To my friends who have gone to other countries in Europe to work, study or retire, and to my European friends who have come to the UK to work, study or retire, I can only offer my deepest sympathy. Today we learn that our new hard line right wing home secretary Priti Patel, the daughter of Ugandan Asian migrants since you ask, is to end free movement for EU citizens from 1 November 2019. It is likely that we too will lose our own rights to free movement from the same date. We knew it was coming, we knew it wasn’t Project Fear: we knew it was going to happen. It’s what we voted for.
Many of my friends, stretched from Italy, Greece, Spain, France and Germany, have already taken steps to remain (a dirty word to many, I know) where they are by taking out residency. I know for some of them, it has been, and indeed still is, a very stressful time as politicians like Boris Johnson play games with their very lives and futures.
In the final analysis, we are talking about human beings, not just names on a list, people who want to live the lives they choose and to live where they want. In the post Brexit world, their options will be severely limited, mainly to the UK.
I suppose it is because I have more ‘foreign’ blood than actual English blood that I empathise with so called migrants, since I would not be here at all but for migration. I am not sure what my mother and paternal grandfather did that was oh-so-wrong in choosing to live and work in the UK. Certainly my grandfather, from Sweden via Norway would not have been allowed to get off the boat with his family in 1911 to start up the Mustad nail factory in Portishead. I can imagine if they arrived here today, crowds of protestors would be crowding the harbourside demanding they be deported. The Nigel Farage of the day would stand in front of a poster saying ‘Breaking Point’.
I am as pro Europe as it is possible to be. If the circumstances were right – and to be fair, they’ve never been quite right – I’d have supported joining the Euro, I would have embraced the open borders of the Schengen agreement and I’d have welcomed the formation of a European defence agency, even though I know there is absolutely no chance of any British government of any colour agreeing to any of these! In fact, all these things were part of the Project Fear of the right wing nationalist leavers. Having said all that, Britain has now turned inward and raised the drawbridge to our friends and allies across the channel.
The end of free movement was always about more than Europeans coming here to work, study, travel and retire. It was about us ending our own rights to these things. We chose to take away our own freedoms and now the likes of Priti Patel are implementing our wishes.
I still don’t quite understand how large swathes of liberal Britain chose to support a hard right English nationalist project like Brexit, with all the negatives it entails for our people, particularly and specifically the young who will never have the opportunities we did and the everyone else who may lose them.
The grave new world begins on 1st November 2019. Order your rations book now.