Another blog post in the category “The incredible life of (non UK) EU citizens in the UK” (Part 1 here)
Imagine you are a Belgian citizen and you just turned 27. You move to the UK to do research at one of the leading universities. So far so good. Thanks to EU legislation, there are no problems getting your previous qualifications recognised. Although the UK is not member of Schengen it is enough to present a ID card at the border to enter the country. Obviously you do not need a visa or a passport. Anyway most of EU citizens just carry their ID cards with them, some do not even have passports and, anyway, we tend to store our passports at home in the cupboard in case we travel to weird destinations next summer. So what can possibly go wrong with living in the UK you might ask?
Well, although you are 27 you might look younger than 25 which can be a problem (although this is hard to imagine!) So on any given Wednesday you pop into your local Sainsbury’s to buy a bottle of wine. (For those of you who have been in the UK you might be aware of a small alcohol problem regarding under-age drinking…) Since the shop assistant thinks you look under 25 (in normal circumstances this is a compliment!) she asks for a proof of identity as the shop policy requires her to check everyone who looks under 25 whether he or she is over 18.
First, you might be a bit surprised as you did not expect this question. But, thanks to old habits you carry your Belgian ID card with you and present it to the shop assistant. After all it is one of the most advanced ID cards in Europe and does not look like a library card.
“Sorry we do not accept ID cards – only passports and British driving licenses” the shop assistant informs you. Your reply: “But in the alcohol department I saw a poster with all means of identification – including ID cards” (which is of course rather funny as there are no UK ID cards yet…) – “Sorry, no exceptions.” she answers. “I can show you the poster if you want?” But she clarifies ”We do not accept ID cards!” – “But this is my national ID card issued by the Belgian state and you can see here that I am 27 years old” – “Sorry, I cannot accept it!”
So, why do we have ID cards (ID is short for identity document!!) if this is still happening in the EU? Why is the ID accepted to enter the country, to open a UK bank account, to vote in local UK and European elections. Probably you can even open your own supermarket – but it is really not accepted to proof your age in a supermarket? Is it discrimination? Well, as the branch manager of Sainsbury’s explained later: “Discriminatory behavior would include different prizes for UK citizens and foreign citizens…but the supermarket can decide what kind of ID it accepts”
I am not convinced! And I would feel discriminated against. I think this is ridiculous and I wonder whether there is any EU/national legislation which could be used in this case…I still hope this was a decision of a couple of stubborn employees and not the official company policy….
And just to make it clear: This really happened (!), however, luckily there are other supermarkets and the evening eventually included a bottle of wine!