Today the postman brings a very important document from Scotland. It’s my birth certificate, version 3.0. I have lost the two previous copies and had to pay my parents for replacements. I have only seen this document a couple of times in my entire life.
The reason I need this document now is that it represents my escape route from Brexit. Unlike many Eurobrits I have an escape clause from Article 50 because I fulfill all of the requirements for dual nationality.
I do not mean Nicola Sturgeon’s Scotland here, although her chances have increased dramatically this week. I meet the requirements to become a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In case you are considering it, here is what you need to have in order to become a naturalised German:
Your birth certificate. It does not necessarily nave to be a Scottish one like mine. They also accept English ones.
Your current passport. Mine is a British one. It too is version 3.0. I lost the other two many years ago.
Proof that you have lived in Germany legally and without interruption for the past five years.
You must not have a criminal record. I have…no criminal record.
Proof that you can speak German to upper intermediate level. I have a certificate for this which I did many years ago at the German department of the University of Bochum. It states my name, the date I took the test and my country of origin: Großbritanien. This word is spelled incorrectly. Großbritannien has a double “n”. It is one of the most difficult words to spell in German. That must be an omen.
Your university degree certificate. Not a must, but it saves you from doing the multiple choice citizenship test. Many Germans would fail this.
Proof that you can support yourself financially, ideally through paid employment. If you are not working then you need proof that you receive unemployment benefit.
Something else which I have forgotten. There will inevitably be one document which is missing. Or something that needs to be translated or stamped or approved. Nothing ever works at the first attempt with German bureaucracy.
After that, if you live in Herne and your surname begins with the letters A-K you need to ring Ms. Lemke at the town hall. I am L-Z so I need to ring Mr Pfister. He will help me to fill out the form. Only these two people have access to the form and they do not trust me to fill it out myself. For their efforts, the German government will charge €255. They reduce this fee for the unemployed.
Simple. Why have I not done this before?
Because it’s not quite as simple as all that. There’s another question that often gets asked at this point. Do I actually feel German?
Pass. At least for now. We’ll talk about that later I promise.
But at this point I hit a moral impasse. Germany has been good to me. I was going the wrong way with my life until I came here and Germany gave me a chance. I have a great deal of respect for the country and its people. I do not want to take a German passport simply as a flag of convenience: I find this somehow disrespectful. A German passport is much more than a “get out of jail free” card for disconnected British.
Germany has strict rules about dual nationality and these rules have been bent for me. Normally I would have to give up my British citizenship in order to become German but because ̶ for now at least ̶ our two countries are part of the EU, Brussels has forced Berlin to relax this rule for EU citizens. If I were American or Australian I would have to hand in my passport.
I can of course give up my British passport. Emotionally this poses no problem for me. I am Scottish and I am European first. I describe myself as British only when the situation calls for it, although the word does not offend me. I say “Scotland” when I mean “Scotland”, “England” when I mean “England” and “Britain” when I mean “Britain”; it amazes me that English people cannot do this. In many ways it is the Union Jack which is the flag of convenience, allowing me to travel where I wish because my actual country of origin doesn’t issue travel documents.
The British government has a procedure for the renunciation of British citizenship. I find it arrogant and imperialistic. I must apply and my application must be accepted. I must pay them £272 for the privilege. That’s more than it costs for me to become a German.
In case you were wondering, a Polish plumber wishing to become a Brit has to pay well in excess of a thousand pounds. If all three million EU nationals living in Britain stump up for a British passport then the country really will be able to fund the NHS with her Brexit winnings.
My plan for giving up my British passport is simpler. I plan to put it in an envelope, stuff the envelope with dog shit and drop it on the doorstep of 9 Downing Street. I will set fire to it and ring Boris Johnson’s doorbell.
I am angry with the government for what they have done. From the moment a referendum was called they have handled the process badly. I feel betrayed.
Anger is one of my biggest time-wasters at the moment. I pick up the phone and I dial Mr Pfister.