On Wednesday one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers, Helena Kennedy, announced that EU citizens should start collecting paperwork in evidence of their time in residence here. I find the possibility of a data-based inquisition into individuals, schools or employers terrifying.
Yesterday saw the last RSA public event of 2016. Sarah Churchwell talked passionately about her trajectory in the UK during the 'Review of the Year' which inevitably focused on Brexit and the Trump vote. She mentioned that whilst being an “immigrant taking a British job” she has never been questioned about her right to be in the UK, perhaps because she is a white American with an Anglophone name.
As a Spanish/British dual national, I think this post-Brexit scenario has signified a shift in my notions of who is 'us' and who is 'them'. I honestly would have never thought that the following things would be an advantage in life:
- Having more than one passport: Despite being one of those people who feel themselves a citizen of the world, I had never thought being a dual national would be of benefit. After the Brexit vote Theresa May reminded me - and half of the world with me - that we were wrong to feel like that. A few weeks ago at Centre for London's annual Conference, Zrinka Bralo, leader of an organising platform for migrants and refugees, pitched the need for a 'citizen card' for Londoners, that would give new people arriving in the city quick access to basic rights...I wonder if this formalisation of the obvious – that every human being is a citizen- will ever prove feasible.
- Stacking up files of all that annoying paperwork: Having grown up during the transition into the democratisation of the internet I had always found it a waste of space keeping any paperwork at all. After all, I exist online. But now history seems to be proving my dad right when he used to say 'keep all your banking, employment and census paperwork just in case...you never know'.
- Having a Scottish accent: Despite having mostly grown up in Barcelona, a mild, inherited Glasgow accent has stayed with me meaning I could be mistakenly confused with someone born and bred in the UK. We've been hearing about hate crimes sparking since the referendum and I can't help but ask myself in what ways those perceived as foreigners are actually identified by their haters. It can only be because of how they look or how they sound. Although there are always stereotypes attached to a Scottish accent I am lucky that people generally like it.
Whilst bureaucratic difficulty is no stranger to those from outside of the EU living in the UK, to me 2016 has meant going backwards. Whilst none of the above 'advantages' in any way define my identity, I can't help but feel lucky compared to some of my European friends who have been living in London for 10 to 20 years. Somehow, 'they' have now become 'them'.