Opinion: Emma DeSouza on pledge by Theresa May

Emma DeSouza
Emma DeSouza

THERESA May said earlier this week that the British government would look at ways of securing the rights of Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland post-Brexit to bring in family members from other non-UK countries to take up residency. Co Derry woman Emma DeSouza, who has faced a four-year legal wrangle with the UK Home Office over her citizenship rights, replies.

BREXIT, the border, no deal, backstop - these are all terms on constant repeat as we inch closer and closer to the 29th March deadline.

The day the UK is set to leave the European Union.

Many have become unwilling experts on these terms and will know the risks associated with Brexit.

What we may not realise though is the threat Brexit poses to an integral part of our society - the right to choose and be accepted, equally, as Irish or British or both.

Read More: Concerns raised over post-Brexit rights of Irish citizens in the north

There's been a slow derogation of our identity rights throughout the Brexit negotiations. Identity; known as the condition of being oneself - has long been accepted as a basic human right.

It is a fundamental principle of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement - a principle that bestows upon us a unique right to identify and be accepted as we so choose.

However, it has become clear during my own four-year legal battle with the UK Home Office that this principle has amounted to no more than words on a page.

The UK governments failure to fully implement the Good Friday Agreement and to amend it's nationality provisions has left the people of Northern Ireland vulnerable, especially Irish citizens. A vulnerability that will continue to grow and widen after that March deadline.

Theresa May in Belfast recently, pledged to ‘urgently’ review Irish citizen rights in Northern Ireland - yet the very next day immigration minister Caroline Nokes stated that Northern Ireland born Irish citizens will not be able to stabilise their EU rights through the settlement scheme as they are deemed automatically British under UK law.

Another consequence of the UK government’s inability to fully respect and realise the citizenship provisions laid out the Belfast Agreement.

Setting aside the gaping hole in legislation, there's the emotional impact, the personal impact - of a Brexit that infringes on our basic right to self determination.

We are seeing it in the here and now; British citizens having to get Irish passports to access EU free movement, Irish citizens renouncing British citizenship to access EU family rights and who even knows what will happen to the dual citizens?

That's the state of our right to chose in the present, leading to the question - after Brexit will any of us truly have that option anymore?

Swathes of the rights and entitlements we believe we have are based on a political agreement, on words, on sand.

As in the Sorites paradox, how many grains of sand can be removed from a heap before it is no longer a heap but rather a single grain of sand.

The Brexit storm is coming and we all know what happens to sand in the rain.

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