For me, citizenship is purely a matter of legal rights and obligations. I have no use for patriotism or nationalism, which I see as dangerous illusions. The idea that one does or doesn’t belong to a nation because of ancestry or cultural characteristics is, I think, mainly a way for dominant groups to maintain their privileged position.
I already have dual nationality, having acquired US citizenship at birth and UK citizenship by naturalisation. We live in a world where citizenship of some countries brings great advantages, while citizenship of some other countries brings great disadvantages. Having more nationalities of the first sort is a good thing, not least as an insurance policy. My ancestors fled persecution in Eastern Europe in the 19th century, and were lucky to be able to emigrate to the US. During the era of 20th-century fascism, people who found themselves in danger, and had a second or third passport that got them to safety, were fortunate indeed. The resurgence of aggressively xenophobic nationalism in the US, Britain, and elsewhere in Europe makes it clear that such things could happen again.
The risk of a “no-deal” Brexit raises the spectre of forced population transfer, on the scale of what took place between Greece and Turkey in 1923. This, in particular, is why I’m beginning the process of applying for French citizenship. I live in France with my French wife and our children, and my primary concern is to keep the family together. It’s also important to me to be a citizen of a country that I expect to live in for a long time, e.g. in order to be able to vote.
The procedure for acquiring French citizenship by marriage appears straightforward at first glance, but requires a great deal of supporting documentation. For example, I must show that I have no criminal record in any country I’ve lived in during the past 10 years. For me that makes five countries, and getting the required certificate from some of them takes considerable time and effort. I need my US birth certificate with an internationally recognised certificate called an Apostille attached to it, which is complicated to obtain because of antiquated American bureaucracy. I also need to provide evidence that our marriage has been a practical and emotional reality ever since we got married 12 years ago. It will take me months to jump through all these hoops, then perhaps two years to get an actual decision. That will be too late for Brexit in April 2019, but it’s the best I can do.
Disclaimer: As with all of the information supplied through the citizens’ panel and presented in our Conversations with the #britishinEurope feature, the views, information, or opinions of individual study participants presented above are solely those of the individual author. They do not necessarily represent those of the project team, Goldsmiths or our funders.