The Lords debate exposed the prime minister’s contradictory and deceitful arguments against protecting EU citizens living here. If, on this most popular and painfully human question, she will give no inch, that’s a terrible augury for how she intends to conduct these negotiations, opening with a war cry to all 27 countries: we hold your people hostage. The Mail says: “It’s the bloody-minded Brussels bureaucracy, not her, that is bargaining with family lives and happiness.” Because, of course, she is “pushing hard for a deal that upholds the rights of all expats”. This is just a “remoaner” wrecking tactic, “a naked bid to sabotage Brexit by creating difficulties for Mrs May”. As the Guardian reports heart-rending cases of threats to longtime EU residents with British spouses and children born here, Helena Kennedy gave the shocking statistic that a third of all their applications for residency are being turned down by the Home Office. Whoever knew that if they hadn’t had private health insurance in the past they could be cast out for all time?
Yet one Brexit peer after another rose to swear there was never any question of expelling them. Ministers, including the foreign secretary, have assured the TV cameras it will never happen. But if so, why not accept this amendment with good grace when it returns to the Commons?
No, they say: these 3 million people must be used as hostages – though representatives of the 1.2 million Britons in the EU say they want this amendment passed, as an act of goodwill. You can’t bargain unless you sincerely mean to carry out the threat. So which is it?
Mass expulsions would be unthinkable – May as the new Idi Amin? Besides, for a depleted police, border force and administrators, it would be a crippling near-impossibility. Are we really to say goodbye to 55,000 doctors and nurses, a million care workers and prized university students while devastating industries from agriculture to car-washing, hi-tech IT to finance, catering and tourism? Forget tourism entirely – we would become pariahs.
So which is it: they can definitely stay – in which case just accept that amendment and tell the world – or rattle a sabre you may then be forced to use, whatever the self-harm?
Thursday, March 02, 2017
Britain is also earning a new reputation
Brexit threatens the welfare of 3 million EU citizens resident in Britain, and the government refuses to protect them from disruption. Polly Toynbee in the Guardian: