Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Welcome back to the Dark Ages

Just finished watching Theresa May's "Brexit speech".  So a "hard Brexit" it is then. She claims Britain cannot remain in the single market because then it would be "just as if we hadn't left". Not true, Theresa. The UK voted to leave the EU, and that is exactly what a soft Brexit, in which the UK remains in the single market and accepts free movement of people, would do. The UK voted very narrowly to leave, by 51% to 48%. The narrowness of this victory should obviously be interpreted as a vote for a soft Brexit.

Now I agree with all who state that the EU has failed miserably in protecting its borders. Putting in place practical measures to strengthen this should be central to talks. But May's speech shows that the wingnut, Empire-harking  isolationists have taken over the Government, in a foretaste of  years of political uncertainty in the UK; years of efforts wasted in massive renegotiations that could have been avoided.

Welcome back, the Dark Ages.


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  2. Also, although the vote among those that were eligible to vote (and voted) was 51% leave, at least 800,000 UK citizens resident in the EU were disenfranchised. So were young UK citizens aged 16-18 (who will be more affected than the elderly by the consequences). So were any non-UK citizens resident in the UK, regardless of how long they have been resident in the UK. When a vote disenfranchises those people with the most to gain or lose from the outcome, how can you ever claim it to be democratic? Both the "sovereignty" argument and the "migrant" argument are dishonest. The UK is currently a sovereign nation. Leaving the EU will not change this. The EU may struggle to protect its borders, but the UK has opted out of Schengen. Those people that the UK seem to wish to remove are mostly non-EU citizens. Leaving the EU will change nothing in that regard, even if you agree with the fundamental premise. So far as Poles, and other EU citizens are concerned, the evidence shows that these people make a significant net contribution to the UK economy and society. Comments to the contrary are based on misinformation, lack of information and plain xenophobia. The discussion also ignores the reciprocal nature of the agreements. I believe this will be taught as an object lesson in how a small elite can steer people in a direction they do not intend - indeed perhaps the direct opposite of what they intended. A privatised NHS, fewer social protections and lower social benefit, lower corporate tax (more profit for the <1%), reduced environmental protection... and actually reduced sovereignty in that the UK will no longer have a say over EU policies, defense, border control, expansion etc which have direct consequences for the UK. The content of the speech is the very epitome of "have our cake and eat it". Clearly there will be no way that the UK can exit the customs union, not comply with EU regulations and still enjoy tarif free trade. The vote in Parliament is meaningless - it is reduced to "vote yes and accept this deal, or vote no and get no deal at all; we're leaving either way". Nor could the government get away with no vote in the UK Parliament when every other EU country will get a vote. Spin and yet more spin. It is really sad for anyone who still cares about the UK, or still has a stake in the UK.

  3. As immigration seems to be a Big Deal in the Brexit story – and much misrepresented – maybe it would be helpful for readers of this blog if I explain the laws? Feel free to delete this post Jeremy!
    Freedom of movement and residence for people in the EU is the cornerstone of EU citizenship. It was established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992. It effectively means that any EU national can choose to live and work in any EU country and receive the same health and social benefits in that country as any native of that country. This means that the UK cannot refuse immigration of any EU citizen. The rights do not, however, extend to voting. Only UK citizens may vote in UK elections.
    The UK can, and does, however, maintain its own borders and can, and does, refuse entry to non-EU nationals. Hence the notorious camp in Calais.
    Most of the countries of the EU have removed borders between them. These are the countries which are part of the “Schengen zone”. The following is heavily copied from http://www.europarl.europa.eu
    There are currently 26 full Schengen members: 22 EU Member States plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein (which have associate status). Ireland and the United Kingdom are not parties to the Convention but can ‘opt in’ to selected parts of the Schengen body of law. Denmark, while part of Schengen, enjoys an opt-out for any new justice and home affairs measures, including on Schengen, although it is bound by certain measures under the common visa policy. Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus are due to join, though there are delays for differing reasons. Croatia began the application process to accede to the Schengen area on 1 July 2015.
    Border controls for the EU are made at the exterior of this Schengen region. There is free movement within it, although members (countries) may unilaterally reimpose border controls if they feel them necessary. France made this decision after the Bataclan attack. Passports are still being checked carefully at all French borders today.
    Hence for the purposes of Brexit:
    Leaving the EU will not change border security in any way. The UK has opted out of Schengen.
    Leaving the EU will not change the immigration (legal or otherwise) of non-EU citizens. This is currently only subject to UK law.
    Leaving the EU will allow the UK to refuse entry, jobs, social benefits etc to EU nationals.
    Leaving the EU will mean that UK nationals will also lose their right to live and work anywhere in the EU, and their health, social and other benefits in those EU countries. Whether UK citizens will continue to be able to take advantage of EU opportunities will become a matter of negotiation, visas, work permits, private health insurance etc.