I 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.