Ever since I came to Loughborough University in January 2009, I have been tempted by the idea that I could apply for British citizenship. While I commute from the Netherlands more or less on a bi-monthly basis, I also have a residential address in Loughborough and a UK National Insurance Number. So in January 2014 I think I could argue that I have lived in the UK for five years. I am also convinced I have a ‘good character’ and am of a ‘sound mind’; all things that the UK border agency would want to know.
On the one hand it just seems fun to have two passports and to escape the rigid categorizations of nationality. I guess I would be able to vote in the UK too! On the other hand, pretending not to be Dutch would be a serious comfort at times: for instance, when your government happily accepts that it needs the approval of fierce populist right wing, anti-Islam, anti-Europe party to get a parliamentary majority, and when the leader of that same party manages single-handedly to break down the reputation of the Dutch as a tolerant, open-minded people. I could wave my Dutch passport again when ‘we’ win the European Football Championship in Poland/Ukraine next month.
Yet, my little fantasies of changing national allegiance at will – opportunistic, I admit – were crudely disturbed, when that same government I wanted to get rid of, announced that it would no longer allow Dutch citizens to have a double nationality. The responsible Christian-Democrat minister simply claimed that ‘it is better to have one nationality’ and went ahead preparing the new legislation. The Dutch embassy in New Zealand eagerly took up the new mentality: the passport of a Dutch colleague working in Wellington was stolen in Rome (yes, we Dutch academics have complicated lives), together with credit cards, personal belongings and all other stuff women have in their purse. Back in Wellington the Dutch embassy decided to make her life more difficult and suggested she was scheming to apply for double citizenship. As if one would want to remain a Dutch citizen under such a boorish regime!
Anyway, before one of us had to make a decision, the government fell over budget conflicts, and immediately the Christian Democrat minister withdrew her plans for single citizenship, because – as she said - her heart was never in that policy, but ‘sometimes you have to please your coalition partners’. Now that it was no longer necessary to give in to the agenda of the anti-Islam partner, she cancelled in the same movement her proposal for a ban on wearing a burqa in public space. All of that is, indeed, a sign of coalition politics, but at its worst. Nevertheless, they are gone. Hopefully, ‘we’ the Dutch will elect a less controversial coalition next September so that I can dream on. Otherwise, the Dutch will be ‘them’ again.