Why am I German again now?
Our guest author was born in Germany, taught for a long time in England and became a British citizen for love of country. But Brexit and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have alienated him from Britain. Now he has a German passport again. But it wasn’t easy.
GMy new German passport arrived just as Boris Johnson was giving his final speech to Parliament. “We have rebuilt our democracy and reclaimed our freedoms,” Johnson said in farewell. In my view, he couldn’t have said it more cynically. Boris Johnson, Brexit and everything to do with it is the reason I’m German again.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not proud to be German. For a long time, one of my research topics was medicine in the Third Reich, a topic that alienated me from Germany. So being British is perfectly fine. In fact, I was proud of it – in 1999 England became my adopted country for a long time, a lifelong decision. However, current circumstances thwarted this plan.
My “re-Germanization” began two years ago – I went to the German embassy in London and asked to renew my passport, which had expired 20 years ago. The passport was confiscated and I was bluntly told that I was no longer German. If I wanted to be German, the officer explained to me, I would have to start all over again. When I became a British citizen in 1999 I should have applied for dual citizenship. But of course I didn’t know that at the time.
What followed was a long process where I had to prepare a strange set of documents. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they asked me for my grandmother’s fingerprints. The Germans are still the world champions of bureaucracy. But why did I attempt this in the first place?
Never in my wildest dreams did I think Britain would go into collective madness and leave the EU. After the 2016 referendum, I am still confident that this act of self-destruction will be stopped. But it happened because of the many lies of the Tories and the incredible incompetence of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.
Brexit itself would have been bad enough, but the way it changed Britain’s atmosphere was even worse. With the Tories’ right wing in power, every nitwit felt entitled to express their racism as they pleased. Lies and corruption became the new norm in politics as Britain slowly but surely turned into a banana republic.
A lot of things that made me want to be English went away in a few months. Tolerance, understatement, modesty, common sense, all these are now overlooked. In other words, it’s time to rethink my position.
Since then, my wife and I have spent a lot of time in Brittany, where she was born. Our French friends invariably admitted that England had lost her mind and become the laughing stock of Europe. Finally, the final step was to regain German citizenship. So happy and sad at the same time that it’s all over now. Happy to be a member of the EU again and sad to see what has become of the country I loved so much.
The optimist in me still hopes the British will come to their senses. However, awakening can be difficult. I will not completely ignore the country for the time being, but I will do my part to promote this development. As a scientist I have always considered it my duty: by exposing nonsense as nonsense and fighting populism with common sense and rational thinking.
Edzard Ernst, born in Wiesbaden in 1948, was appointed the first professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter in 1993. He has published more than 50 books and has written for The Guardian.
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