Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Article excerpt

Byline: Bernard Trafford

SOMETIMES it's good to know people are looking out for you. For instance, in these days of continent-wide migration and (so Brexiteers would assure us) an impending immigration crisis, it's comforting to encounter evidence of just how secure our borders and our passports are.

My Northumberland neighbour has never held a full passport, but plans to travel to the Battlefields with her sisters in search of the grave of her great uncle, so now she requires one.

She was brought up in Yorkshire, she spent her 20s and most of her 30s on Tyneside, and has lived in North Northumberland for another two decades. She filled in the passport application form and, indeed, used me as a referee (they still seem to like headteachers and vicars on those forms!).

To her surprise, just this week she was summoned to Edinburgh for an interview. I didn't know such things occurred; I've never had a problem renewing my passport. But nowadays it appears there's digging to be done if someone who's never possessed a passport suddenly applies for one.

We friends couldn't resist pulling her leg, asking her who the current prime minister is and whether she knows all three verses of the national anthem. Then we realised we were quoting a probably apocryphal dementia test. Or the cub scouts.

Would they question my friend's motives for wanting a passport? What purer patriotic motive could there be, she complained, than seeking the grave of a relative who gave his life for king and country in the First World War? How should she prove her Britishness? She'd already submitted her birth certificate; what more could be required? Was her reaction just the attack of nerves usual before any interview? Was her worry fuelled by the alarmist talk surrounding Brexit? Or by the case of Irene Clennell, married to a Scotsman for 27 years but recently deported to Singapore because she'd spent 18 months nursing a dying mother back in the country of her birth? Did they suspect she'd somehow been radicalised in Alnwick or Wooler, and was using her Battlefields trip as cover for a bid to slip off and join the Popular Front for the Liberation of Galashiels? …

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