Other than the fact of it finally being Friday, last Friday was a crappy day. In the first post that I wrote about Brexit I expressed the view that the press did not provide realistic depictions of the lives of British people who live outside the UK, and tried to explain that for the most part “We are … really NOT sunning our leathery beer bellies in Malaga, while refusing to learn a word of Spanish. Our lives -like those of people in the UK – consist of the usual unremarkable elements that form the basis of regular working days in the communities in which we live.” Well, Friday was certainly shaping up to be pretty unremarkable and unglamorous. Having made my way to the station, with my tired four year-old, after work, in the driving rain, to discover that the train back to Antwerp central was cancelled, we walked to the nearest bus stop. The crowded bus was crawling and lurching along the main drag from the north of the city, affording us drizzle-bespattered November views of muddy roadworks, when my grey-faced daughter began to complain that she felt sick. We were both very tired and it was just one of those parenting moments when you have no option but to stay put …. fortunately she decided in favour of dozing off, instead of covering our fellow passengers with vomit.
We finally arrived at the bus station. It was still pouring. Just to add to the expat glamour of our situation, we had to swing by the Lidl, as my eldest child would be home soon, with a friend for dinner, so I needed to get food. We found them waiting damply on the doorstep…
I checked the letter box and there were a couple of envelopes, including one from Stad Antwerpen, which I stuffed into my pocket. The four of us along with our work and school bags and a carrier bag full of shopping crammed ourselves into the lift, keen to get into the apartment and begin the process of getting dry.
So against this backdrop, you can probably imagine how it felt to read the words “on the 17/11/2016 you received Belgian nationality” – or, as it actually appeared: “U hebt op 17/11/2016 de Belgische nationaliteit gekregen”. Wow -I had already been Belgian for a day and not known it! We all had a hug -including our lovely dinner guest, who as the product of a Belgian- British family, was well placed to share the moment. I may have shed a tear…
I’m simply so relieved. My children’s futures as European citizens are assured. They will continue to enjoy The Four Freedoms that being part of the EU provides. As I stated in a previous post, this is of particular importance to my oldest child as she approaches the point where she considers her life beyond school. She will leave school in 2019 -the point at which the Tories and the Leavers hope to have taken Britain out of the EU, and quite probably removed the rights of British kids to live, study and work with ease in the 27 remaining nations.
I am not going to stop engaging with this issue, despite the fact that we have been lucky enough to find a solution for our family. I continue to share the anger at the removal of EU rights and advantages from British citizens -especially the young, and those who, like me, were affected but not permitted to vote. The neologism ‘omnishambles‘ has never been more accurate, as it becomes painfully apparent that there is no plan in place for taking Britain safely out of the EU, and no sign of agreement on what such a plan might look like. Every day, media headlines testify to the clueless incompetence of people like Boris Johnson who -embarrassingly – are charged with negotiating a path forward for Britain.
But this weekend we are enjoying the feeling of having been provided with a solution to a problem that has caused us worry and uncertainty since June. We know are lucky to have this solution. It’s like being asked by a good host to come in from the rain and take a seat.
Update: If you wish to apply for Belgian Nationality, you can now begin the process online: https://www.antwerpen.be/nl/info/52d5052239d8a6ec798b4901/nationaliteitsaanvraag