Who’s really to blame for scaring EU citizens?
Share This Article:
I’ve said it before on this website and I make no apologies for saying it again: the furore over EU residents’ right to remain is, to borrow from the bard, much ado about nothing. No one, whether they be in power, flirting with it, or wallowing in the murky pools beneath it, is looking to deport three million EU citizens. Theresa May doesn’t want to, Nigel Farage doesn’t want to, Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t want to; the Home Office couldn’t even if it wanted to, and it doesn’t want to, either. The British public get quite upset about the prospect, despite it being, to quote myself, “more subaqueous than the refloating of Atlantis.” It will not happen. It’s not an issue. Or, rather, it should not be an issue. And yet, undoubtedly, it has become one. It rather puts one in mind of the swine flu pandemic of the late noughties; the one that decimated the British countryside and killed several million people, eventually leading to the collapse of civil society in a rough approximation of John Christopher’s Death of Grass, or Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids. If you don’t remember it, that’s because it never actually occurred. And yet, so terrified was it by apocalyptic pronouncements from people who should have known better, the government wasted a quite extraordinary amount of money – some £1.2 billion - buying up and stockpiling vaccines. I don’t know what happened to the 34 million unused doses. One assumes that they remain, gathering dust in the basement of the NHS, watched over by a team of three hundred managers, two thousand assistant managers and one hundred and fifty departmental directors of waste consolidation. I recall the episode because, like the Millennium Bug, it serves as evidence that the fuss we make about non-issues tends to create many issues of its own. It benefits the cynical, upsets the credulous and generally leads to atmospheres of anger and unpleasantness, the breathing of which causes quite grievous bodily harm. So I do not think it improper that we ask who it is that’s responsible for perpetuating this latest false prospectus, and I think it only right that, once we’ve identified them, we give them a stern telling off. For the plight of EU citizens is, I’m sure, quite real. Judging by the comments one reads in the newspapers, and the hecklers one hears on Question Time, many are genuinely fearful for their futures. They have no need to be. But they are encouraged in their misbelief, and made to feel worse, by the very people who claim to stand up for their interests. I speak, in part, about the Ignoble Lords of the upper house of our parliament. But they are not alone. This non-issue would have been settled within the first few months of Mrs. May’s premiership, when she met with Angela Merkel and proposed making the right to remain a precondition of the negotiations. (Or, rather, and as I shall shortly explain, make clear that that right is presumptive.) Merkel, speaking for the Commission, refused. We can all agree that the notion of using people as ‘bargaining chips’ is unseemly, but it’s worth remembering that it is the avowed policy of the European Union, and not the fault of the British government.
- Article continues below...
- More stories you may like...
- Why I have a problem with Chris Lilley's comedy
- Multilingualism makes us British - despite what Boris Johnson might insist
- Politicians aren’t going to listen on climate change - the revolution must start from the bottom up