Four Nationalities Into One Don’t Go: The End Of The UK?

How many passports do you (legally) have? If the answer is “more than one” then you now have the support of the “Economist” magazine. A leading article in its 7th January edition praised the concept of “multiple identities” and declared that “one-state citizenship” looks “outdated”. More than 200 million people, it pointed out, currently live and work outside the countries in which they were born. Many of them inevitably acquire a sense of loyalty towards the “political entity” in which they reside – often much to the disapproval of their nation of origin. A majority of African states (for example) appear to be hostile to the idea of “divided allegiance” – as do countries such as Denmark, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Norway, China and India, whose policy tends towards “automatic loss of citizenship if another is acquired voluntarily”. Participants in US naturalization ceremonies are still expected to renounce “fidelity to any foreign prince” – though the movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds both Austrian and US nationality: Germans and Austrians are allowed to obtain a second one as long as they apply for permission beforehand. Saudi Arabians risk incurring “criminal penalties” if they “exercise” another citizenship.  In Latin America (according to “”): Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina accept “dual nationality” but Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and Chile discourage it. These last three, however, along with Bolivia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Honduras, have signed a “dual citizenship treaty” with Spain.  A successful application immediately confers the right to live and work anywhere in the European Union, which is why an EU passport is so highly valued. Alex Ragir of “Immigrant Connect” in Chicago, has asserted that it is much easier to get citizenship in Italy than elsewhere in the EU and that this favours particularly Brazilians and Argentinians with Italian ancestry. Research conducted by the “International & European Forum on Migration”(FIERI) has suggested that “ over 25 million people worldwide are eligible for Italian citizenship”.

For British nationals who would like a second (or third) passport – but have no immediate intention of moving abroad or marrying someone from overseas – there may soon be another option available. In 2014, Scotland will vote on whether it wants to remain in the UK. A “YouGov” poll quoted in the “Sunday Times” on 15th January indicated that so far just 33% of Scots are in favour of independence and that 68% would prefer a “devolution max” arrangement, whereby they would continue in the Union but become virtually self-governing with only defence and foreign policy controlled from Westminster. If the Scots do decide to go their own way, Wales and even Northern Ireland may also conclude that they should do the same. Such an outcome would confirm the fears expressed in 1997 by Stephen Crabb, Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Wales, when Tony Blair (then Prime Minister) announced his devolution proposals – namely that the UK is being “slowly dismembered with the tacit consent of the political classes”. Although England’s population (an estimated 51,446,000) is the largest of Britain’s four constituent elements (Scotland has around 5,222,100; Wales: 3,006,400; Northern Ireland: 1,789,000) it could be (in the opinion of many commentators) “reduced to the status of a small country off the coast of Europe, lose its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and no longer qualify for membership of the G8 Group of major world economies”. Despite this entirely feasible scenario, another “YouGov” poll has revealed that 36% of English voters would be happy for Scotland to leave and only 39% want it to stay; 25% are as yet undecided.

A complete break-up would present both a dilemma and an opportunity for those of us on this island who have family connections with other parts of the Union.  I have a Scottish surname: At my naturalization ceremony, would I be required to wear a kilt (the clan’s colours are green, yellow and black),to know at least one of Scotland’s three national anthems (“Flower Of Scotland”, “Scotland The Brave” or “The Thistle Of Scotland”) and to speak a bit of  Scottish Gaelic ? I could for sure already answer some of the probable questions in the citizenship test: The colours of the Saltire (Scotland’s flag) are white & blue, their patron saint is St Andrew and the thistle is their national emblem – according to legend because a Danish invader stood on one in his bare feet and his shouts of agony alerted the defenders. On my mother’s side, I’m Welsh: The citizenship ceremony there would be even more formidable: They are renowned for their fine choral traditions, so I might be asked to sing (with difficulty) their national anthem, “Land Of My Fathers” and then have to recite without errors the name of their most famous railway station: “Llanfairpwllgwyngyll-gogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysilio-gogogoch”. The Welsh national flag consists of a red dragon superimposed on a green & white background, the leek is their national emblem and St David (their patron saint) has his own special day: March 1st.  The Welsh language is undergoing a revival – it is spoken by over 21.7% of the population – so I should definitely consider taking a “crash course” in it prior to both the test and the ceremony. As far as I’m aware, I have no Northern Irish family background – and anyway, a Queen’s University, Belfast, survey has indicated that, at the moment, 73% of inhabitants there would vote to retain their links with the UK. Just a couple of other quandaries to resolve: Which team should I support in the FIFA World Cup preliminary rounds (it’s highly unlikely that all of them will get to the finals) and which flag should I stick on the back of my car if I can ever again afford the price of petrol to drive across Europe?











Filed under: Politics, Society | Posted on January 23rd, 2012 by Colin D Gordon

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