Heroes and Villains
And so, this week, my new passport arrived. Not unfortunately, a French one. My new UK passport arrived instead and it is comfortingly red. I realise that in the future as the UK becomes so divided that passport queues at airports are separated into red holders and blue holders, it may hold me back, but so be it. I see specially employed immigration officers, working like scouts at 1970s New York nightclubs, walking up and down the line going, ‘UK passport? Red? Back of the line…’ Whereas the new-fangled blue passport will be the immigration equivalent of wearing sequined hotpants, a hint of cocaine around the nostrils and having Debbie Harry hanging off your arm. I hope so anyway, economic meltdown, mass unemployment, no free at source NHS, reduced freedom to travel, expensive foreign holidays and chlorinated chicken has got to be worth something.
Fortunately, the government have come up with a clever wheeze to make up for any financial shortfall in the near future. If, because of Brexit, you’ve had to apply for the nationality of the country you live in, so that you can keep your job for example, you may not be allowed to keep British citizenship. Some countries, like the Netherlands, don’t allow dual nationality. You have to renounce the motherland as it were, for which the motherland has just upped the fees for doing so, around £400 per adult no less. Seriously, if a gym tried that as a leaving jolt, the lawyers would be all over it. It also makes a nonsense of Iain Duncan Smith’s childish exhort, ‘if you don’t like Brexit, go and live somewhere else.’ Iain Duncan Smith is the Trigger of Brexit, a comic character so lacking in intelligence or nuance you don’t know whether it’s actually ok to laugh at him or not.
It’s the kind of petulant response that’s become the norm. What it signals, the very essence of where Brexit is now, is a lack of responsibility. Nigel Farage, ‘I didn’t say it would be a success.’ David Davis said that any deal with the EU ‘would have exactly the same benefits’, now he says that was ‘just an ambition.’ Even Liam Fox, a man who I suspect goes to bed clutching a photograph of himself, admits that those easy trade deals he lauded, are actually more ‘complicated’. And if these people are ever really questioned, if their figures or claims are really scrutinised – which is rare – the response is that they are just carrying out the ‘will of the people.’ It’s not my fault, guv. It’s what you wanted innit? Don’t blame me. Even Jeremy Corbyn uses the ‘will of the people’ line and he’s supposed to be the opposition.
The Sun newspaper thunders against a ‘worldwide conspiracy out to stop Brexit’, conveniently forgetting that it was worldwide conspiracy, Putin and Rupert Murdoch himself, who got it started in the first place.
All of these people are very strong on the idea of Brexit, ‘offer you outside’ strong on it, foaming at the mouth strong on it, but nobody knows what it is. Or even what it ever was in the first place. Some vague notion, some way of distracting attention that just got out of hand. Lord Lawson, climate change denier extraordinaire because he is paid to be so, says that Brexit is a good idea, but that it’s up to governments to use it wisely. There you go, passing the buck. Sage advice no doubt from the man whose fiscal laxity (not incidentally a euphemism for how he lost so much weight) led to the UK joining the ERM in the first place and to the third recession in 20 years. That’s like getting jewellery advice from Gollum.
Lawson also said, before the referendum, that he was sure Britons’ rights abroad would be guaranteed by the Vienna Convention of 1969, “I’m not a lawyer myself,” he stressed, but that he “knew a number of lawyers who…” blah blah blah. Lord Lawson also claims to know a number of scientists who deny that climate change exists; they’ll be in that 2% of worldwide scientists who for whatever reason, blackmail, an expensive crack habit, utter lunacy who see the melting of the polar ice caps as God’s way of providing ice cubes for a pink gin. Lawson himself trusts his lawyer friends so little that he’s applying for a Carte de Séjour in France where he lives. In other words, having taken advantage of freedom of movement, then campaigning for others not to have freedom of movement, and generally decrying freedom of movement as a notion – he’s now covering his back in case the policies he backed actually affect him.
Like Farage and his German citizenship application, John Redwood advising investors to sell their UK stock, and well-off Brexiteers, Rees-Mogg, Digby-Jones and Lilico telling everyone it will be alright in a generation’s time, the self-serving hypocrisy is… well, no longer surprising. It’s the norm. People who say one thing, attack others for disagreeing, then scuttle around like the rats they are, making sure they’ll be just fine thank you when it does eventually and inevitably all go belly up. There have been calls on French social media for Macron to deny the former chancellor’s application, but I’m not sure under EU law that he even can. That’s EU law there, helping out the needy.
And anyway, Macron has been dishing out French citizenship like confetti; any old Johnny-come-lately can get it now. Take Mamoudou Gassama, a Malian immigrant, he sees a small child dangling from a fourth-floor balcony and what does he do? Does he call the SAMU or the gendarmes like any self-respecting European would do? No! He ignores all the carefully laid down Health and Safety Regulations, scales the building like bloody Spiderman, saves the kid and in one giant leap raises the bar for all us immigrants in France everywhere. And Macron immediately gives him French nationality for that! I’ve adopted at least four cats and two dogs from rescue centres, where’s my citizenship?
I’d like to think that if he’d seen Lord Lawson hanging from the same balcony he’d have thought twice about saving the wretch, and instead grabbed a scientist in gravity-denial or a lawyer claiming the building was illegally built in the first place. No though, Mamoudou Gassama is a decent individual who acted in someone else’s interests and not in his own, and is therefore not just an immigrant but an embarrassing anathema to the self-serving bloodsuckers who spout hate for their own benefit. Europe needs more people like Mamoudou Gassama, not fewer.
Two years on I still don’t know if I’ll get my French nationality. So much of my family’s future and security depend on it. Anyone who bangs on about the fact ‘we were able move to France before the EU existed, we can again’ really hasn’t been paying attention or has been to the same law school as Lord Lawson’s friends. It isn’t that easy. It isn’t that simple. The world has changed and the UK, post Brexit, will be a tiny, non-influential dot picked off at will by the bigger fish who aren’t still living in the 19th century. We will have fewer rights because that’s what we voted for. Our economy will suffer because that’s what we voted for. But the people who were behind that vote, those Janus-faced duplicitous persuaders who are preparing their bunkers, they’ll be alright.
And so will I if I ever get my French citizenship so, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to attach my youngest to the TV aerial and set up my camera phone to film it…
This blog has been read by hundreds of thousands since it first started. It’s the story of my attempt to gain French nationality while covering the madness, as I see it, of post-referendum politics.
Our retirement plan Chambres d’hôtes, that’s B&B to you, will open sometime in the autumn, have a look… La Pause – Val de Loire