In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … industrial-scale tax fiddling? Brexit? Another potentially disastrous open-ended war in the Middle East? An economic downturn? Donald Trump being elected US president?
As the Bard put it: “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,” and how right he was.
As a UK citizen living in Denmark, of all the above worries, the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership (irritatingly known as Brexit) is potentially the most troublesome. It is obvious that emotion, rather than hard facts, will play a major part in the final decision.
It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that any referendum in any EU country on any EU issue is used as an excuse to stick it to a) the incumbent prime minister, b) the party/coalition in power and c) the EU as an institution and anything emanating from Brussels.
A recent referendum in the Netherlands on the European Union’s association agreement with Ukraine was hijacked by anti-EU forces, producing a 61 percent ‘No’ vote. However, only 32.2 percent of the population could be bothered to vote, so it was hardly the resounding raspberry to Brussels that it might appear.
In 2015, when UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold the referendum, largely to pacify Tory dissenters and prevent further defections to UKIP, it seemed a winnable proposition. Now, the outcome is much less certain.
Recent figures show approximately 44 percent favour staying, 42 percent leaving and 15 percent ‘don’t know’. Factor in the ‘Panama Papers’ revelations about the Cameron family tax arrangement and he begins to look more and more like a lame duck. This wouldn’t normally matter except that ‘Dodgy Dave’ is the main cheerleader for remaining in.
Brits abroad ignored
One group largely ignored in the debate are the approximate 1.26 million UK citizens living in other European countries, of which there are around 18,000 of us living in Denmark.
Broadly speaking, only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over the age of 18 who are resident in the UK, along with UK nationals living abroad who have been on the electoral register in the UK in the past 15 years, are eligible to vote.
So, for the Brit in a bind with no vote, what’s the answer if it all goes pear-shaped after 23 June?
One possibility is to seek dual nationality. In Denmark, this has been permitted since 1 September 2015. However, the process is quite complicated and can be long drawn out. You need to be able to prove you can support yourself, obtain a certificate proving proficiency in the Danish language and take a Citizenship Test, which can only be sat twice a year. Both of these items cost money to acquire.
Alternatively, you can sit it out and hope for the best.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m not exactly a born optimist, but I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed for a ‘Remain in’ result on Midsummer’s Day. The alternative is a step into unknown and uncharted waters.