Emile Zola updated – “J’Accuse” – Message for Boris Johnson and the UK Government


In 1898, the French writer Emile Zola wrote a letter to the newspaper “L’Aurore” accusing the French government of antisemitism during the trial of Alfred Dreyfus, a French army officer accused of treason. The tittle of the letter was “J’Accuse” (“I Accuse”). Whilst I do not pretend to have the talent Emile Zola had, I thought it appropriate to write my own letter of accusation, the day Boris Johnson is appointed foreign affairs minister.

I have updated this post following concerns that I have read from other British citizens living in the EU, and EU citizens living in the UK.

I feel empty because something, somewhere, deep in my soul has left me.

My United Kingdom has departed. I feel like the best friend from my youth has left my street to go and live in another town. Of course I can still physically see him, but it’s not going to be as it was. Yes, we’ve had our differences. I’ve had to do my school homework by candlelight. I’ve had to queue for hours, in the freezing rain, to buy bread. All this because of endless strikes. But I’m still going to miss him.

I’m very happy where I live now, in the land of Spinoza, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. But my roots remain English and French. I was born in the UK, went to a French school in London and then a British University. I grew up loving the Beatles and Genesis. I read Sartre and Camus. I laughed at Fawlty Towers and loved the films by Francois Truffaut. I have also lived 15 years in France, my other land, my other half. Not one or the other, but both. And the Netherlands is now my home, a beautiful place for me to live my life. This has been my choice. It must be a choice that anyone and everyone can make. It must remain a choice. That is what Europe is, that is what the EU stands for.

I have been able to move between countries because, since 1973, the EU recognises the Bachelor of Dental Surgery Degree, that I obtained at the University of London in 1982, as being equivalent to other EU dental degrees. As a dentist working in the Netherlands, I have to renew my registration on a national register for healthcare professionals every 5 years. This has been done in 2016. But what about in 2021? The referendum result and your inability to dismiss the doubts that EU and UK expats have expressed, are cause for concern.

Don’t you dare question my right to practice here.

In your wisdom, you decided that EU British expats who have lived for more than 15 years outside the UK, would not be eligible to vote in the referendum. I find this scandalous and in serious breach of a UK national’s democratic rights. This was no ordinary election but a referendum redefining the UK’s relationship with the EU. This is especially true when considering the fact that the result of the referendum could directly affect the rights of British citizens to live and work in the EU.

Of one thing you can be sure. The UK government did not allow me to vote. I will certainly not stand still and allow the UK government to interfere with my life. And take this for sure: if the UK government causes us problems, I’m prepared to give up my UK citizenship and enjoy the privileges of being French. Unfortunately, I cannot change the “Britishness” of my professional qualification. But don’t you dare question my right to practice here.

The EU has its faults. Maybe it has become too big, rather like a dinosaur. The EU must change radically and get better, much better. Change can only come from the inside, not the outside, and the EU needed the UK to remain within it.

The dinosaurs became extinct when a meteorite crashed into the Earth. If our EU, our dinosaur, dies, I will hold the UK responsible for having launched the meteorite from outer space.