Wednesday, 9 March 2016

So How Would Brexit Affect You?

I've tried in these blogs about the EU referendum to turn the question round, as I believe Christians should. What matters isn't just 'what's in it for us, what's in it for me?' but "what's in it for everyone else in the EU and what do we bring to the Union as our contribution to this family of nations?" It's a corporate implication of the second great commandment of the Torah quoted by Jesus: "love your neighbour as yourself".

But we wouldn't be human if we didn't wonder what our personal lives would be like if Brexit became a fact on 24 June. I won't pretend that it wouldn't be a personal nightmare to wake up and learn that this country had decided to walk away from the European Union. It would be a case of joining the hapless sailors at the start of The Tempest and crying "To prayers! To prayers!" But by then it would be too late to do much about it. 

I can't say how this "tempest" would affect the nation or me personally as far as the economy is concerned. Nobody can, though it doesn't stop a lot of people trying. But there is one thing that would change for me pretty decisively. And that is, that I would lose my European citizenship. I would no longer carry a passport that proclaimed "European Union" as well as "United Kingdom". I would no longer be able to pass through the green EU channel at customs. I wouldn't be able to carry an EHIC health card across Europe. There would be other losses too, real as well a symbolic.

But the loss of citizenship is a really big issue for me. To be an EU citizen has been part of my identity for most of my lifetime. It's a prized part of who I am, born of a German Jewish mother whose own parents were sheltered in Holland during the Nazi era, married to a woman with Irish heritage, owning a property in France. I feel completely at ease in continental Europe. It's my homeland, this dust whom Europe "bore, shaped, made aware, / Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam" (if you'll forgive a rather shameless borrowing of Rupert Brooke's famous poem). It's where I am connected and have always belonged. 

So what happens when, if, my precious European citizenship and the identity it confers is shorn from me? Can it be retrieved in any way other than a landscape of the mind, a land of lost content, a place of yesterday rather than today and tomorrow?

I hope and pray that it doesn't come to this. Because half in my mind is the idea that anything to do with my citizenship is a basic human right which should never involuntarily be removed. So here's my question.

Might it be possible for us dismembered, forcibly exiled Europhiles to be reattached to the EU in some other way? I'm thinking: might other EU member states make provision for British people who do not want to be deprived of their European citizenship? I'm thinking of a special kind of dual citizenship we might call UK Plus whereby we could elect also to become honorary citizens of Germany, France, Ireland (Scotland one day?), any member state that valued its own links with British people and didn't want to sever ties any more than many of us do. And might the European Parliament pass some enabling legislation to make this possible? 

As a European at home in North East England, I don't want to emigrate. I don't want to say farewell to these islands that I love, where my family and friends are, where so much of my life has been lived and where I have been fortunate enough to be happy. Britain has been good to my family and to me. But so has Europe. I don't want, I really do not want to be cast adrift from the mainland, collapse into a complacent island mentality that imagines that it can pretend to a nostalgically imagined, and in the end futile, self-sufficiency. I don't want my grandchildren to grow up on such an island and with such a defensive attitude to the wider world. And it's their future we should be thinking about, not just our own. My children and grandchildren were born as Europeans. It's their birthright. It mustn't be stolen from them.  

I've not seen this question discussed anywhere though I have today written to a national daily paper about it. But I very much want to lay down a marker that once given, it is not acceptable to be deprived of our hard-won citizenship. I shall accept that Brexit is the will of the British, if it turns out that way. The people will have spoken. But minorities have rights too. Their voices need to heard. And I very much doubt that there aren't others who will echo these thoughts and can perhaps suggest where they might be taken for discussion. 

You can follow Christians for EU on FaceBook and on Twitter @Xians4EU. 


  1. One thing that might happen, is the rebuilding of our trading relationships with the Commonwealth, which we surrendered when we became part of the EU - that decision radically affected some countries, and caused great resentment at the time, which lingers on. We've rebuilt the domestic relationships, but our trade with them remains hampered by the rules of the EU.

    It would be interesting to see how we'd revive those relationships in the future, where in or out.

  2. I have travelled more in Europe before we were so tied together than I have recently. I'm not persuaded that we would, as it were, cease to be citizens of the wider world! Particularly if you personally are not insular.

  3. I am a pagan of English and Scottish parentage. In those respects we don't seem to have much in common.

    However, like you, I hold my European citizenship precious - even perhaps (and I realise this would have me condemned as a traitor by Brexit campaigners) more precious to me than my native British citizenship.

    In truth I've never spent much time on the Continent, and I have no relatives anywhere else in Europe that I'm aware of, so my citizenship isn't maybe as directly practical an issue as it will be for many people. I have no children to fight this issue for: in my case it's purely about myself and others who find themselves in this position now.

    But, like you I think, that citizenship means more to me - a lot more - than simply what rights it bestows on me (though freedom of movement is a right I hold dear, even if I don't use it much). It makes me part of a larger community of people; a community I wish to stay a part of, regardless of what the greater part of the UK population might decide for me.

    You said you'd written to a paper. Did they reply? Did you find any useful information? My intention had been to write to my MEP. If I find anything useful out, I'll pop back here and update.