I’ve written here before about how I had to apply for British citizenship in order to guarantee that, after Brexit, I am able to remain in Britain, which has been my home for the past 34 years, and where my British grandchild, children, and husband all live.
Glad to Be British
Although I resented having to do this because I strongly disagree with the whole Brexit process, and it took a lot of time, effort, and money (it cost me upwards £2,000), I was relieved and happy to finally be granted my naturalisation papers last November during a pompous ceremony in Islington Town Hall, here in North London. I celebrated the event with my family, and it felt as if a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. (See, I’m smiling!)
Getting a British Passport Will Be Easy, Right?
After having been naturalised as a British citizen I thought getting a passport would be easy. I was given an option to apply for a passport at the same time as submitting my citizenship application, but I didn’t have enough passport photos with me when the kind lady at Islington Town Council helped me with the complex procedure. The photos had to be the same as the one on the application, which was countersigned by a professional person (not a member of my family, and someone who has known me for a period of time), so I couldn’t even nip out to a local Boots to get more photos done. So I let it be, not wishing to delay matters.
Why Do I Need a British Passport Anyway?
I haven’t applied for a British passport yet because frankly, I don’t need it. I have my Finnish passport for travel, and as a matter of fact, it is a better travel document than the British one (we Finns don’t need a visa to enter Turkey for example). So why apply for it now? Well, it started with my driving license. It’s run out. I don’t drive much now we live in London, so I was shocked when using it to prove my ID at the Post Office the clerk said it would run out the next day. I asked for the forms but he informed me it’d be quicker to do it online.
That’s where the snag occurred. You can’t apply for a driving license online if you don’t have a British passport. OK, I thought, I’ll apply for my British passport now then. It looks like the country is speeding head first, out of pure stubbornness, into the economic and political disaster that is Brexit. I might as well get the passport sorted out so that I don’t have to queue up at the UK border and answer questions about the reason I’m coming into the (my home) country.
The Englishman had just renewed his passport and he did it with the one-week fast track service, which turned out to be painless and very efficient. I went online and to my horror found out that you can’t use the faster online service if you’re applying for your first British passport. What’s more, in order to apply for the passport, I need to send in my current, valid, Finnish passport. The application process would take 6 weeks, during which time I wouldn’t be able to travel.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but unfortunately, my father is severely ill and I need to be able to travel to Finland at short notice.
They Still Don’t Know Who I Am?
I decided to phone the Passport Office to ask if I was really reading the instructions correctly. ‘Yes,’ they told me,
Because you are applying for your first British passport we need to make sure you are who you say you are.
I would be called in for an interview ‘at a local council office’. I wasn’t to worry about having to travel far, the adviser told me, and I held my tongue about the time this would take (again) and how the hell didn’t they know who I was after all the palava I went through to get the naturalisation document in the first place.
- This is after I’d submitted all the information to prove that I have lived in the UK over the past 34 years (a large pile of documents as you might imagine) to gain permanent residence in the UK.
- And after I’d submitted another pile of different documents and photographs (countersigned by a professional person not a member of my family, and who has known me for a period of time, naturally).
- And after I’d taken part in a citizenship ceremony and sworn allegiance to the Queen, sang ‘God Save the Queen’ and got my naturalisation certificate.
While on the phone, it occurred to me that I could apply for a Finnish ID with which I could travel within the European Union countries. I asked if the passport office would need to have this document too if I had one, and they told me that yes, during the interview, the examiner might wish me to surrender this document too. The British passport office adviser told me to contact my country’s embassy first before I applied for a British passport. She emphasised that I should not apply before speaking to ‘Your Embassy’ as she put it, and it made me think that she thought perhaps Finland didn’t allow dual citizenship. This was changed in 2003, but I wouldn’t put it past the British Passport Office to still have old information on their records.
British Authorities Contravene EU Legislation – What a Surprise
When I spoke to the Finnish Embassy, they advised me that the British authorities had no right to remove a current travel document from an EU citizen (including their own citizens), because according to EU legislation, EU citizens should have free movement rights across the EU at all times.
Whatsmore, the Finnish Consular advised me in no uncertain terms that the British authorities had NO RIGHT to ask a citizen to surrender another country’s ID documentation to them.
It doesn’t surprise me that the British authorities contravene EU legislation, but it does make me laugh (in a bitter, mad-woman kind of way). During and after the Brexit vote, the leave campaigners and voters kept complaining about all the EU legislation Britain needs to follow. There was – and still is – a lot of talk of British Sovereignty and how we will regain it after Brexit. Yet, there have been many legal proceedings going on against the Brits in Brussels because they are breaking the EU rules (one being the insistence that some EU citizens applying for residency have to have private medical insurance). And now it appears that the whole passport application process is breaking a fundamental piece of EU legislation. In an area which was – and is – a hot topic in the Brexit discussion: immigration.
Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off
The lady at the Finnish Embassy asked me the question I have been battling with too.
Why do you want to apply for a British passport until you absolutely have to? You have your British citizenship, it isn’t going anywhere.
I had to agree with her. Why give the British government any more of my hard-earned money? Although I am pessimistic about Brexit; I think it will happen now, it’s still prudent to wait and see. You never know, somebody very wise might raise their head above the parapet and get the whole thing called off.
As for me, I am now beyond anger. Nothing about this country, its ability to shoot itself in the foot, or its jingoistic practices surprises me anymore. I’m just sad. Sad that I have made my life here when I could have lived successfully and happily in Finland or Sweden, or even France (I know, steady on, girl). Sad, that the country and the people I fell in love with seem to have been trampled under a near-fascist nationalistic fervour. I am with the Stronger in Europe demonstrators that never let up outside the parliament in Westminster. Whatever the weather they are there, protesting for membership of the European Union and for sanity and civility to return to the British shores once more.
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