In the third of a series looking at the views of people from outside of the political bubble, on the EU referendum, Lucy Ashton gets the perspective from a Sheffield academic.
There’s a bitter wind blowing as Petra burrows her face into her waterproof jacket and stamps her feet. Coming from the Netherlands, she’s used to our weather of squally gales and rain.
Petra and her husband are both university academics who left their home country 20 years ago to pursue their careers and are now settled in Sheffield with their two young children.
“When we left the Netherlands, I was working as an occupational therapist in a large university hospital but my two-year contract was coming to an end,” she explains, stuffing her hands in her pockets.
“Sharing my life with a scientist, we knew we would be spending time abroad as it was a requirement in his career.
“We just never returned to the Netherlands and I’m not sure I could live there these days. The things we do for love…” she trails off with a grin.
Despite living here for the past two decades, Petra and her husband will not be allowed to vote in the EU referendum, which she feels is unfair.
“We do use the NHS and we get child benefits but we have always worked and never claimed other benefits. We know that we are expected to supplement our retirement income due to us moving around and we have always paid our taxes.
“But we are only allowed to vote in local elections which I do not think is fair, but those are the rules.
“I would really like to have a say in this. I do understand the sentiment of not being allowed to vote but it does mean that there are times, when listening to the radio or reading a paper, I feel no longer welcome.”
Petra is a supporter of the EU and says if she could vote she would “remain, without hesitation”.
“People in general have no idea of all the things that the European Union means in daily life. I am not saying I know it all but I firmly believe it has done more good than bad.
“I have always been interested in the EU and try to keep abreast of what is going on.
Working for a university means I have dealings with Erasmus and other exchange students as well. There are also large research grants that the EU gives out.
“That is not to say there is no need to reform. The first thing that should be done is improve the speed with which decisions are made in the EU, which is difficult with 28 countries plus some in the influence sphere involved.”
For Petra’s family, if Britain leaves the EU it could mean the end of their life here.
“We are seriously talking about leaving if the UK decides to exit the EU. This might not happen immediately, as we will have to secure other positions and sell the house, but we feel strongly that small countries can’t do this independently.
“We are all dependent on each other and we are all connected.”
Lucy Ashton is a journalist and former Political Editor