Tuesday, 5 July 2016
EU Nationals must be Allowed to Stay in the UK
Theresa May, the Home Secretary and front runner to be Tory Party leader and next Prime Minister, says that she cannot guarantee that European nationals already living in the UK, will be allowed to remain in the country. Apparently, their fate is to be part of the UK’s negotiating position, together with UK nationals living in EU countries.
There are around 1.2 million UK nationals living in the EU and around 3 million EU nationals living in the UK. The other candidates for the leadership of the Tory Party have said that May is using them as ‘bargaining chip,’ which I think is a pretty accurate description of May’s attitude to the whole issue of our exit negotiations from the EU.
I think May is wrong on many levels in taking this approach:
First of all, we need to reassure people living in the UK about their future here. It is not fair to people, who need to make life decisions. It must be a worry for EU nationals in the UK.
The vast majority of the EU nationals living in the UK are young, whereas the largest grouping of UK nationals living in the EU, are pensioners, living in Spain, roughly about half of the EU total. Younger people are productive in the UK economy, whereas our ex-pats in Spain are not, to a large extent, anyway.
If these older people come back to the UK they will need more health and social care, a sector of the economy which at present has large numbers of EU nationals doing the work.
The idea of expelling 3 million productive workers is a recipe for a collapse in the UK economy. EU nationals work across all sectors of the economy, and of course pay tax here. It would be madness.
For this to be the opening salvo of negotiations, it will likely harden attitudes in the EU, when we want relations to be as amicable as is possible. To state unilaterally, that the UK will allow all those EU nationals already residing here, to remain, would be a gesture of goodwill.
And, because it is just plain right to allow people to stay. Natural justice demands that people who came in good faith to this country should not be penalised.
May is playing the politics of the Tory Party here. She needs to get the rank and file members to vote for her in the final run off of the leadership election. May supported remaining in the EU, albeit it a low key fashion. Now she needs the largely Eurosceptic membership to elect her as leader.
Another example, of individual and party agendas being put ahead of the interests of the country and what is right. If this referendum has shone a light on the bad behaviour of our elected representatives, some good may come out of it all.
Credit to Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow Home Secretary though, for forcing a debate in Parliament on Wednesday, on the issue. There will be a vote too of MPs. I hope they do the right thing.