Thoughts on EUref

immigration, politics

Funny that it comes straight after the post on becoming a UK national, but that serves me right for not posting frequently enough. After a lot of panic-induced tweets and retweets today, here are some of a bit more detailed thoughts on the EU membership referendum that I think would be interesting for myself to re-read later:

  1. I predict we are going to see the unlikely alliance of economically disadvantaged people and free market capitalism adepts crumbling. The former served as a vehicle for the latter thanks to the fact they both happened to dislike the EU at the same time. Voters hit by globalisation (and by immigration from the 'new EU' as by one of the most visible aspects of it) on many occasions have clearly expressed the feel of being neglected and not looked after. This doesn’t have much in common with ‘negotiating bold trade deals at the free market while not restricted by silly regulations’ argument – in fact, they are fairly opposite. It is not going to take long for these two views to collide, and it is going to be spectacular. Although it is not going to happen immediately – for some time it may run on nationalism and on ‘putting England back on the globe’ spirit only, but inevitably the economy will speak again.

  2. Old magic no longer works. It is not only because of the overuse of the word ‘racism’ which is difficult to deny (although not every time it was used it was an ‘overuse’), but it is officially no longer a cultural taboo. Accusations in bigotry no longer stick and mean little to people that don’t already agree with you on the subject in question. It is true and impossible to argue that pretty much all of the far rights and neo-nazis were in the Leave camp, but it is no longer recognised as a problem big enough to vote otherwise by people who in theory could have voted otherwise (as it is also true far rights are still a minority of those who voted Leave). Which brings us to the next point:

  3. A decent number of naturalised white immigrants and native-born or naturalised non-whites have voted to leave the EU. While this seems to strengthen the point promoted by the free market capitalists from p.1 (it’s all about foreign control, and we are not against the foreigners themselves!), these votes – as far as I can judge – are also fuelled by the desire to halt the immigration. In the circles of naturalised ex-USSR citizens (the community I obviously am the most familiar with) this reason is quoted in at about 90% of cases, both in personal conversations and on online forums. I am confident this is going to backfire on all those people badly as they will soon find out a non-white person is still an immigrant and a naturalised white still sounds foreign to some people possibly including their neighbours and their kids’ classmates (who are now ‘red pilled’ and know that being called a racist no longer means an argument lost by the accused). Nor does the above mean that only the ‘uncontrolled’ immigration is disliked – try having a similar referendum on the controlled one. This, of course, doesn't mean the whole idea is now invalid - as I said, it no longer works like that. It's just that actions have consequences.

  4. I hope that the gone fear of being called a racist is not the only way in which everyday culture is going to change from now on. What certainly needs to die is that old trope about the establishment having control on everything and feeding the public convenient lies from the controlled media which are in an alliance with intelligentsia. Of course the establishment by definition enjoys an enormous control over our lives as well as there is plenty of lies in the press, but they are not monolithic, they fight each other and seek for public support which they not always receive. Almost all of the supposedly almighty university elite was against what just happened, yet it did. If I were a progressive journalist, I would do everything for this drum to no longer get banged on without making the person doing it look like a shameless populist even by today’s standards.

  5. Since the political balance in this country is visibly shifting to the right (and possibly staying there for ages if Scotland leaves), the opposition to Tories needs to return to the centre. It might not be a reason to let the Blairites back in, but it is crystal clear that Corbyn and similar die-hard figures are not going to deliver a feasible alternative, unless a guaranteed support (which seems to be like 15%, right?) from the safe core voters is considered enough (hint: it isn’t). In other words, Labour party needs to go back to being less marginalised social democrats in order to maintain a chance of winning. I think it would be better even for those supporters of it who are happy with the current leader. Another problem is that their safe core voters seem to be divided on the EU membership, which might mean they might shrink even further. I am considering signing up in case there will be a chance for a public vote on the party leadership again.

I am of course an edge case both culturally and economically being both of a foreign background as well as someone who has bought property in London at the peak prices and rock bottom rates (both of which are now guaranteed to change), so I am undoubtedly biased towards the status quo. But I honestly consider this decision was a mistake that is both going to fail the promises made to those who voted for it and prove the fears of those who voted against.

Yet this country remains strong and has definitely been through challenges far worse than that, so I also believe it is still going to be not that bad. And frankly, EU is a mess. I also suspect that some of the things that I now consider to be wrong may turn out for the best, because I am not an expert and my personal experience is quite limited. It’s probably not going to be that bad, and London will be London, England will be England, and maybe even the UK will remain no less United than it currently is.

It’s just that I genuinely believe it could have been much better, and this is why I am sad today.

On becoming a citizen

immigration

So after almost 7 years, this finally happened:

Achievement unlocked

Strangely enough, it doesn't really feel huge because it's so stretched in time. Look, first you become a permanent resident, and there isn't much to celebrate because for everyone concerned you are still a foreign citizen. Same queue at the airport arrivals, no voting even in local elections, no ID that doesn't scream 'immigrant'. Well, it grants you right to be employed without any formal restrictions on the hiring process, but my previous visa allowed me into the same labour market position as well. As a permanent resident, you can also apply for various state benefits such as tax credits (apparently) or council housing, but again I was lucky to have never needed that, and neither do I now.

This status does offer security though so you stop worrying about your visa not getting extended next time (not very likely provided you comply with the rules) or paying ever-growing fees (this is big actually), but that's about it. Something you can certainly feel, but still nothing to write home about really. This is where you start hesitating whether to celebrate now or to wait for the next, more prominent milestone. And indeed there is one coming, the problem is it is not the last in the line either.

A year after becoming a permanent resident you can apply for citizenship, but then again you don't have a single 'this is it' day where you can draw a line and throw a party. First you get informed that your application has been successful. Hurray, but technically that doesn't mean anything yet because you have to attend a ceremony and receive your certificate. Which doesn't happen too soon. In my case, for example, it took about a month because there are only so many days a month the council does ceremonies, and I had travelling plans as well (as after you become a citizen, you can no longer go abroad with your old documents).

When you finally attend said ceremony, it still isn't the end of it, because you don't have a passport. You only need it to travel abroad, but doing so effortlessly is one of the great formal benefits of naturalisation, so you usually apply straight away... and wait again because in Britain you have to be interviewed in order to get your first passport, and you got it right, that usually cannot be booked too soon. The point of the interview is to prevent identity theft, which in case of a naturalised non-EU immigrant like myself seems redundant as all the data including biometrics has already been submitted many times before that, but the rules are still the same.

Finally, a day comes when you receive your passport - yay! - but at this point that is something you, in a way, take for granted and there is no that feel of genuine excitement (still feels incredible of course, but you kind of have crossed the finish line earlier, right?)

Another predictable, yet still funny thing is that everyday life-wise it doesn't really change much. People who don't like you because you are a foreigner (not that I can personally complain too much about that though, but nevertheless) couldn't care less about whether you have a passport or don't, as a rule. Similarly, people who used to like you before aren't going to like you even more because of that either. And more importantly, you are still the same person. You still get into awkward situations a bit more often than you'd honestly prefer. Your accent is still a dead giveaway. You still have had a very different childhood comparing to any of your British peers, and that's even regardless of the social class. I can go on and on.

Yet I've still been feeling an urge to write this, mostly because I realise this has been one of the biggest projects I attempted in my life so far, and it has been successful. I am also now holding a far less idealistic view about the UK comparing to what I imagined it to be when I fist got an idea about moving here, but at the same time I am feeling a lot more involved and accepted that I dared to hope for which amazes me more than ever, and for that, I am grateful. My admiration for Britain is still there, but is now backed by different, less naive and postcard-worthy matters - which, unlike the latter ones, are less prone to being shattered by brutal reality I am much more aware of as well.

10/10, would do again.

One small step

immigration

Just making another note that we have got our first British passport in the family last week. Here's the holder unhappy with the fact he is not allowed to tear it:

Anthony's first UK passport

That marks almost 6 years and £9.5K in visa fees after we came here (the latter will be well over the round figure of 10K when we two adults naturalise next year).

This is the earlier picture of us in the UK taken on our fourth day here:

Back in 2009, many things, good and bad, were only yet to happen.