EU citizens, Emma Watson and PMQs

Bad politics – what does this achieve?

I cannot, for the life of me, work out what Number 10 is trying to achieve by trying to keep the fate of EU nationals in its hands. It makes no sense to me whatsoever. Let’s first deal with the moral case, for I consider this so simple and blindingly obvious that it shouldn’t take me long to outline before moving on to reach my central point.

It is simply unreasonable to suggest that people with whom you have essentially had a contract could be removed from the country. We have been living for decades under a system (love it or hate it) that has allowed free movement of citizens of the EU. We had a deal. That was the arrangement – EU citizens could come and live and work in the UK. The terms on which they arrived have still not changed. Now, to suggest that they may be forced to leave at some point in the future if we don’t get a deal we want is like saying to somebody to whom you have rented a house on a 20 year contract that they need to leave after 10. Er…how about no? That wasn’t the deal.

Now that that is out of the way, I want to address the much more interesting point…what is this supposed to achieving politically?

I had a similar thought when the government insisted on fighting its case to the Supreme Court over whether the executive had the power to trigger Article 50. What on earth did that achieve? There was no way they could ever lose a parliamentary vote on the matter, so why not just put it straight to the Commons? Why fight it out? It looks petty and authoritarian, and was always going to be defeated by the judges (wrongfully and shamefully smeared from some sections). Even if they’d won, then what? The electorate clearly felt a Parliamentary vote was required, and would never have shut up about it if the government went ahead regardless.

But back to the status of EU citizens. Theresa May is currently clinging to that card with a vice like grip, but for what? Let’s examine this.

It’s not actually legal, or possible

Even if, for some crazy reason, we couldn’t reach agreement with the EU on the status of our respective citizens, it wouldn’t be legal to deport them. The Vienna Convention, for one thing, prevents such an action. But who even needs that? We couldn’t even get rid of convicted terrorists through legal means for crying out loud, so how do you think we’d ship out 3 million fruit pickers and surgeons (apparently these are the two main jobs EU types do)?

We are going to do it anyway, just do it now

It is inconceivable that the government could ever use this card to actually get anything in a negotiation. It simply would never work. So just do it now. Be the first one and grab the upper hand.

Brexit is seen as mean – start reversing that

Immediately guaranteeing the rights of these people would not only send a message to everyone at home that we are not anti-immigrant, but it would smash the ball straight back into Germany’s (sorry, the EU’s) court. We’ve guaranteed their rights, your move. Are you going to do the same as well? You are? Great! You aren’t…? Hmm that looks a bit mean. Why wouldn’t you do that? That seems a bit harsh…

You grab a moral high ground that is clear and just begging to be occupied. Not doing it makes you look mean and spiteful. This is a hand of aces that would, if played, generate the goodwill that is so sorely lacking.

Nobody has ever asked for this

All of the main players in the Leave campaign expressly stated that they would guarantee the rights of those people who have already made their lives in the UK. Some examples:

Liam Fox: “I would like to see rules apply to future movement, not to those who are currently here and I think that removing the element of fear that I’m afraid the Remain campaign encouraged during the referendum would be a very positive thing.”

Boris Johnson: “I would like to set on record that countless times the Vote Leave campaign gave exactly this reassurance to everyone from other EU countries living and working here. It is very disappointing that this should be called into question. It is absolutely right to issue the strongest possible reassurance to EU nationals in this country, not just for moral or humanitarian reasons but for very sound economic reasons as well.”

Andrea Leadsom: “I commit today to guaranteeing the rights of EU friends who have already come here to live and work. We must give them certainty, there is no way they will be bargaining chips in our negotiations.”

Michael Gove: “EU citizens already lawfully resident in the United Kingdom must retain their right of residence.”

Peter Bone: “Clearly any EU citizen that is legally here if we come out of the EU would absolutely have the right to remain here. Any other suggestion is just absurd.”

Douglas Carswell, Peter Lilley and Daniel Hannan: “We would urge the government, opposition parties and every candidate standing to be the next Conservative party leader – and hence prime minister – to make an unequivocal statement that EU migrants currently living in the UK are welcome here, and that changes would apply only to new migrants. A clear commitment to protect the status of EU migrants was made by the official Vote Leave campaign – and it must be honoured.”

This is clear – cut and dried. There is no desire from anyone to see people who are already making their lives here leave. Stop fighting it and just do it, for everyone’s sake.


Please don’t hurt me

Emma Watson has felt a little wrath this week after a photoshoot she did in Vanity Fair. I’m sure I don’t need to reheat the detailed arguments of this, but the basics seem to be:

For: “She should be allowed to do whatever she wants”

Against: “She is a hypocrite because women have historically been judged only by their looks – this plays straight into that”

Now, at the risk of a backlash (I’m a man, so really not allowed to give an opinion on anything that doesn’t involve my gender), I’d like to offer just one thought, with the following caveats. This thought may be disregarded. This thought does not have to be agreed with. This thought does not in any way suggest to anyone that they must or must not do certain things.

Ok. Ladies – you can do whatever you want. But, what if, just for maybe like a year, possibly two…nobody does a topless photoshoot. And I mean all of us, men and women. Let’s just all not take any clothes off in public for 12-24 months. And see what happens. We all just appreciate each other for our minds. We listen to each other’s ideas. We treat each other respectfully. We allow people to star in films with their clothes on. We don’t look at each other’s chests.

Could we maybe try that? Doubtful. But it seems a shame. What am I supposed to be learning by seeing your breasts? Oh yeah, there they are. Very nice. What were you saying about FGM?

PMQs ratings slide

Ugh, it really isn’t what it used to be. Corbyn is dreadful at it (not actually a personal fault worthy of abuse, just a fact) and May is ok, but awful at jokes.

But surely the Speaker has more power to actually make the PM answer questions properly? Otherwise, what is the point? For a man who has done a fantastic job in getting minsters into the chamber to answer questions, he doesn’t ensure the PM is doing so. I understand it could go on for hours if he insisted, but two or three of these and they’d soon learn.

Prime Minster’s Questions. Pointless without answers.


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