switched from English to French but I found myself building a case for entering France. I provided additional documents as proof of address and my birth certificate to prove the relationship to my French parents. The exchange got a bit tense but I remained calm and was eventually let in. At that point, I had a vague notion that I might travel on to a European country outside of the Schengen area, after France. I wasn’t completely au fait with the 90-day rule but I was resolutely defiant in my decision not to return to the UK in the autumn. Croatia, it turns out, is beautiful this time of year.