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Civis Europae Sum – for now

December 4, 2018

Passports are interesting things, especially those belonging to other people. I occasionally snigger at friends’ passport photos (with their permission of course), while conveniently ignoring the fact that mine bears a distinct resemblance to that of a Russian hit man or a recently deceased member of the ‘Ndragheta.

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, who recently obtained British citizenship, presumably now has three passports: from Britain, from Ireland, the land of his ancestors, and from Canada, his place of birth. Lucky man.

I have only two, and they’re both British. And in case you think I’m an international man of mystery, they both bear my name. Don’t ask me why I have two. The answer is boring.

My wife, on the other hand, has an Irish passport. Despite being married to me for 35 years and spending most of that time in the UK, she has never expressed any desire to become a Brit. Sensible her.

The other day she and I re-entered the European Union after a trip to Asia. We both went through the EU channel in Copenhagen. It was quick and easy. At that point it dawned on me that before very long she would be able to breeze through every immigration point in the EU, and quite possibly I wouldn’t. I face the prospect of joining the line that says “non-EU citizens”. I would be joining the Chinese, Japanese, Americans, Russians, Afghans and Brazilians. In some countries that would mean that my wait at immigration will be at least twice as long as hers.

If this is how things work out, it will be very annoying for her, but the fringe benefit for me will be that by the time I get through the line, she will have gathered the bags.

What prompts this meditation on passports is that despite having two, I’m running out of clean pages. This is a problem when you visit a country whose immigration officers like to splurge their stamps across a virgin page. I have no idea whether after we leave the EU countries like France, Spain and Italy will want to stick their stamps on our passports, but if so, I shall probably need to get a new one before the existing ones expire.

Being a man, I occasionally amuse myself with lists. So this morning I counted all the visa, entry and exit stamps on my passports. I was quite shocked to discover that over the past seven years I have acquired over 250. In that time I have visited thirteen non-EU countries, some of them many times, hence the multitude of stamps. In addition, I have visited eleven countries within the European Union, again on multiple occasions. Fortunately there is no physical evidence of these visits, otherwise I would have ran out of space ages ago.

This tells me that if each EU country needs to stamp my passport from 2020 onwards, my next one, which will presumably be blue, won’t last long. Unless, of course, I grow so decrepit that I can’t travel any more.

But we don’t know what the new arrangements will be, because the interminable government document on Britain’s future relationship with the EU doesn’t tell us. Just another example, a mere handful of days in advance of the allegedly meaningful vote on the alleged deal, of the bugger’s muddle that is Brexit.

In any event, the imperious preamble in my passport, wherein “Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance etc” is fast becoming redundant. Since we seem to be running through secretaries of state at the rate of one a day, and since these days Her Majesty isn’t in the position to require anyone to do anything outside our sacred borders, perhaps in our new blue documents the preamble should be replaced with “The Queen says pretty please”. My upper lip is wobbling at the prospect.

From → Politics, Travel, UK

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