I qualified as a doctor in Italy in 1982 but felt I wanted to gain some experience in a different healthcare system. In January 1985, I moved to the UK with my then Italian girlfriend who is now my wife. My first proper job was in Stockport as a pathology SHO, whilst my wife started a paid PhD in electronic engineering at the University of Manchester.
I would not have come to work here if the UK had not been part of the EU. The recognition of my medical qualifications and the fact that no work permit was required, for both myself and my girlfriend, were important factors in our decision. Perhaps more importantly, I did not feel I was a migrant.
At the time, I was an EU citizen moving into a fellow EU country under freedom of movement. I then worked as a microbiology registrar in Oxford and as a senior registrar in London. In 1996 I took on a microbiology consultant post in Sunderland, where I have worked since.
By this stage it was apparent we would not go back to Italy, so both myself and my wife acquired British nationality in order to have the full right to vote and to feel full members of British society.
All four of us, including our two sons, have dual British and Italian nationality. I define myself as a British Italian and have now spent more than half of my life in England.
After the Brexit vote in June 2016 I was gutted. I felt as if I had been personally rejected from my adoptive country. Had I made the wrong choice when I moved to the UK in 1985? Two German colleagues of mine, both consultants in my hospital, left in 2017 to go and live in France. This is not really an option for me as I am close to retirement and my two sons have grown up and work here. Although I am sure had this happened some years ago then this may have been different.
Initially, I did not quite understand why Brexit had happened. When I moved into the UK, I did not feel the local culture was very different from my culture; maybe my lasagne recipe is slightly different, but the fundamental values and professional standards are the same.
It is discouraging to think that maybe I was wrong about this. Perhaps all this time myself and others like me were perceived as EU migrants and ultimately, as a problem. I personally think we all have to do our bit to improve society. As a result of Brexit, I have now joined a political party and have started campaigning for a People’s Vote.
I am retiring next year but I am going to carry on doing things with others, hoping to achieve a greater good. I find all of this helps with morale. Despite what our Prime Minister recently said, I do not think I jumped any queue in 1985.
Dr Giuseppe Enrico Bignardi is a microbiology consultant working in Sunderland.