”A Canadian In London: What Free Movement Means For Me” – Erin McLaughlin

On 24 June 2016, I woke-up like it was any other morning – a bit cranky that it was so early and that I hadn’t won the lotto and retired to travel the world with my fiancé.

Canadian passport (photo: UCreative)

Living in the UK for just over a year, 24 June was a pretty significant day in British history – the referendum results were in. For the past few months, all channels and newspapers were splattered with “In versus Out” campaigns, stories about how people may be affected (on either side of the campaign), and what it could possibly mean for business, trade and finance.

That morning, jokingly, we both made comments to the effect of “well, another day in the EU,” thinking that there was absolutely no way the UK would have voted to leave, if for no other reason than the unknown.

To our surprise, the results proved us wrong.

Shocked would have been an understatement if you asked how we were feeling. Immediately, we tried to figure out what would happen – assuming the Prime Minister would step down, we were trying to analyse possible candidates and made assumptions of who would step in as his replacement (we were wrong, by the way).

That morning, as usual, I took the train to work. Generally in London, no one makes eye contact with strangers, let alone talk to them on public transportation (unless you’ve indulged in a few libations), but all the natter on the train ride was about Brexit. Everyone was talking about it, and everyone had an opinion. A portly gentleman, who seemed to have some sort of problem with the world in general, was offering lots of comments about the UK and it’s future (for the record: none of it was overly coherent), but began asking for the opinions of others and what they thought the future held. The kind lady beside him explained that no one knows what the future would hold, and I echoed her sentiment when he asked me. Promptly, he told me to row back to America and that my time in the UK was soon over.

It’s now been nearly three months since the Brexit vote, and while there have been some changes, we still don’t really know what’s happening.

There was a fluctuation in the Pound, but its climbing back up. We’ve not yet noticed prices rise at the pumps or grocery stores, and I don’t think housing prices have been affected. We’ve recently purchased an apartment in south London, and regularly go past the estate agent offices, peering into the window at neighbouring apartments, and prices are still as high as ever.

From an immigration stand-point, I think that this could help Commonwealth citizens with immigration to the UK. I’m not a solicitor, immigration specialist, or have a deep knowledge of politics in the UK, but I think that once the UK separates from the EU (should this process actually happen), it will probably limit the number of EU residents moving here with the intent of staying long term.

From a personal standpoint, the UK is my home. I arrived here in June 2015 and quickly thereafter, met someone & fell in love. We’ve had a busy year of buying a house, travelling (within the UK, and within & outside the EU), and have also recently become engaged. My partner is born & raised in London and his family all lives nearby. This is our home and where we plan to spend our lives, at least for the foreseeable future.

When I arrived here in June 2015, I had plans to stay for 2 years on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, and didn’t have any long term plans within the UK. Now that I’m here, and more than a year into my visa (with plans to permanently stay) I need to consider how Brexit could possibly affect me.

London at night (photo:

For now, no one seems to know what’s happening. We don’t know what changes are to come, what Parliament is doing in the lead up to triggering Article 50, or how immigration policies will be affected.

Given that there seems to be so much unknown at this point, we continue to carry on preparing for the next visa. Right now, I can’t accurately say what’s going to happen, if I’ll have issues submitting my next visa application, if there will be changes to immigration for EU & non-EU citizens and what to expect going forward. I’m not sure anyone in the country currently knows what’s going to happen.

With all of that unknown, it does make me feel a bit uneasy. The unknown is a bit daunting, but all I can do is move along the regular process, keeping the status quo and hoping for the best.

But what people neglect to consider when someone is going through the visa / immigration process is that there is a large investment behind it – both financially and emotionally. My first visa cost a significant amount financially, but also meant that I was leaving my home, all of my friends and family and was taking a major risk. I left my career, my comfort zone and everything that was familiar to me. This time, I am applying for a visa that means whether my husband and I get to spend our lives together in the home we’ve both created; an issue that would not affect me if I had the opportunity to live and work here as a Commonwealth citizen without visa restrictions.

Free movement between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK just makes sense. These countries share so many commonalities and the ease of movement between our four nations would create such a strong partnership. This union would make things so much easier for me, and thousands of people in similar circumstances.

It would mean that I wouldn’t have to worry about potentially leaving my husband at some point due to visa restrictions, or worry about the unknowns and the what if’s. It would also mean that I wouldn’t have to pay an extortionate amount every few years to re-apply for new visas. For me, free movement means that we don’t have to worry about ever being separated.

The future (post-Brexit) is uncertain for everyone, but as a Canadian, I hope our future as citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK will be one where our rights to move freely are recognized, and our fears of being separated from family and loved-ones are never again a concern for us or future generations.

Erin McLaughlin
Saint John, Canada


Erin is from Saint John, New Brunswick & is living in south London with her fiancé. She is currently on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme Visa and in the process of preparing to switch to a LTR (F) visa.