Skip to content

A British passport does NOT make me British

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people in the UK who consider themselves to be “British” has gone up dramatically since Brexit. And recently the government offered more than 5 million people from Hong Kong the opportunity to become British citizens. Which is an offer that was long overdue. However, does having a British passport define your Britishness? I had some thoughts about that…

TRANSCRIPT

0:00:00.560,0:00:05.280
As I’ve mentioned before, I work for 
the government. And recently I moved to  


0:00:05.280,0:00:10.880
a different department. At which point I was 
told that I needed to prove my right to work  

0:00:10.880,0:00:18.800
in the UK. So I gave the HR team my old passport. 
Human Resources then turned around and said:  

0:00:19.440,0:00:26.480
“we can’t accept this as proof of citizenship 
because your passport has expired”. And I thought  

0:00:26.480,0:00:32.800
that was absolutely bizarre. In fact, I thought 
it was a pretty stupid policy. I’m trying to be  

0:00:32.800,0:00:38.560
kind here, so I can keep my job. A passport 
is a government-issued document. And yes it  


0:00:38.560,0:00:45.600
does prove your legal citizenship. However, just 
because your passport has expired doesn’t mean  

0:00:45.600,0:00:51.040
your citizenship has expired too! And speaking 
of passports, the UK government has recently  

0:00:51.040,0:00:58.800
decided to give five million people from Hong 
Kong an opportunity to become British citizens.  

0:00:58.800,0:01:05.760
Now I do have some thoughts about this. Basically 
it’s a really bad way of dealing with a problem  

0:01:05.760,0:01:12.560
that should have been solved a long time ago. And 
ultimately it is better than doing nothing. But  

0:01:12.560,0:01:19.200
it’s not what I want to talk about today. Today 
I want to talk about what it means to be British.  

0:01:20.080,0:01:25.840
Now every year the Office for National Statistics 
(ONS) releases its “Annual Population Survey”,  

0:01:26.480,0:01:31.920
which is always full of fascinating 
facts about the changing demographics of  

0:01:31.920,0:01:38.160
the people living in the United Kingdom. And one 
of the interesting changes they found this year  

0:01:38.160,0:01:45.600
was to do with being British. Specifically how 
much of the population considers themselves to be  

0:01:45.600,0:01:53.600
British. Now last year only 49% of the population 
considered themselves to be British. However,  

0:01:53.600,0:02:02.320
now in our post-Brexit world, that number has 
gone up dramatically. 56% of the UK population  

0:02:02.320,0:02:08.640
now considers themselves to be British. And it 
got me wondering. What does that actually mean?  

0:02:09.360,0:02:16.720
What does it mean to be British? Now this is my 
brand new British passport. They used to be red  

0:02:16.720,0:02:22.880
but, now we’ve left the EU, British passports are 
dark blue. And on camera they almost look black.  

0:02:23.600,0:02:32.480
Now if you ask most people, this document is 
conclusive evidence that I am British. I disagree,  

0:02:32.480,0:02:36.240
because I don’t think it’s the British 
passport that actually makes me British.  

0:02:36.800,0:02:39.840
And it does annoy me that people think that way.  

0:02:40.400,0:02:47.440
You see, to me, Britishness isn’t about a 
piece of paper. It’s about something deeper  

0:02:47.440,0:02:54.000
than that. It’s about your cultural DNA. And 
I want to try and explain what I mean by that.

0:02:56.160,0:03:02.720
As it happens I’m entitled to many different 
passports in addition to my British one.  

0:03:03.440,0:03:10.560
Firstly, I am entitled to apply for and own both 
an Indian passport and a Pakistani passport.  

0:03:11.520,0:03:16.960
Secondly, because of family connections, I could 
easily get myself a European Union passport.  

0:03:17.520,0:03:25.280
But I’m not going to tell you which one! And 
finally, if I wanted to, I could easily apply for  

0:03:25.280,0:03:33.600
an Israeli passport. I’m not going to do that, 
of course, because I am NOT a racist. And I do  

0:03:33.600,0:03:39.520
not believe in apartheid. So the very idea 
of holding a passport for a country that is  

0:03:40.320,0:03:47.200
fundamentally racist, to its core, quite frankly 
it sickens me. So obviously I’m not going to  

0:03:47.200,0:03:54.480
get myself an Israeli passport. But, anyway, the 
point is that I’m entitled to a lot of different  

0:03:54.480,0:04:02.400
passports. Which means I am entitled to live in 
a lot of different places. And I could do it. I  

0:04:02.400,0:04:12.320
could easily move to Bangalore or Karachi or 
Tel Aviv or Berlin. But, no matter where I go  

0:04:13.520,0:04:22.080
and live in this world, I will always be British. 
And, even if the UK government decides to strip  

0:04:22.080,0:04:29.600
me off my British passport, it wouldn’t change 
the fact that I’m British. You see, to me, being  

0:04:29.600,0:04:37.040
British isn’t really about legal entitlement. 
To me it’s very much a state of mind. We have  

0:04:37.040,0:04:43.840
a shared mentality, shared cultural references, a 
shared sense of humor. Those are the things that  

0:04:43.840,0:04:51.600
make you British. Not this piece of paper. And i 
think we all instinctively understand this. Okay,  

0:04:52.880,0:04:56.160
imagine a situation where an 
immigrant family comes to the UK.  

0:04:57.200,0:05:01.920
And, sadly, the parents die and their 
son is sent to an orphanage. Or,  

0:05:01.920,0:05:06.960
to put it more accurately, their son 
is put into government care. And then,  

0:05:06.960,0:05:13.520
when he turns 18, the government deports the 
orphan because he didn’t have a British passport.  

0:05:14.560,0:05:21.120
He grew up here, but no one went to the effort 
of filling in his paperwork. So he was an illegal  

0:05:21.120,0:05:28.480
immigrant and he had to leave. Instinctively 
most people will feel uncomfortable with that.  

0:05:29.360,0:05:36.240
It doesn’t seem fair, and a belief in “fair play” 
is very much a part of the British mentality. And  

0:05:36.240,0:05:43.520
that situation feels very, very unfair. The 
government will say it’s done the right thing.  

0:05:44.080,0:05:51.200
But it just feels wrong to deport that young man. 
And sadly this is not hypothetical, by the way.  

0:05:51.200,0:05:59.200
This has happened. And it goes to the heart of 
what I’m trying to say. A passport doesn’t define  

0:05:59.200,0:06:07.120
your Britishness. It’s just a legal document. 
Being British and being a British citizen are  

0:06:07.120,0:06:15.520
not the same thing. A good example of this is my 
dad, who is a first generation immigrant. He came  

0:06:15.520,0:06:21.680
to this country in his early 20s. He’s been here 
ever since and he has a British passport. But,  

0:06:23.120,0:06:29.840
if I’m being honest with you, he’s not really 
British at all. And that’s because he never  

0:06:29.840,0:06:35.840
really wanted to be British. He never bothered 
to become proficient in English. In fact,  

0:06:35.840,0:06:45.280
he still thinks in Punjabi; his inner monologue is 
in Punjabi. When he does maths in his head, he’s  

0:06:45.280,0:06:51.120
not counting in English. He’s counting in Punjabi, 
because that’s how he learned it in school.  

0:06:51.840,0:06:57.840
Now, of course, there will be people frothing at 
the mouth, and furiously bashing their keyboards,  

0:06:57.840,0:07:05.840
to point out that “English isn’t the only language 
here”. That’s true. That is true. Absolutely true.  

0:07:07.040,0:07:11.040
English is not the only official 
language in the UK. But, if we’re honest,  

0:07:12.560,0:07:19.280
Gaelic and Cornish, and even Welsh, are just 
historical curiosities. Those languages are  

0:07:19.280,0:07:27.280
kept alive by a tiny minority of enthusiasts. 
Otherwise they would have died out long ago. But I  

0:07:27.280,0:07:34.000
don’t want to get sidetracked from my main point. 
Because it’s more than just language proficiency  

0:07:34.000,0:07:39.520
that I’m talking about here. What I’m really 
talking about is culture and attitudes.  

0:07:40.800,0:07:46.880
My dad has no interest in British current 
affairs. He doesn’t read British newspapers  

0:07:46.880,0:07:52.480
or watch British news channels. He doesn’t 
really know what’s happening in British politics.  

0:07:53.440,0:08:01.520
However he knows everything about politics 
in the Punjab. And, thanks to facebook, he  

0:08:01.520,0:08:08.880
now knows exactly what’s happening in the village 
where he grew up. His heart and mind are not here,  

0:08:09.440,0:08:15.120
where he lives. He’s still obsessed with the 
people and the places he knew when he was young.  

0:08:16.400,0:08:21.600
Now I’m not saying that there is anything 
wrong with the way my father has chosen to  

0:08:21.600,0:08:28.160
live his life. I sincerely believe that people 
should be allowed to make their own choices.  

0:08:28.160,0:08:34.240
And, if immigrants choose not to integrate, 
then fine. If they’re not hurting anyone,  

0:08:34.240,0:08:38.880
and they’re obeying the law, then it’s none of my 
business. And it’s none of your business either.  

0:08:39.600,0:08:44.800
And that applies whether it’s a Punjabi living 
in Britain, or an Italian living in America,  

0:08:44.800,0:08:51.680
or indeed a Brit living on the Costa del Sol. 
There are enormous numbers of Brits who move to  

0:08:51.680,0:08:57.280
Spain. And they’ve done the paperwork ,and they’ve 
become Spanish residents or Spanish citizens.  

0:08:58.000,0:09:04.880
But they never bothered to learn the local 
language. They still buy English newspapers. They  

0:09:04.880,0:09:12.560
still watch English television. And they spend 
their entire time with other British immigrants.  

0:09:13.120,0:09:18.960
And I’m not saying that’s wrong. It does seem like 
a missed opportunity, as far as I’m concerned,  

0:09:19.840,0:09:27.200
but I’m not saying it’s wrong of them to live 
their life in that way. It’s absolutely fine  

0:09:27.200,0:09:33.200
to make that choice. It’s absolutely fine to 
hang on to your old language and culture and  

0:09:33.200,0:09:41.120
interests. But doing that also has a consequence. 
And in the case of my dad the consequence is that  

0:09:41.120,0:09:51.040
he’s not really British. He is now, and he always 
has been, a Punjabi man. Albeit a Punjabi man from  

0:09:51.040,0:10:00.480
the 1970s. Anyway, to sum it up, what I’m saying 
is that being British and being a British citizen  

0:10:01.520,0:10:08.560
are not the same thing. I can choose whether 
I want to be a British citizen or not. I can  

0:10:08.560,0:10:18.080
renounce my citizenship. But I will always be 
British, regardless of whether I like it or not.  

0:10:18.080,0:10:31.840
As it happens, I do quite like it. 
So, you know… “God save the King!”

Published inPolitics

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

LEGAL NOTICES: Jay Shareef is a fictional character. You really should not believe anything you read here. This website contains affiliate links. We may receive a commission on any sales generated from them. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2021 Jay Shareef Enterprises.