Sunday, July 31, 2016

"Gastarbeiders" are not immigrants - and most workers who come here from EU countries are the former

The Brexit campaign was heavy on slogans and light on detail as we are now seeing as the Government grapples with the fact that there had been no contingency planning at all in the event of a "Leave" vote. The Brexiters slogans were all of the type that is intended to get those they were aimed at nodding and saying "Yeah, Right on !" Or some such. "Take our country back" and all its pseudo-patriotic variants challenged us to respond. "You mean you want foreigners to take decisions not Brits" was the frequent response when we tried to explain. There's no answer to that leading question is there?

The slogans were simplistic and disingenuous - not least on immigration. Nigel Farage's "Breaking Point" poster was vile, fraudulent but effective. Much more cerebral, but often just as disingenuous, were the contributions to the debate of the likes of long-standing intellectual Eurosceptics like Daniel Hannan and Tim Montgomerie. Both (and a few more like them) were not averse to the odd bit of polemics and were quite quiet when their fellow "Leave" campaigners like Farage and Arron Banks spoke from the gutter. It was Farage wot won it and no doubt Tim and Dan would say that his grubby means were justified by the ends. The public got Farage's message and that tipped the balance.

A notable example of the point that misleading sloganising was not restricted to the bigots is in Tim Montgomerie's tweet above. This passes the "Yeah, Right on" test perfectly. Of course we should treat all foreigners who want to emigrate to the UK fairly. No discrimination. Moral and principled. Except that it's nonsense. This is not a point about the EU single market and directly linked free movement of labour policy. Obviously at a Treaty level that is the reason that French and Germans have a right of abode in the UK which Indians or Australians do not have. No. My point is that, irrespective of this, not all nationalities are equal in their interest and motivation in coming to the UK - and that not all so-called "immigration" is the same.

Let's take the latter point first. Only a minority of EU nationals are "immigrants" and I suspect that very few of these are French or German. There are believed to be around 270, 000 French nationals in the UK.  Most of them are here to work under the "free movement" rules. They are not "immigrants" they are mostly "Gastarbeiders" in the useful German word which has no direct English language equivalent. Most will, in due course, return to France. The same applies to the similar number of Germans here. The interchange of workers between Britain, France and Germany has been going on for a long time and (many would argue) has no downsides to it at all for Britain or for the individuals themselves.

Montgomerie contrasts the French and Germans with Indians and Australians. This is a curious combination because, I would suggest, there is little in common between Indians who want to come here and Australians. Yes there are plenty of highly educated Indians with special skills who might like to be a Gastarbeider  for a while to enhance their careers. And exactly the same applies to most Australians. Neither group are "Immigrants". This has nothing to do with "immigration" policy and everything to do with what the free movement of Labour rules negotiated between Britain and India/Australia. And with the individual circumstances of each case.  But as we know there are plenty of Indians who do want to migrate to the UK - especially those with family already here. Most of these will work when they get here but they are not Gastarbeiders - they are here to stay. We may or may not wish to allow this, to apply controls and/or to apply a quota. That is why we have an immigration policy. 

So in comparing French, Germans and Australians (who are mostly not migrants at all) with  Indians (who mostly are) is not comparing like with like. If we are no longer to be part of the free movement of labour in Europe (which would be a sad and retrograde step) we can at least replace it with a time-limited work permit system. And to be fair I agree that this should apply to Gastarbeiders of any nationality and that it should be subject to certain rules. What we above all need to do is not to confuse the (1) transient and short duration phenomenon of people moving from one country to work for a period with (2) immigration - which is a very different subject.     

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Coup that failed

Theresa May is hardly somebody that liberals will relish seeing in Number 10. That said she is not a darling of the Right either. As I said here Brexit was a Right Wing bid for power from the start. It all went according to plan with the recruiting of a few troublemakers like Hoey, Stuart and Field as cover. Then there was the brilliant decision to float Banks/Farage and co as a separate force of Bigots to spread the gut xenophobic message to the great unwashed. Farage's racist lies (the posters especially) were of course nothing to do with the official "Leave" campaign. They didn’t need to be. They did their bit as I said here it was Farage wot won it: .

The plotters were clever and their coup so nearly succeeded. They did the difficult thing - they won the Referendum. Then when Boris's effortless succession to power looked assured they botched it! The Leadsom nonsense was a last minute attempt to recover but it was gone by then! It’s quite funny, except that it isn't funny at all. Here we are stuck in Brexit Creek without a paddle or even a sense of direction. And Theresa May is in Number 10. Ho Ho!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

This time there's no muddling through. There is no plan.

So what now? Two weeks after the most disastrous election outcome of any sort in modern British electoral history. Two weeks after the unholy alliance of the forces of bigotry, ambition, xenophobia, and ignorance persuaded enough British electors to vote "Leave" to secure a narrow victory. Nigel Farage and his gruesome extremists in bed with the nakedly ambitious Boris Johnson. Preposterous old hasbeens like Nigel Lawson and David Owen preaching fear from the lofty eyries of their well-heeled retirements. Racists from the "BNP" and "Britain First" making common ground with frustrated fools from the Left like Labour MPs Gisella Stuart and Kate Hoey. And so on. And now? There is no plan. No "Plan A" let alone a "Plan B". There is no plan.

We are still all EU citizens - until we are not. And what happens then? Do we throw the Poles and the French, the Italians and the Dutch in Britain out? Bye bye. Thank you but off you go? Shock horror and of course the Government has no answer.  Because there is no plan. And what about the millions of Brits in the EU countries? If we expel the Spanish might not the Spanish retaliate and expel their hundreds of thousands of British ex-pats. Dunno. There is no plan.

Our trade prospects will be shot to bits outside the single market. Our economy will suffer (is already suffering). So how do  we handle this? There is no plan. The well established and successful mechanisms of cooperation between Britain and our EU partners will be dismantled to satisfy the brutal requirement of the binary choice of "Leave". We haven't renegotiated anything. We've run away. And after that? Who knows? There is no plan.

Do I have a plan? I do not. The people's choice must be honoured. The fact that this choice was made on the basis of lies and promises that cannot be delivered? The fact that this choice will harm us all, destroy our reputation in the world and deliver us to an uncertain future? Oh well some you lose - I'm sure we'll muddle through. Except that this time we won't.