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Corrado Valle

The Road to Jerusalem: part two

Tue 25 Apr 2017

Feeling ready to become a British citizen, MiP national officer Corrado Valle, passed the Home Office’s citizenship test with flying colours. But after the shock of Brexit, he began to have doubts about staying in the UK.

I nearly forgot about the whole British citizenship thing until the end of 2015. That was when my son passed out from Sandhurst, before HRH Prince Charles and representatives of the upper echelons of the British establishment, and became an officer in the British Army. Again, pride took hold of me and I resolved to become a British citizen. 

Strong in my resolution, I applied for the “Life in the UK Test”. The questions looked interesting:

  1. Which of these forts were part of Hadrian's Wall? (Choose any 2 answers) Housesteads; Skara Brae; Sutton Hoo; Vindolanda
  2. When was the first Union flag created? 1506; 1556; 1606 or 1656?
  3. Why is 1928 an important year for women's rights? Women could vote at 18, the same age as men; Women could vote at 21, the same age as men; Women could vote if they were over 30 years old; None of the above

And so forth. Is it me, or is the relevance life today in the UK somewhat flimsy? Despite my growing reservations, I revised these essential facts that would enable me to live a meaningful life in British society, paid £55 and, one winter day in early 2016, I sat my test. It took me less than three minutes to answer 24 questions. The invigilator asked me what was wrong when I asked to leave the room. I was seen by the examiner – employed by Capita – who congratulated me for having scored 100%. And she gave me my certificate to be annexed to my application form. I felt I was one step closer.

Some time passed before I reopened the application form, and when I did I was greeted by a pop-up message informing me that the form had changed and I should download an updated one. Which I did – it was still 18 pages but now had a new field: proof of residency.

This brought a brand new series of problems to the fore. First off, the form is 85 pages long. If that wasn’t bad enough, the literature accompanying the form looked like very grim reading:

  1. EEA(FM) Application for a registration certificate or residence card as the family member of a European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national  Version 06/2016 (91 pages)
  2. EEA(FM): guidance notes (19 pages)

It was immediately obvious that this was not an exercise aimed at assisting EU nationals who have made a life for themselves in the UK and wish to acquire citizenship.

On 20 February 2016, David Cameron announced the date for the referendum. If, on one hand, that focused my mind on getting on with the application, on the other, I really could not believe a majority would vote to leave the EU. I also couldn’t believe that EU citizens residing in the UK, working in the UK, married to a UK national, perhaps with children born in the UK, would be in any danger of deportation. Now I felt compelled to apply for residency and citizenship. I didn’t like that: it was no longer a free choice. So I decided to wait until the referendum and, in the unlikely event of Brexit, to review my position. I was also greatly annoyed that, even as a party directly affected by the referendum result, I would not be allowed to vote. It felt divisive from the word go. 

23 June arrived and my hopes were shattered, together with those of millions of other EU citizens, and Britons at home and abroad. The disbelief was incredible. Now, I really had no choice but to apply for residency first and citizenship afterwards. The absurdity was that I was no longer sure I wanted to stay in a country that clearly didn’t want me. In 2014, I felt I was making a choice in considering taking citizenship, but that choice no longer exists. In the dim light of that realisation, I went back to the form with the intent of completing it. 

Unfortunately, a few things happened in the months after the referendum that distracted me from my application and I had to put it on the back burner once more. This time, however, I was well aware of the timeframe, and I knew that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty had to be triggered before the clock started ticking.

As there was no sign whatsoever that Brexit would not happen, that a second referendum would be called, or that Theresa May had changed her mind on the probity of her plans to leave the EU and single market, I had no choice but to apply for residency in the UK.

Read: The Road to Jerusalem – part one  

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