As the 2019 comes to a close, I write this letter from a beautiful part of the Mediterranean. The sun has been shining a fair bit and the catastrophic general election results feel a long way away for now. I don’t expect a miracle. Johnson has his majority in parliament so it would require a really big fat miracle to stop him getting his withdrawal agreement Bill through even with the pretty disgraceful wholesale dumping of previous undertakings he had made to “protect workers rights” and to help refugee children. I fear this is but a sign of bigger dumping of rights to come.
How do I feel? I normally write about the impacts of these things on others, but I am going to dwell just for today on my emotional self. I lived my entire life, bar my first 3 years, in the UK. My siblings were all a fair few years older, I was, you might say, a late hatch. My brothers and sister had memories of Spain; I have none from actually living there.
I always found thinking about my identity challenging. I think I do have an innate Spanishness, but I also look at lots of things with very British eyes. My humour is a mix of the love of the fatalistic and dark with an admiration for clever use of the English language and irony. When amongst Spanish people I feel my hispanic blood, with British I feel the Britishness. This strange mix inside me has led to some confused thinking at times. When Theresa May used the term “citizen of nowhere”, as offensive as that phrase is especially in the context she used it, there is a little nugget of fear in my gut that that is how people may see me, neither one thing or another. Whoever I am with, I always feel I must hold back some part of myself to be accepted. My identity is wrapped up in my blood and genes, the land of my birth and the land of my life plus some other family dynamics.
In 2005 I decided to naturalise as a British Citizen. I saw this as a way to settle some things in my head. I felt the need to make a commitment to the UK. There were crazy practical reasons like the fact that I could not vote in the UK where I paid my tax and where it affected my life, but I could, if I so wished, register to vote in Spain where I had never lived. This seemed just silly. But really this important decision was only possible because I had the backstop that I was a European and in legal terms a European Citizen and therefore my rights were protected. My EU citizenship allowed me to resolve how all the confusing jigsaw pieces of the essence of me fitted together comfortably, peacefully. I could make the commitment to my British part because the Spanish part could never be removed.
As we approach the 31st January, I will have a grieving process to go through as I lose my EU citizenship. Spain does not allow dual nationality. I don’t know at this point if I will be able to resolve this without losing my British passport but frankly, I am as angry today as I was on the 24th June 2016. I don’t want to choose between the essential parts which make me the person I am, and I don’t see why I should have to.
I currently find the way forward unclear and muddled. We have talked seriously for some years about relocating to Spain to be on the European mainland, an experience we thought we wanted to do for a while at least, but now I don’t know what the implications would be of that and my thinking is foggy and the ensuing indecision is something I will have to work through.
Apart from everything else, I worry about my beloved United Kingdom and whether it is actually wrong to leave right now instead of fighting for the open and tolerant and modern country it was and could be again, the place it was heading towards being before the treacherous poison of Brexit swamped its pores whilst malign voices whispered into the ear of ordinary people that the fault of their dissatisfaction lay in their relationships with their neighbours instead of the truth, that it was the whisperers, their landlords who were failing to fix the holes in the roof which let the rain into their lives.
I don’t know the answers yet, that’s a work in progress, but I do know that my feelings about my identity are once more on the table and that makes me sad and angry in equal measure. What makes me most angry is that what I have temporarily lost is the ability to find a note of hope and optimism to end this letter on. All I can say is that we need to be kind to each other and find a path to forgiveness to vanquish the difficult times ahead.