The economic migrant

shed 12I AM an economic migrant. I don’t fit the usual profile because I am white and speak impeccable English. Like the Duke of Edinburgh, who arrived in Britain as an asylum seeker in 1922 when his Greek father and Danish mother fled war in Greece, my status has been skewed by that prism we call Englishness . . .

Because I was born in England, educated in England, and contributed 41 years’ worth of National Insurance contributions to the British exchequer, convention decrees I refer to myself – because I now live in Spain – as an expat. But really, I’m an economic migrant.

I have trouble with the term “expat”. It possesses negative connotations. It has the whiff of colonialism about it, the Raj, the White Man extending his influence. Expats drink whisky and ginger. Expats play golf and bridge. Expats live in their own communities – a state of affairs which is severely frowned upon when Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian expats establish their own communities in England. Only they are not classed as expats. They are migrants.

So through this prism of Englishness, and despite ticking all the boxes required for Economic Migrant Class 1, I am expected to refer to myself as an expat. Curiously, the prism allows a double refraction to occur: the term “expat”, despite its apparent English exclusivity, is a diminutive of the Latin “ex patria”, meaning outside the fatherland. But I suppose that, like the Elgin Marbles and for several hundred years the Stone of Scone, Latin can be considered an English acquisition. So that’s all right.

Definition of economic migrant: a person who travels from one country or area to another in order to improve their standard of living.

Here’s another foreign word: hypocrisy. Today the Sun newspaper announced its backing for the Brexit campaign. The Sun is owned by, and takes its major editorial decisions from, proprietor Rupert Murdoch . . . an Australian born in Australia to Australian parents. Mr Murdoch spends a great deal of time in England and revolves in rather exclusive social circles. Is he a migrant or simply a foreigner? Or, because he is seen as an establishment figure, is he above all that?

If the Sun had been owned by a Turk with a big black moustache and skin slightly darker than the average European, and it had backed the Remain campaign, would its announcement have been greeted with such equanimity? I don’t think so.

In a few days’ time, millions of people vote in the EU referendum. From the perspective of an economic migrant on the outside looking in, the whole episode has the appearance of a squalid and demeaning brawl at a wedding reception. It’s an international disgrace. It is democracy dragged through a very English cesspit and pegged out on the washing line for the world to see. Not only am I embarrassed by the quality of debate, I am ashamed by the views expressed – views based in ignorance, bordering on racist and now considered mainstream – by my fellow citizens.

But as an economic migrant, I don’t suppose my views count for much. To be honest, that suits me fine.

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52 thoughts on “The economic migrant

  1. Another great read – many thanks.

    I don’t think you are an economic migrant, but you maybe a refugee from the conservatives and capitalism. If the “leave” campaign win the UK referendum, you could apply for asylum to remain in Spain.

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  2. Al

    In terms of the Great Furness Diaspora, surely anyone from this fulcrum of the universe, or dare I say, cultural epicentre of the western world, that now lives ” tuther side a Greenodd” is indeed an ‘expat’.

    George

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  3. Thanks for this piece of sanity. How true are your final words about the squalid nature of this debate – in England specifically. I find it increasingly difficult to understand how those on the left who support Brexit can possibly insulate themselves from the vitriol and lies that are at the dark heart of that side of the debate as things now are. But here’s hoping we don’t turn our back on the world. Personally I mighty soon emigrate to Scotland!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John. Listening to the television debates, I don’t know whether to laugh at the claims and counterclaims for their entertainment value or be depressed by the sheer negativity of it all. What upsets me most is how the BBC and ITV seem to have accepted that historical crises such as those affecting the NHS, housing and education (all of which have been in crisis to one extent or another since I started voting in the 1970s) can now be blamed on immigration without further questioning. Scotland sounds like a good bet.
      Cheers, Alen

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  4. The irony does seem lost on people: Brits abroad, living in their communities on Costa del Chipoil, eating their English breakfasts and moaning about all them foreigners back ‘ome.

    Here in Britainland the referendum has been extraordinary in its uselessness. All I know after months of campaigning is that Boris Johnson is a bigger t**t than David Cameron. (Or possibly vice versa). Facts, that’s a laugh.

    And I didn’t know expat was Latin. Often wondered what it was short for.

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    1. Hi Chris. We are fortunate in that we’ve moved to a part of rural Spain where Brits tend to grow their own food, learn the language and integrate. But a couple of hours’ drive east or west and you’re into Union Jack T-shirt country, which is okay if you like that sort of thing but not so good if you bump into a coach-load of Russian football fans.
      You do still get that attitude out here – Brits moaning about immigration and England “not being ours anymore”, which is a bit rich when you’ve moved to someone else’s country. But there you go. Perhaps it’s in our genes. Little England in Spain. Might be a book in that. But the TV sitcom has already been done!
      All the best, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We have tabloid newspapers too but I have a feeling that luckily we are not able to match The Sun. We are many in Denmark crossing our fingers that the British people follow a different path than the Sun.
    A nice drawing and brilliant written!
    All the best,
    Hanna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hej Hanna. I think the British tabloids are particularly partisan, underhanded and hypocritical when it comes to this sort of thing, more so than the newspapers of more liberal European countries. It is not so much the freedom of the press that is being exercised as the bloody-mindedness of the extremely rich and powerful individuals who own them, and who have realised that they can increase their power over Parliament if Europe is out of the way. That’s my theory, for what it’s worth.
      All the best, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course I did, Ash. I even paid for the postage because they sent me a pre-paid envelope that was valid only in the UK. That’s Richmondshire District Council for you.
      Cheers, Alen

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      1. I’m glad to hear that! I may have to stop following you as I seem to be the only one here who’s for Brexit! It wasn’t right in 1975 and it’s still not right in 2016.

        Out…..and into the real world!

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          1. Alen, maybe you can help me here. Having followed your blog for a while now I never had the impression that you were particularly keen on the likes of Goldman Sachs or Moragn Stanley, the (B)ankers who almost bankrupted Britain a few years ago, or, the rich and elite fat cat bosses who screwed theirs workers whilst stuffing millions of £/$ into their own pockets! The very same people who want us to stay in the EU and help them to pocket even more money as they fund an unelected federal united states of Europe! You trust these people?

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            1. No. Wouldn’t trust them an inch. Or a centimetre. Neither do I trust Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage, none of which has a mandate to enact any of the promises they have been making and never will have without a party behind them, a proper manifesto and a general election victory. The referendum for me is a vote for the lesser of two evils.

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              1. Those 3 couldn’t put enough money together to bail Greece out or any of the other southern states of Europe but Goldman Sachs etc have done so and will continue to do so as long as the EU continues to cosy up to them, which of course they have, because Europe is almost bust. After this referendum if the vote is to remain there won’t be much point in holding another election in this country as our politicians will have even less power than they have now, although you can bet they’ll still have jobs and loads of our money. Anyway, what mandate does Junker and the EU fat cats have or more to the point what mandate does Goldman Sachs have? You’d rather they made decisions on your behalf without you even being involved. If the vote is to leave we can at least chuck them out in five years if we don’t like them!

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                1. Your argument seems to be centred around democracy and accountability, and the perceived lack of it in the EU. I agree, there is a lack and it should be addressed. There is also a desperate lack in the UK, where the upper house of Parliament remains unelected, hereditary peers are still an incredible 96 in number, and democratically elected members of the House of Commons are obliged – even in the 21st Century – to swear allegiance to a hereditary monarch garbed in mediaeval attire before they are allowed to take their seats. That is not democracy.
                  When I started voting in 1975, I had, through my elected MP and elected council representatives, a say in the running of the electricity boards, gas boards, water boards, railways, most heavy industries, post office, telecommunications, schools, and health boards at local and regional level. All that democracy and accountability has been swept away – not by the EU, but by successive Tory governments selling off OUR assets and reorganising OUR public bodies to exclude the public. One of the last public bastions is education – but two months ago the Tories unveiled plans to remove all schools from the control of local education authorities, scrap parent governors, and place schools in the hands of the private sector – a stance from which the education secretary has been forced to retreat. Again, that vicious and sustained assault on democracy is nothing to do with the EU.
                  Democracy in Britain is a pale shadow of what it was 40 years ago. The EU is not to blame. The people the British elect to their own Parliament are the ones to blame. And if Johnson, Gove and Farage get in, what little influence we still hold over the NHS and the few public bodies that remain is going to disappear as well.
                  Now I’m off to bed.

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                  1. I would point out that since you started voting in 1975 and up until 2010, there have been 4 Labour governments and 4 Tory governments (Wilson & Blair =14 years, Thatcher & Blair = 13 years). You cannot blame everything on the Tories. Also more to the point, regardless of the colour of those governments, in those same 27 years we have joined the EU and watched it grow from a “trade” union to a “political” union; doesn’t that tell you something. And the only newspapers who shouted NO to joining the EU in 1975 were The Spectator and The Morning Star!
                    I will say no more on this. We will just have to agree to differ.

                    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Alen,

    Someone once asked Murdoch why he was so opposed to the EU:

    ‘That’s easy,’ he replied. ‘When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.’

    It’s ironic, or sad, or both, at a time when some flag-waving nutters, many of whom may be earnest and certain Brexiteers (sorry), are benefiting extensively from hospital treatment in France.

    I don’t suppose I’ve raised the standard of debate with that outburst.

    I’ll vote, and I’ll hope….but I’m feeling pretty sad about all of this.

    Steve

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Steve. That has always been my theory about Murdoch and the other proprietors, so it’s heartening (in a sort of sad way) to learn that he actually said it. What we need is more brave men armed with custard pies to rub in his face, especially now that scary wife of his is out of the way.
      You’ve raised an interesting point there. Perhaps those poor victims lying in French hospital beds receiving free treatment on their EHIC cards won’t be so eager to chant “F*** off Europe, we’re voting out” in future. Or have I sunk to the general level of the debate in saying that?
      Cheers, Alen

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  7. Hi Alen, I’m still very much enjoying reading your posts, though I haven’t made any replies lately. Been following the ongoing in/out saga with horrified fascination and thinking about emigrating…
    I have observed lately a trend for placards in some peoples’ gardens (very large gardens in North Yorkshire) which state – “Vote Leave”. For some reason this makes me want to add to the placard: “well, bloody well leave then!”

    Best wishes, Mike

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    1. Hi Mike. Good to hear from you. Very conservative (in every sense) people in North Yorkshire. I hope they don’t all leave because they might come over here.
      After living in North Yorkshire for 19 years, I can honestly say there isn’t an area of the country least affected by immigration, supposed EU red tape and the crises in the housing, health and education sectors. It makes you wonder where they’re coming from. Must be something in the water.
      All the best, Alen

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  8. Hi Alen, despite living in a labour stronghold in West Cumbria virtually everyone in the bait cabin wants to leave. When pressed they can only mumble something about immigrants. I would guess that years of Daily Mail, Express and Sun (which is what they read) have taken their tole. In west cumbria there are virtually no immigrants anyway! I am following your blog and hope you and your wife are settling in and it is working out for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Greg. Good to hear from you. You are spot on. The right-wing press and that fascist Farage have spread their poison and we have now seen, with the death of that poor woman, how effective and devastating it is. Immigrants getting the blame for every social ill. People trotting out “we want our country back” because they don’t possess the brain cells to say anything constructive. I find it all very depressing and worrying.
      Anyhow, yes, things are falling into place over here, thanks. I keep meaning to get off my backside and climb some mountains, but they are bloomin’ high and I need to get into shape.
      Cheers, Alen

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      1. They can have their country. I am Cumbrian and European! By the way there’s a couple of people noticeable by their absence in the comments on this one. Maybe they are on holiday!

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        1. Now, now, don’t make trouble. But I must admit, Greg, I am very much surprised by the almost overwhelmingly positiive reaction. I was expecting a bit of hostility.

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  9. It’s almost amusing (but only almost) listening to the sovereignty card being played in the debate by the same people who advocate us acting as a forward base for the next generation of American missiles, just so that we can retain a permanent seat on the UN security council and, in return, erm… and in return get to vote with America on UN resolutions.

    Have a look at this, when you get half an hour, Alen…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/edzbp6/acts/adpxp6?lang=ga#p03x9lq3

    I was actually at this event, plus a couple of others, at this year’s Hay Festival. George isn’t to everybody’s tastes but I’m with him on this subject and quite a few others. By the way, I understand that the Maoris, the Australian Aboriginals, and the native North Americans would also “like their country back”. You couldn’t make this stuff up, but unfortunately there’s no need to.

    Regards, as always.

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    1. Dave, you’ve touched on so many things that I wish I’d thought of. I’ll take a look at the lecture later. I like George Monbiot’s writing so I know I’ll find it illuminating.
      Yes, the hypocrisy of it all. Various peoples the world over have been demanding their lands back for decades, some (as is increasingly becoming plain in the case of Kenya) only after having those British values of torture and castration enforced on anyone who stood up against colonial rule – as recently as the 1960s.
      Half a day’s drive to the west of us is a tiny corner of Spain that was grabbed by a foreign power under the Treaty of Utrecht after the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713. The Spanish want it back. It’s called Gibraltar. The occupying forces (foreigners, migrants, call them what you will) refuse to budge.
      Cheers, Alen

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      1. On a tangent, but sparked by reference to George Monbiot and the concept of “occupying forces”…..

        He wrote a great article in the (literal) wake of one series of floods, setting out how the UK taxpayer is subsidising the devastation of natural habitats on the high moors, to satisfy the business model for shooting grouse. This is coupled with the straightening and dredging of rivers. It saves the farmland, but sends the deluge in the direction of the plebs.

        Steve

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        1. That’s interesting. I am reminded of a front-page story that we published at the Northern Echo about ten years ago after grouse-shooting interests were successfully prosecuted for bulldozing a road across the top of a protected moor somewhere in County Durham. It was always my intention to take a walk up there to see if the road had been removed and the land restored, as ordered by the court, but I never did.
          Also, and this is going off at a tangent but related to your comment, during the 1960s and 1970s there was a spate of potholers killed in flash floods in caves in the Pennines. This was thought to have been related to “land improvement” schemes on the high moors, in which ground-water – instead of being allowed to soak slowly and naturally into the earth – was diverted into ditches and delivered into streams and rivers at an incredible rate. The fatal knock-on effect was that local cave systems flooded swiftly and without warning during wet weather.
          I should read more of Monbiot’s stuff. I once bought a long-handled Spanish spade for my allotment after reading a piece he wrote about continental gardening tools. But that’s another story.

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  10. Reading the definition of ‘economic migrant’ I still wouldn’t say that’s what you were. You didn’t move there for money – you moved there for a better life and the definition definitely means ‘money’ when it says in search of a better life. That’s why it’s an ‘economic’ migrant. You moved for a better WAY of life not more money – different thing.
    Carol.

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    1. Sorry, but we could not survive on our present income if we stayed in England. The cost of living is too high. We pay less than 100 euros council tax a YEAR here and everything else – with the exception of electricity – is cheaper than in the UK.
      Cheers, Alen

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        1. It was a mixture of many things – quality of life and making our money go further being the main issues. Having being made redundant four times – and retraining for a new career once, only to be made redundant – it dawned on me that there is more to life than investing your time and effort in someone else’s business only to be thrown out to increase their profits the moment it suits them.

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  11. ‘Here’s another foreign word: hypocrisy. Today the Sun newspaper announced its backing for the Brexit campaign. The Sun is owned by, and takes its major editorial decisions from, proprietor Rupert Murdoch . . . an Australian born in Australia to Australian parents’.

    The Times declared for remain Allen

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    1. Yes, you are correct, Chris, and from what I’ve read this was indeed an editorial decision. So I’ve got egg on my face. When it boils down to it, there is no need for a newspaper to declare its allegiance to any side in a political argument, but most of them have, it seems.
      That’s not to say Murdoch isn’t a cynical hypocrite who is playing to the allegiances of his respective readerships in the knowledge the Sun’s circulation is much larger than that of the Times. But at least his meddling isn’t as blatant as that of the Daily Mail, which advised its English readership to vote Leave in its English editions and its Scottish readership to vote Remain in the Scottish editions.
      Cheers, Alen

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  12. Well, Alen, looks like you’re in the right place, following our incredibly stupid exercise in cutting off our noses to spite our faces this week (which I wouldn’t resent any less if it didn’t involve them cutting off my nose at the same time). I hope this decision doesn’t affect your position over there, what with free movement of peoples suddenly being off the table. I wish I could afford to get out of Britain now, but my best hope is to emigrate to Scotland once it leaves the no-longer United Kingdom.

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    1. Hi Martin. I’ve got a horrible feeling things are going to be a lot worse than any of us suspected. Events are moving so swiftly in one respect (prime minister resigning, Corbyn’s shadow cabinet disintegrating) but so slowly in another respect (Britain in limbo with absolutely no plan and no leadership) that it’s hard to make out what can possibly happen. In complete contrast, Scotland seems so stable and in charge of its own destiny. A move there would not be a bad idea, I suspect.
      We have a Plan B here in Spain if the worst comes to the worst, which it well might. Anne is entitled to claim Irish citizenship because her grandfather was from Belfast, so we will remain inside the European Union with me as her dependant. It’s a simple process (and encompasses all Ireland, not just the south), and thousands of Brits are going down this path – so many, in fact, that the Irish passport office has had to hire dozens more staff to cope with demand. And if Scotland goes for independence, I’ll be entitled to a Scottish passport. Crivvvens.
      All the best, Alen

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      1. Good to know you’ve got the situation covered, Alen, and here’s hoping it doesn’t prove necessary. I can’t believe how quickly everything is falling apart over here. I also can’t help thinking about Yeats’ poem ‘The Second Coming’ which is sounding horrifically prescient right now. What Rough Beast indeed?

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I think this is a brilliant blog! I love that you mention the media, it had such an unhealthy sway on the public and the decision- the Sun posted an article saying thousands and thousands of refugees are waiting to come in to the UK- of course that would make some people nervous! Was it true? No! I have written an article debating the future of our world, with a concern for where BREXIT may lead us. Would be great if you could check it out!

    https://lendyoualense.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/globalisation-or-regionalisation/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi. Thank you for your comment. I’ve watched dozens of opinion programmes since the EU vote, many delving into the reasons why people voted to leave, and none ever mention the influence of the right-wing press. It’s like the elephant in the room. There is a sense of denial that the press had any influence whatsoever, yet they have been consistently poisoning the minds of their readers for years and years. Anyway, there’s not much we can do about that short of blowing them up. Now there’s a thought.
      Cheers, Alen
      PS I like your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

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