By Liana Jacob
THIS FIERCELY ANTI-BREXIT mum-of-two claims that her passion for campaigning against Britain’s divorce from the EU almost caused the breakdown of her own marriage after the pressure got too much for her husband and resulted in them sleeping in SEPARATE BEDS for THREE WEEKS.
Home maker, former business woman and mum-of-two, Cosi Doerfel (47), who has been living near Liverpool, UK, for 30 years, feels that since the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU), she has been left in limbo due to being born in Munich, Germany.
Following the EU referendum in June 2016, in which she was not eligible to vote, Cosi became concerned about how the result would affect her rights as an EU citizen living in the UK and her concern grew so much, she would dedicate the majority of her time to researching about and campaigning against Brexit.
Throughout her investigation, her husband, Jim, from Ayre, Scotland, who voted remain in the EU referendum, couldn’t cope with how it had consumed his wife’s life which created a rift between them. They would avoid talking to each other worrying it would become a heated political debate and her husband ended up sleeping in his office for three weeks.
Cosi created lifelong friends as a result of her campaigning efforts and becoming involved in a group called In Limbo; a project dedicated to publishing testimonies from EU citizens who have been badly affected by Brexit. For a year, she built up a support system from strangers that campaigned with her but says that her husband was in denial about the effects of Brexit.
Their tension-filled relationship resulted in Cosi looking for somewhere else to live and even considered moving back to her home country but feared that she would be permanently be separated from her children, who are still in primary school aged 11 and eight.
A few days after failing to find somewhere else to live, her husband broke down and admitted that he was proud of her campaigning and that he thought that Brexit would never happen. He decided to join her in future protests and supported her during her speeches.
“Having lived in the UK all my adult life means that all my qualifications are British and not recognised elsewhere,” Cosi said.
“I have paid National Insurance Contributions for nineteen years and now do not know whether I will be able to get a pension and I am too old to start again in another country.
“Brexit has affected every aspect of my life; my mental health, relationships with friends, husband, children, everything.
“I have lost work due to Brexit and closed my business because of it. At the time of the referendum I was on a business development course with the Chamber of Commerce to start a business blending and selling herbal teas.
“There was no point in working on building it up if I had no certainty that (a) I would be staying in the country – initially I didn’t know that there would be any question that I would not be ‘allowed’ to stay.
“Can you imagine my shock to discover that after thirty years here, the Home Office no longer recognised the rights I had acquired back in the 1990s and that I could be deported if I became homeless.
“And (b) whether I would be able to get my raw materials – about eighty to ninety percent of the herbs I use are grown abroad and not even available from the UK.
“Because I have a disability and two children to care for, I am not able to work full time. My business folded due to Brexit.
“I am supported by my husband and as well as developing the herbal tea business to supplement our income.
“Although I have now obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain through the EU Settlement Scheme, I do not know whether the government will stay true to the promises that were made about settled status.
“Several things have already been changed about it, several promises already broken, for example the time I can be out of the country without losing the status has been reduced from five years to two years.
“I do not know what the Home Office will do with the data they obtained from me (including facial recognition data, my fingerprints and all my tax records).
“We worried that our landlord would have problems or be reluctant to renew our tenancy, if I do not have the ‘right to rent’ after 29 March 2019.
“Plus researching the legal ramifications of Brexit took a lot of time and the more I found out about how Brexit would affect me, the more time I spent on supporting the members of the In Limbo group, many of whom are very vulnerable.”
Cosi says that the all-consuming inquiry into Brexit and its effects on her family meant that she had little to no time for her husband and children.
Her busy schedule took a toll on her husband who couldn’t bear to talk to her about Brexit and her discoveries.
“The more time I spent on researching Brexit and the In-Limbo Project, the more my husband did not want to face up to what I was discovering,” she said.
“It seemed monstrous to him and he couldn’t believe that what I was saying was true. The more time I spent on the computer, reading legal texts and government webpages as well as supporting the In-Limbo group members, the less we spoke.
“He couldn’t cope with the fact that I was diagnosed with PTSD and that the objectification and insults at the hands of the Home Office and the politicians had caused old wounds to open up and the therapy I was undergoing was also taking a lot of my time and energy.
“We drifted further and further apart and had more and more arguments until eventually we were sleeping in separate rooms and only living in the same house because neither was prepared to leave the children – we both refused to move out.
“However, things got so bad and scary that I did actually contemplate moving and enquired at the town hall about what my rights are and whether there was any help available for me. There was none.
“In between this hectic schedule, we had a fight which culminated in him sleeping on the guest bed for about two or three weeks and things became unbearable.
“I had to get out and enquired at the town hall about social housing and whether there was any help available if I left at short notice. I was told that here was nothing they could do for me.
“There wasn’t any domestic violence, so I couldn’t go to a shelter and housing benefit has been scrapped – it’s all universal credit now, but only British citizens can get universal credit. I was stuck.
“Two days later my husband broke down in tears and said that he was proud of my campaigning against Brexit, that he had been too optimistic thinking that it would never happen, that he admired my strength and fighting spirit and thanked me for campaigning.
“He also asked whether I was having an affair – to which I laughed and said ‘I wish’. We started talking again; he joined anti-Brexit groups on Facebook, he joined me at anti-Brexit events and has listened to my speeches.
“It took over a year for my speeches to reach the person who should have been closest to me. He actively campaigns online and at real events, but also looks after the children and the household to enable me to do more in the campaign against Brexit.”
The In Limbo Project is a not-for-profit non-political initiative set up by a group of EU27 citizens in the UK to record their testimonies from the five million ‘victims’ of Brexit and can be found here: https://www.ourbrexitblog.org/in-limbo-book/