The Government was defeated in the House of Lords, which passed an amendment that would allow EU citizens now living in Britain to remain, regardless of whether a reciprocal agreement is negotiated for British citizens living on the Continent. We think it’s likely the Government won’t be too worried because they have repeatedly stated they don’t want to remove anyone but simply want to protect our own citizens’ rights; it is the EU that is really playing politics with peoples’ lives. Their Lordships may say they are being humane and moral while in fact some simply want to defeat the Government whenever they can, even at the expense of their own countrymen.
From the Government’s viewpoint it could be a useful diversion to concede something they don’t mind losing too much. However, successfully defeating the Government might embolden the Lords on other amendments so may have to be resisted strongly.
The BBC have a news item, with some videos, here . Both sides in the debate seem to be using the same argument, that citizens of the EU and the UK should not be used as “bargaining chips”. Thus we can be sure that this is exactly what is happening, on both sides of the argument in Britain and on both sides of the English Channel.
A distasteful sample of the continuing internal debate on Brexit and no doubt an example too of the way in which the negotiations with the EU will be undertaken. Which leads us neatly into the next item.
The noble ranks in the House of Lords have acted on behalf of the pawns. We don’t disagree that Continental residents here should feel secure but it’s the EU that is sticking to its “principles” (no negotiation before Article 50) regardless of the impact on its citizens. This is, of course, its normal behaviour; Theresa offered to settle this months ago.
The authors of this blog have slightly different views on the issue. One of us feels their Lordships’ intervention is rather pointless at this stage, except as a way of testing their strength for future moves. The other thinks our foreign friends’ position could be settled unilaterally with little risk. Either way, their Lordships’ intervention is more symbolic than practical.
A senior Brussels diplomat close to preparations for the negotiations has been reported as saying: “[Michel Barnier] intends to make an early start on the rights of EU citizens in the U.K. and British citizens in the EU, an area of strong British interest.” All the expats have lived with uncertainty for seven months now but if Mrs May meets her target these talks could begin in just one more month. Without the Lords’ help that might have been two weeks if the exit bill didn’t have to go round the loop again.
Many have commented that most of the 3 million EU migrants are economically active, paying their taxes and contributing positively to the British economy. Consider, however, our worried expatriate pensioners living in Spain and France (a good proportion of our emigrants to the EU) who are contributing to the demographic problems over there. Perhaps they need the Lords’ protection also.
We have recently tried to stimulate discussion with Remainers on Facebook to keep our minds open to different viewpoints. We found most groups (like Keep Britain in Europe for example) are full of insults towards Leave supporters and self-congratulation for their own superior wisdom and high moral standards. We were reminded of the Monty Python sketch in which Michael Palin vainly seeks a good argument.
As Michael says of the futile ping pong he mistakenly paid for (consisting mainly of “No it isn’t”/”Yes it is” exchanges rather than the debate he wanted): “An argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.” Facebook is not the place to go for a debate.
We also found the Remainers were still complaining about Leave “lies”, referring mainly to the campaign bus with the claim, “We send £350M a week to the EU” on its sides. Not a lie exactly but certainly misleading. If Leave had changed this logo mid-campaign to “Sorry, we only send £190M net a week to The EU, we get cash back” would they have lost? They might have added a footnote too, “But we can’t spend the difference on the NHS, it mostly goes on EU-mandated projects and subsidies.” Either figure is pretty meaningless in the public’s imagination. We wouldn’t drag this up again if they weren’t still moaning about it – and had conveniently forgotten their own lies. [Leave campaign bus & Cost of Leaving]
Consider instead George Osborne’s misleading “fact” – “Families will be £4,300 a year worse off by 2030 if we leave the EU.” Now that isn’t nearly so abstract but it was based on the biggest number George could get his Treasury model to generate if every input assumption were the worst possible case. Not a lie then, just a bare-faced deceit. And much more likely to sway the public – if the economy was the main thing they cared about.
We all love to base our arguments on the economy; it’s easy to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) like John Major was doing this week – or even optimism. In fact Leavers cared deeply about other issues, such as freedom and border controls. In spite of the credentials being flaunted they knew that politicians were going to be economical with the truth about the economy.
Who’s the bastard now?
John Major has risen from the crypt to maul his successor as Tory PM. The famously grey ex-leader, who once accused his anti-Maastricht colleagues of being bastards while forcing the treaty on them, said Mrs May needs to use, “a little more charm and a lot less cheap rhetoric” during the coming Brexit negotiations. Could an ashen zombie blush red when it looks in a rear-view mirror?
Perhaps the zombie should choose its words more carefully. Major is reported as saying:
“If Britain – sober, stable, moderate, reliable Britain, with its ancient Parliament and anti-revolutionary history – can break free of a repressive bureaucracy in Brussels, why, then so can anyone. It is a potent appeal.” Yes, indeed it is.
And maybe the crypt is more comfortable than the Commons. Here’s a sample of the mauling Major got from two modern-day ‘bastards’ in response:
First, Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP: “I can understand why the man who led the Conservatives to its worst defeat in the best part of a hundred years is upset with the electorate. I think it’s essentially bitterness: they rejected him and they rejected the European Union.”
Second, Nadine Dorries, MP: “He’s such a dull, irrelevant sad hypocritical, pompous has been…”
Hard or soft Scotchit?
If the SNP gets its way and holds a second referendum on independence would the UK insist on a hard or soft exit and what difference would it make? It would certainly have to have its own currency, or the Euro, or use the pound as a foreign currency. It would lose its UK subsidy but own its (declining) oil assets. As things stand it would face resistance from Spain to joining the EU (all member states have a veto) because the Spanish want to discourage the Catalans from taking the same path. If being in the EU is the reason for another vote what sort of union would they be trying to rejoin of the five versions now being considered (see forthcoming posts on the recent White Paper fro the European Commission)?
Taken separately, the Scottish economy is in crisis, particularly with oil income having declined by 90% since the last vote (no doubt the SNP would try to wash its hands of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s debts). Would the EU consider taking on another basket-case economy?
Note that a majority of Scots have not voted to be in the EU; a majority didn’t or don’t care (i.e. they didn’t vote). This is the logic that Remainers have used against Brexit and we don’t endorse it, but the SNP needs to be confident that the strength of feeling about staying in or leaving the UK and EU is sufficient to carry the day for them.