As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been living in the UK for 20 years and feel British in many ways. This week I acquired British citizenship. So… I’m a British citizen, now what?! How does it feel? Well, it does not feel like one would expect. Not in the current climate anyway.
The B word
You’re probably tired of listening to conversations about the B word.
Yes, I’m referring to Brexit. I probably would have acquired citizenship in the future anyway, however, I feel like I was left no option but to do it now because of the unknown quantity that is Brexit. I did it at this point in time, and not in the future, because of my family. And, that dear reader, brings a slightly bitter taste and mixed feelings.
Why does my citizenship have a bitter taste
As mentioned previously, I might have done it anyway at some point in the future – mind you, it’s not an easy or cheap process and I have a lot going on in my life right now.
In my case, it makes sense to take British citizenship. After all, I have been living here for as long as I have lived in my country of birth, I have paid taxes, been a good, responsible citizen, affecting change for good and contributing to my community whenever and however I can. I have worked in the charity sector for many years, been a volunteer and a charity trustee, and I am an accredited professional. I think it’s safe to say I’m a respectable citizen. Certainly, one who values and lives by the British values of
- The rule of law
- Individual liberty
- Mutual respect
- Tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs
long before I had to swear an oath to prove so.
I have integrated very well from day one, my children live here, and are being brought up bilingual, with British and Portuguese values.
I live here, I work here, my network is here. This is my community and has been for 20 years. I don’t become suddenly more British because of this paper. I have been British as well as Portuguese for a long time.
It’s funny… I have been made to feel unwelcome, though thankfully, not as much as people from other countries – maybe I’ve just been lucky? The irony is that, as part of the citizenship process, I undertook a Life in the UK test, where I had to know things that even my well educated British friends didn’t know. I can spell better, and uphold the values, better than many British born people.
Nevertheless, it made sense to formalise it. I guess it’s like living together de facto and eventually formalising that relationship by getting married.
I just wish it had been a more joyful and celebratory occasion, and not with the backdrop of the impending Brexit and of the process that got me here.
A recent article from The Guardian newspaper clearly approached the issue of anxiety brought onto Europeans by Brexit. You might think this is over the top. In fact, I know many Europeans who were relaxed and nonchalant about the whole process. Perhaps it’s easy for them to leave the country. I guess I could but not without major disruption to my family’s life.
You see, I’m married to a Brit. This is where we built our life together. Our children were born here and this is their home. Britain is where I build my life over the past 20 years. I have no appetite right now to up sticks and leave aged 42 years old, with two small children who identify as British.
Perhaps one day I can bring myself to describe the feeling and the process that led me to hold the document that certifies I am a British citizen. For now, I will say this. The entire process had multiple hic ups and has given me huge anxiety and distress. I have shed tears more times than I’d like to admit.
So, yes, I know what people are talking about when they say they have felt a sense of bereavement and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
I hope me saying this doesn’t feel like disrespectful to anyone who has suffered from real personal bereavement or PTSD from horrific situations but please try to understand. This is my life and that of my children’s that is being turned upside down. At worst, we have the possibility of persecution and discrimination (yes, even if I am now officially a British citizen, this scenario is not entirely far fetched), and huge economic and social upheaval that will affect hugely our dreams and lives, perhaps even survival, having given very little opportunity to plan for it.
I hope, of course, that I’m proved wrong. Only history will tell.
The birth of a new breed of dual citizens
In the two and half years after the infamous June 2016 Brexit referendum, Europe has seen a surge in dual citizens:
- Europeans, many with dual heritage families like mine, taking British citizenship to protect themselves from the consequences of Brexit, their lives being used as bargaining chips
- Brits taking Irish or another European citizenship to protect themselves from the unknown quantity that is Brexit.
- Brits taking Irish or another European citizenship they have a link to as a protest against
Brexit,because they feel European as well as British
- British people living in Europe acquiring the citizenship of the countries they have connection or property in
Citizenship has become a commodity. Unfortunately, some of us were left no choice. It will be interesting to see the results of the next census.
Bizarrely, there has also been a fifth type of dual citizenship: wealthy Brexiteers who spurred people on to divide the country. They shamelessly egged people on to vote YES for Brexit because “Europe dictate the size of your bananas”, “They take your jobs” and so forth.
Those wealthy Brexiters who can afford to make provisions for themselves and their families, so they won’t suffer the consequences of the decision they manipulated people to take. People like Nigel Farage and Nigel Lawson, amongst others.
A sense of urgency
Things I have seen, experienced, watched and read about have been so alarming that, where once I would try to blend in, I now feel I have a moral obligation to speak up and challenge some
I do not condone violent and disrespectful
Solutions on a postcard please
And that my friends, is why this event, of acquiring British citizenship, is not as bright and celebratory as I would normally expect. The backdrop is dire, and I am concerned about the future.
I welcome ideas, respectful debate, workable solutions to address the many-pronged challenges we’re facing. It’s a matter of urgency! Answers on a postcard. Or in the comments below.
In the meantime, I like Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of
PS – I hope this honest post doesn’t come across as ungrateful. It’s important to understand different perspectives. Perhaps if people had been given an opportunity to honestly voice their feelings and concerns before the referendum, they might not have felt the need to take such a fateful and tragic decision.