On my way to London to give moral support to my daughter-in-law at her ‘citizenship ceremony’ in Chelsea Old Town Hall tomorrow. She needs it, otherwise she might not be allowed back in after she’s spent this Christmas with her folks in Australia. We had a scare two or three years ago, when she was laid up in hospital in Melbourne while her visa expired; lawyers and her local MP came to her defence, but we didn’t know until the plane landed at Heathrow whether or not she – and her new baby – would be let off. I think the Home Office (under the dreadful Theresa May) was wanting to make an example of her: firstly to demonstrate to Brexiteers that it was ‘serious’ about cutting immigration; and secondly to reassure liberals that it wasn’t only darkies it was trying to keep out. After tomorrow, she’ll have dual nationality, and so be (relatively) free.
Dual nationality may become the norm quite soon. My children can all claim dual Irish citizenship whenever they want – their mother has an Irish passport. I’m in the process of applying for joint Swedish (no word yet). In my case and, as I understand it, thousands of others, it’s in order to remain a citizen of Europe, once Britain has cast herself adrift.
That was the cruellest aspect of Brexit for people like me, though I sense that others will be affected worse and more materially. Why do Brexiteers believe that one essential part of being a British ‘patriot’ lies is keeping yourself apart from other nations? That’s not my understanding of the history of our ‘national identity’; about which I’m presently writing – or, rather, compiling, from old papers and unpublished lectures – a new book. It will be a kind of democratic history of the relations between Brits and Continental Europeans over the past two centuries, at the level of ‘the people’ rather than of governments. The working title is ‘Cosmopolis’.
I’ve been to one of these ‘citizenship ceremonies’ before: for my son-in-law, an American (now Anglo-). It was rather low-key: a tiny room, two flags (one for Hertfordshire County), a civil servant administering the oath – not Queenie: that was a disappointment – and the national anthem played on a portable CD player. The oath itself is a bit tame – ‘I, [name], [swear by Almighty God] [do solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare] that, on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs, and successors, according to law’; there’s nothing there about having your head chopped off if you don’t. Doesn’t becoming British deserve a bit more pomp? Tomorrow’s is a group affair (several new citizens), which might make it jollier.
I’ve nothing to add on the great issues of the day – the Cabinet falling apart, Boris’s clowning, dirty old Conservative MPs clutching women’s bottoms, increasing poverty, Donald’s idiocies, imminent war with ‘Little Rocket Man’, famous people (including Queenie) cheating the taxman; West Ham sacking Slaven… It’s all been said already. Weird enough, i’d have thought, to make Kellie think twice before becoming one of us. Can you apply for more than two nationalities? It could be a good escape route for all of us. And express our multiple ‘identities’ more meaningfully.