We need to understand more clearly what actually happened in the House of Lords where the government was defeated by Lords, who sought to demand that the rights of three million EU citizens be guaranteed within three weeks of article 50 being triggered. To be specific, the House of Lords did not demand unilateral action, just a three week deadline. It was, to all intents and purposes, a relatively minor amendment to the government’s bill, but Theresa May, as she seeks to inflict upon the country the hardest possible Brexit, still opposed it. And the reason is this: she wants to use three million EU workers as nothing more and nothing less than a bargaining tool in the forthcoming negotiations. Every day and in every way Mrs May and her government give me another reason to feel ashamed of being British.
Put simply, May is seeking to do a trade-off with the EU between European workers in the UK and British workers (and pensioners) who live in the EU. If you let our people stay in Europe, we’ll let your work here. On the face of it, you might think, if you are Nigel Farage, that’s a reasonable state of affairs, but surely we’re better than that, aren’t we? Apparently not.
Many of us have called for a sensible debate about migration because to date we haven’t had one. There is no doubt that many people, especially in the big cities, mainly in the north, are concerned at levels of migration. They see themselves at the bottom of the pile for everything – jobs, housing, health, for example – and sense that foreign workers are driving down wages by working in hard jobs for little more than the minimum wage. There may be some degree of truth in some instances and it could be that much of the problems is evidence-free and merely anecdotal, but the reality is that migration is a real concern for many people. And that concern is taking us out of the EU. It is time politicians started a national debate.
We have no kind of debate at all right now. The Tories have quashed Ukip by parking their tanks on Nigel Farage’s lawn by declaring, in a roundabout way, that all migrants are bad. Labour, under the dead hand of Jeremy Corbyn hold up the welcome sign, simply ignoring the fears people have. Whether or not the fears are real, is what we never debate.
I put my cards on the table in a rather obvious way. I have more Norwegian and Dutch blood than British. My grandfather came to this country from Norway as a young man and my mother came from the Netherlands to marry my father (who subsequently emigrated to Canada). Migration is part of my psyche. I am a citizen of the world, the sort of citizen Theresa May says doesn’t exist, but in my core I am English, 100% English. If May wants to kick out European workers from our country, perhaps she could first pop up to South Bristol crematorium to search for my mother’s ashes, which have been swirling around for over 17 years and send them back to Rotterdam, followed by a trip down to Battery Point, Portishead where my grandfather’s (and my father’s) ashes were laid to rest. Good luck with that one, Mrs May. I am fiercely proud of the achievements of my “foreign” family. I know my examples somewhat exaggerate the point, but I can’t see the difference. More than anything, I hate what we have become.
It is unlikely the Spanish and Greek governments will start repatriating those British people who have chosen to work, live, study and retire in their countries but how disgusting is it that our leaders can treat them as nothing more than bargaining chips, as if somehow the lives of people are part of nothing more than a giant game of poker. In fact, some of the more unseemly politicians have referred to negotiations as a “game of poker”.
Three million European people, living and working in our country, now live in fear of being repatriated and well over a million Brits living in Europe are bound to be concerned about what will happen in the future. We know that on 23 June 2016, we voted to end the free movement of people across Europe, so repatriating citizens to and from the UK was always possible, even likely. We knew this was coming but we hoped, at least, that those EU workers who were here could stay and those Brits who live in Europe could stay, too. By her hardline, Trump-like actions, May puts their futures in jeopardy.
The government’s defeat was very small beer. Every other aspect of May’s reckless Brexit strategy has cleared both houses, thanks in part to the ridiculous Labour “leader” Jeremy Corbyn who yesterday congratulated the Lords for defeating the government, not long after whipping them to support it.
The prime minister is, without doubt, the most cynical politician of the present bunch, no mean achievement in itself. From her position as quiet remain supporter, she has morphed into a hardline, hard Brexiteer, appeasing and encouraging the fanatical wing of the Tory Party as we head for the most damaging departure from Europe you could possibly manage. And at the centre of her plans is a move to use real human beings as negotiating fodder.
A new low, for sure, but in the months and years ahead, with no opposition apart from those within her own party, May can take this country even lower. Who needs a hard right ugly Ukip, in the TV and radio studios and newspapers, berating migrants and rubbishing Europe, when you’ve got the real thing in Number 10?