A flatmate from University posted a provoking question on Sunday on Facebook, which I answered.
I have spent the last hour or so reading a variety of articles on EU referendum. I feel like this is the biggest political decision of my life. And I am on the fence. What are your thoughts?
“After living and working in Brussels I was an ardent Eurosceptic, but having lived out of the UK since 2000, and ploughed a career mainly by virtue of the freedom of movement, I personally feel it better that Britain stays in. I realise that in the event of a Brexit, I’ll not be turfed out of my adopted homeland without any notice and as an ultimate last resort I could change nationality, but do not wish to give up British citizenship. What really hurts me is that I am not eligible to vote in the referendum, my voting rights ceasing at the last general election, and with a Brexit I would lose my remaining electoral rights as an EU citizen, as I would cease to be one.”
Her reply hits the nail nicely on the head. When I lived with her I had just returned from a second summer in Brussels, where I worked for an American company, and was a rare outlier among my friends who were all somehow part of the EU machinery. With age I have mellowed, and owe a lot of my career to a large extent to the freedom of movement that being an EU-15 citizen has allowed me. At University I was a fierce Eurosceptic, but think that having spent more than a decade in an EU-15 country, a small one at that, I have come to appreciate the EU in a different way to the angry young man who was at odds with Brussels. I look back with a certain amount of pride that I have presented at an event at the European Commission in Brussels – a building that I once quipped in my youth, if it were burning, would benefit from my donating some petrol. Although given my facetious comments in 1997 about how I would donate petrol to help Paul Daniels leave the UK if the Labour Party got in, there might just have been a petrol-based train of thought. The irony is, of course, that while Paul Daniels remains in the UK, I did leave the UK, for a year abroad, two summer placements and then permanently after graduation in 2000, and the news broke of his grave illness on the day that the British EU Referendum date was set.
My flatmate’s response summed up my situation quite nicely (I couldn’t call it a predicament – I have chosen to move to Austria and make it my home).
I was particularly interested to hear your point of view. I remember that you were eurosceptic, but you have lived there so long. I don’t think you can give up British nationality – can’t you just be dual?