BRUSSELS — Jonathan Cooper and Ola Dykes have nearly emptied their apartment in the center of Brussels, in preparation to return home to England.
Two years ago Ms. Dykes, who is Polish, gave birth to twins, and took an extended leave from her Manchester-based job managing the European Union funds allocated to Britain. She joined her partner in the Belgian capital, where he’d been working for four years.
They expected that their stay in Brussels would be temporary, only a chapter in a life lived in England. But after the Brexit vote in June – and the increasingly hostile rhetoric against migrants and British government’s hard line that have followed – their decision to return might itself be temporary.
“It’s not the country I thought I knew. I feel I’m stateless now,” says Mr. Cooper, who manages projects for an internet agency funded by the European Commission. “The country that welcomed [Dykes] has suddenly changed.”
Cooper and Dykes are not alone. The June Brexit vote shocked many British expats living in Brussels and working with the EU. Their lives and their jobs have revolved around the EU and Britain’s role in it, and most in time came to define themselves as Europeans, enjoying the options of studying abroad and moving easily between countries. Some are married to citizens of other member states and have dual-nationality children.