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United outside the kingdom

Meet the Brit, who has become a beacon of hope and calm during the Brexit crisis, to Denmark's sizeable British community.

Photograph: Greg McQueen

Text: Michaela Medveďová

After the 2016 Brexit referendum, millions of Brits worldwide - the nearly 19,000 that live in Denmark - were left waiting and wondering how it would impact their lives. Paula Bleanch, now living in Horsens with her Danish husband and two kids, was one of them.

In 2021, British nationals had to apply for a new residency card in Denmark. "We retained our EU rights, but only in Denmark. We've lost our free movement. We think of ourselves as European - it was challenging to come to terms with that not existing anymore." Paula met her husband when she visited a European-funded project in Horsens. He was one of the organising teaching staff. "This is why I feel so passionately about being a European citizen. If it weren't for our membership in the EU, I wouldn't be in Denmark - I wouldn't have my family."

I think Denmark handled the post-Brexit situation in a very organised way.

She thinks Denmark handled the post-Brexit situation in a very organised way. "The government sent letters to all Brits living in Denmark explaining what we need to do and sent reminders again for people who hadn't applied."

But even so, Paula noticed a lot of misinformation floating around Facebook among distressed people. So with her history of volunteering in Denmark as the President of International Network Horsens, she decided to join a Facebook group called British in Denmark and a wider group called British in Europe. British in Europe have represented the UK nationals living in Europe to the European Commission and the British government, fighting for their rights.

The team tried to answer people's questions and get the facts straight on the British in Denmark Facebook group. "We've had great feedback from the British Embassy, and it was beneficial for them to have a place on Facebook with the right information coming out." Paula and her fellow admin Helen made the group into a safe place where everyone could contribute and ask questions without the fear of bullying. They ended up creating a fantastic 1,200-strong online community. "We've had cases where people said they are struggling with applying for their residency card because they aren't IT strong. Others have volunteered to meet them in person and help them with the application. People are so good at helping each other."

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