Today the government publishes to parliament its proposals on the residence rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit. The EU has already , on 12 June, tabled the offer of full continuation of current residence rights to UK citizens in the EU after Brexit. This includes the right for British expats not only to remain in the EU country of current residence, but the right to continue to move residence around the EU.
By contrast May’s offer, which was amplified by David Davis with Marr yesterday, is peculiarly restricted. From a cut off date to be announced, EU citizens resident in the UK will be able to stay here, and after five years residence will qualify for a right of settlement.
What is the purpose of this mealy mouthed formulation, as opposed to matching the EU by immediately giving EU residents living here the right of abode? In effect, for the vast majority, it will mean precisely the same thing.
EU citizens resident here will in effect be able to remain permanently if they wish. But they will lose the entitlement if they move around. So a Polish man living here who, at some point in the next few years, has to return to Poland for a few months to tend to his sick mother, will lose his right abode in the UK. A French academic at a British university who leaves on sabbatical for a year’s teaching at Harvard will lose his right of abode in the UK. A Dutch employee of Shell posted out to Malaysia for a stint will lose his right of abode in the UK. Anybody who takes too extended a holiday abroad will lose their right of abode in the UK.
What on earth is the point of this?
The very large majority of EU citizens resident here will be able to qualify, and the small percentage being disqualified by moving abroad during the qualification period are likely to include the most economically active. The numbers penalised will be too small to have any substantial immigration impact. There is no result but pointless cruelty to a few.
Support for Brexit, and a massive percentage of the Tory vote, is motivated at base by a hatred of immigrants. May panders to these racists by inflicting otherwise pointless nastiness on a statistically insignificant number of foreigners, to disguise the fact that the Tories are accepting the reality; it is an economic necessity for the UK that EU citizens contributing massively to GDP can stay. The Tories cannot stomach the hated language the EU employs of “rights” of citizens. So the government rather adopts the language of immigration regulation, and qualifying criteria, where nobody has any “right” to anything.
Finally the Tories have to face the fact that a formal international agreement on reciprocal rights of abode between the EU and the UK, is not just a matter of domestic British jurisdiction. The international agreement will require an international judicial mechanism to oversee its enforcement. The xenophobic detestation of the – heavily British influenced – European Court of Justice means that the Tories will not accept the obvious body. David Davis conceded yesterday some international arbitration mechanism would be required, and seemed to postulate a new international tribunal including British judges. Exactly like the current ECJ before the UK leaves, in fact.
So that’s the Tories for you. Pointless new international organisations, pointless immigration bureaucracy, and pointless nastiness to foreigners to keep their knuckle-dragging tendency happy.