Around the time of the Referendum, I was chatting, as I normally do, with a couple of the people from the street market stalls that I frequent for lunch.
The subject was, of course, the Referendum. There was, amongst them, misgivings on their part about being made to leave Britain as a result. They had bought the Remain propaganda that it was all about immigration, and that anyone who voted Leave was set to eject them from Britain, the moment the order came down.
[As much as I, and all the other people who voted to leave the EU, might like to eject all non-subjects of HM from this beautiful island, it was hardly going to be a realistic expectation from Day 1 given the logistics involved.]
I did try to assuage their fears, given the likelihood of such a proposition coming to pass – the same likelihood as many other Remain/Project Fear scenarios.
But something really took me aback in the exchange.
One of the guys, a South American married to someone with Spanish citizenship, said to me, with venom in his voice: “I hope you are right, because I will be out on the streets fighting for my children.”
[It is at this point we can cue up a Remainer telling me this situation never happened. Or that he has every right to fight for his children against us horrible hate-filled Brexiteers.]
I felt threatened. And then I felt angry – but I didn’t show it.
I have had a long time to ruminate on that exchange.
Yes, I know he is not representative of all other people who are here but have no ties to the country other than living and/or working here. But I bet his remarks represent the thoughts of a significant cohort of non-citizens.
This exchange opened a few new lines of thinking for me, which I would never have considered before.
I have been a new arrival and have lived as an adult in four countries where I would be considered a foreigner (including here in Blighty, thanks to my accent).
Apart from Great Britain, as I am British by birth, I would never presume to feel entitled to continued residence if the locals decided I no longer belonged. Hell, it would suck to be kicked out of those countries due to politics, and it would be an upheaval, but the locals have every right to determine who gets to stay. I was a guest in each of those countries, and the host is free to do what he wants.
What makes someone who hails from a Third World shithole halfway around the world think he might have the right to remain no matter what the host thinks of his continued presence?
It wasn’t just that sense of entitlement, it was the threat of violence should things not go his way politically.
As I thought more about it, the scales began to fall from my eyes. If the shit really were to hit the fan for all of us, through war or economic hard times, would he and others like him ever be possessed by the Blitz spirit and be in it altogether with the rest of us?
Or would they riot, loot and pillage? Would they escape to where they came from if the chips were down? (BTW, where would we be able to go?)
And if it ever came down to our children or theirs, whose would you pick?
P.S. This is not the only line of thinking this exchanged opened up for me.