Going Dutch – Citizenship And Freedom Of Movement

citizenship

Freedom has a price. Most people aren’t willing to pay it. –  Jack Kevorkian (American activist)

The government’s recent decision to sharply increase the cost of giving up British citizenship represents a new low point in the Brexit saga. Just as you thought that the UK government couldn’t get any more cynical in its treatment of EU citizens – including its own – it just has. After the simplified application for settled status, whose app won’t work on your Android or iPhone, here’s the renouncement of UK citizenship that will require a second mortgage to pay off. It does seem that we are to remain British until debt us do part.

Tough luck, mate. You shouldn’t have been British in the first place.

In the aftermath of a big surge in the number of people seeking to renounce UK citizenship, in favour of an EU one that is synonymous with freedom of movement, the Home Office has decided to apply a huge increase in relevant administrative fees. UK citizens who live in a EU-27 member state where dual nationality is not tolerated, will now have to pay £372 per person for the privilege of enjoying full EU rights. This is an increase of £50 on previous tariffs. For the Home Office, it’s a question of increased work load related to the huge increase in demand, and ensuring “value for money for the taxpayer.” This reasoning is not only flawed, but also extremely cynical. It belongs to a world aptly described by Ayn Rand.

For Michael Harris, member of the group British in Europe, “renouncing nationality is a last resort for people whose livelihood is in danger and an extremely painful decision to make.” And to think that the UK government is cashing in on it. The Home Office’s philosophy is that it’s just tough luck for all of those who cannot afford to pay in excess of £1000 for a family of three, and that they shouldn’t have been British in the first place.

The Home Office is acting in the same way that all commercial airlines do – adjusting the price of air tickets during peak periods, in order to cash in big time on increased demand. The service they provide, however, is exactly the same.

The decision mirrors the cynical way that the UK is turning in on itself, curling up like a stretched coil that cannot stretch anymore, without breaking. It reflects the UK government’s profound disregard for individuals, who feel forced to give up what still remains an integral part of who they are – their nationality. The UK’s approach is also in line with what happened at the Grenfell Tower – where money primed over security, and the Windrush scandal, where the Home Office acted despicably. Now, not only has the Home Office ignored its mistakes from the past, but is also cashing in on the future.

 

  • But is the UK solely to blame?

 

The Dutch government has no business obstructing alternate national ties in the absence of a compelling reason to do so.

The recent decision by Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, to allow Dutch citizens living in the UK to hold dual British-Dutch citizenship is to be welcomed. But let us not forget that, not so long ago, he was against the idea, and that it is only due to pressure from certain coalition party members, that he changed his mind. Furthermore, dual nationality does not apply to British citizens, living in the Netherlands. The Dutch government has no business obstructing alternate national ties in the absence of a compelling reason to do so.

That certain EU-member states do not allow EU-citizens to hold another nationality than that of the country of residence, underscores the fact that certain governments grossly misunderstand the importance of nationality, in determining who we all are. Whereas the notion of the “nation-state” has greatly evolved with time, that of nationality still remains of vital importance, on a personal level. This notion goes beyond the idea of a country, and encompasses the very way one thinks and acts, as an individual. Furthermore, growing up with a particular nationality, is quite different from acquiring a nationality later in life. Whereas the latter can be more easily forfeited, the former can certainly not.

Although I was born and raised in the UK, my strong French environment, as a child, ensured that to all intense and purposes, I was both British and French. When I obtained French citizenship, in 1991, it only confirmed something that I already was. In the same way, growing up in London was synonymous with being imprinted with British culture and identity – something I still cherish, as highly as French Republican values. 

The only reason that I cried after the Brexit vote is that I witnessed a country, so dear to my heart, tear itself to pieces, and tear itself from the very ideals I believe in. I would have reacted in the same way for France.

I can well imagine what the British citizens, who are considering renouncing their citizenship to be able to continue benefiting from freedom of movement, are going through. Having to forfeit one of my nationalities would probably have the same deeply hurtful effects that I felt immediately after the Brexit vote. 

 

  • The first paragraph of Article 17

The 1997 European Convention on Nationality refrains from condemning multiple nationality as a problem, instead noting “the desirability of finding appropriate solutions to consequences of multiple nationality and in particular as regards the rights and duties of multiple nationals.” As a consequence of the Brexit vote, and in accordance with the European Convention on Nationality, the Dutch government has found it reasonable that Dutch citizens, living in the UK, be able to obtain British citizenship without forfeiting Dutch citizenship.

But for the rest of us?

The Dutch government wants to limit dual nationality as much as possible. If you have only one nationality, it will be clear what your rights are. That is why people who want to acquire Dutch nationality through naturalisation are, as a rule, required to give up their other nationality if possible. This is called the renunciation requirement. – Dutch Government website

It seems quite obvious that the Dutch haven’t read Article 17 of the Convention. Paragraph 1 of Article 17 contains the basic principle that persons holding multiple nationality, in the territory of the State Party in which they reside, shall enjoy equality of treatment as compared to those holding single nationality.

It is strange that The Netherlands, such an outward looking and tolerant country, is so uncompromising on dual citizenship. Does it feel threatened by its very own citizens holding more than one passport?

People for whom freedom of movement has done nothing for, and have nothing to show for globalization, may view the absence of singular loyalties as synonymous with the weakening of the nation-state, and the potential equality and commands of citizenship. They may feel genuinely threatened and take comfort in the populist rhetoric of extremists.

It’s people like myself, and British expats asking for dual British-Dutch citizenship, who make them feel uncomfortable, threatened, and sympathetic towards nationalism. I am a dual-national, living in a third country that I also love, but whose citizenship I do not need, and do not want. More importantly, some British expats are asking for the very same thing that Dutch citizens in the UK are in the process of obtaining, with the sole aim of maintaining their freedom of movement and their freedom to work, in and out of the country. Indeed, what can be more threatening to the Kingdom of The Netherlands?

 

 

 

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gskaye