British, European or Spanish?
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, I wrote a blog post declaring myself no longer British. I was ready to do whatever it took to maintain my position as a European, even if it meant becoming Spanish, which, due to the country’s nationality laws, would effectively mean giving up my British citizenship. How things have changed in two years!
Not that Brexit has gone away. Britain still appears poised to jump off the edge of a cliff next spring, propelled by collective political madness. There can be no justification for the economic self-harm the country is about to do, and in any normal circumstances a group of sensible politicians of various parties would have got together to prevent it happening. It is Britain’s great misfortune that a combination of circumstances and incompetences have conspired to leave it without a saviour, in thrall to a spurious “will of the people” misled by lies. I have no more desire to be British now than I did in the summer of 2016.
And yet… I also don’t see the European Union in the same way as I did two years ago. I’m deeply disappointed, particularly over its spineless, hypocritical and uncoordinated response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, its failure to do anything to restrain Spain from repressing the Catalan independence movement (a subject I will return to later) and its lack of support for British citizens living in the EU in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. So not only do I no longer seriously believe in Europe, I fear the whole European Union project is now probably doomed to failure. If you like, my objection to Brexit now is probably based more on the xenophobic attitudes it represents than on any real feeling that the EU is something worth fighting for.
When it comes down to changing nationality, though, what I really have to think about is what I’d be giving up and what I stand to gain. In the past, although technically Britons taking Spanish citizenship gave up their passports, they were always returned some sort of underhand, backdoor way which no-one has ever satisfactorily explained to me. Now, though, I’m told that the passport really is taken away and not returned. Applying for a new British passport would technically invalidate the new Spanish nationality taken.
Two years ago, I probably wouldn’t have thought about what I might be giving up, but now I simply don’t want to be Spanish. After the events of last October in Catalonia, when a peaceful referendum was disrupted by police violence and brutality, and then the entire Catalan government was either remanded in prison on wildly exaggerated charges or forced into exile, it’s not a nationality that appeals to me. Add to that the rampant corruption; the politically controlled judicial system and the lingering sympathy among even mainstream political movements for a vicious, dictatorial regime of the past and I just can’t bring myself to swap my British passport for a Spanish one.
“Why continue to live there then?” you would probably want to ask me. Well, my wife is from Catalonia, our son was born here, and, if you ignore the politics, you can live very well here. I really don’t see any inconsistency in wanting to live in Catalonia and not wanting to be Spanish. Nor do I have any intention of returning to live in small-minded, post-Brexit Britain.
So all I can do at the moment is hope that some sort of last-minute common-sense deal is worked out for Brits in the EU and Europeans living in Britain so we can go on living and working as we always have. Failing that, rather that living as an illegal alien, I imagine I will have to reapply for residence as the husband and father of Spanish nationals. I won’t be able to vote, but for all the good voting does in these post-democratic times that really won’t bother me too much. And it will all be done in good time. The big advantage Spanish bureaucracy has over the UK system in these matters is that its wheels turn very, very slowly.