A couple of posts ago I blogged about the endless complexity involved in guaranteeing the continuity of rights of EU/UK citizens after the UK leaves the EU. I also pointed out that the UK seems not to understand that mutual guarantees require binding legal contracts. Parliament, for example, debated the issue of guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK without bothering to specify what those rights might be or giving any thought to the legal mechanisms that would be employed to guarantee those rights in perpetuity. It was all a bit pointless and I'm actually glad that the motion failed because this is the sort of difficult job that needs the supervision of a grown-up.
Why am I rehashing a blog post from three weeks ago? That is an excellent question and I'm very glad you asked it. Well, the Labour Party have decided to make the rights of EU citizens a manifesto pledge. Keir Starmer has pledged that a Labour Government "will immediately guarantee that all EU nationals currently living in the UK will see no change in their legal status as a result of Brexit". As it's the Labour Party I take great pleasure in declaring this the stupidest manifesto pledge of GE2017. Now, you might think I'm a bit fast off the block there. After all, the campaigns haven't even started yet. But you're wrong (and you're a grotesquely ugly freak).
I don't know where to begin, to be honest, but let's just start at the beginning. Which forms will an EU national have to fill out to prove they are living in the UK? Will that be the current 85 page booklet required for permanent residency or will there be a special form introduced just for those caught up in Brexit? I don't think the EU will accept that 85 page booklet and I'm convinced that will be a significant bone of contention at the A50 talks. Right, that means a new form will need to be introduced. How long will that take? He has to oversee the wording and translation of a new government form; hire and train staff to understand and assess applications; implement a system of appeal and a strategy for managing failed applications; print millions of forms and distribute them; set up an online application system and help-desk; spread awareness about the process through social media and advertising campaigns. He said he would guarantee those rights "on day one of a Labour Government". I don't think he'll manage that. Do you? Let's wind back a bit because I don't think Keir Starmer has ever considered that the EU will never accept its citizens having to fill out an 85 page booklet. If he carries on travelling down that path he's actually going to overtake the speeding Brexit bus because he'll be encouraging EU citizens to fill out a lengthy form only for the EU to later force the UK to adopt a simpler test of residency rights. Are clown shoes measured in UK or EU sizes?
How about that "currently living in the UK"? That could mean anything but it definitely doesn't mean what the EU will want it to mean. The EU will push for all EU citizens resident any time before the UK finally leaves the EU to be given perpetual rights. That might include the almost certain transition period that will take us up to 2022 or it might be curtailed earlier on March 31, 2019. Either way, Keir Starmer's pledge doesn't go far enough. His wording suggests anyone taking up residency after June 9, 2017 will not get the rights of someone already resident in the UK. He is nowhere near getting this right. I'm sure he thinks he is doing the right thing but he's an idiot who should never be allowed to represent the UK in any capacity except for clowning.
"..will see no change in their legal status as a result of Brexit". Hmm, what to say about that? Well, of course they're going to see change in their legal status. Will they still be able to vote in local elections? Will they still be able to take cases to the European Court of Justice? Will their working lives continue to be governed by the Working Time Directive? Will they be able to apply for unemployment benefits indefinitely or will a time limit be applied? Will they automatically be the recipients of changes to rights in the EU? I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the picture. If Keir Starmer launches his campaign in a multi-coloured wig and a giant red nose I wouldn't bad an eyelid.
Does any UK politician understand that the UK doesn't get to unilaterally decide the solution to any of these issues? Answers on a postcard to the World Clown Association, Michigan, USA.
Over and out,
PS That blog post about Scotland's choices in the EU is still brewing. I managed to write about half of it before tech demo madness disrupted my normally cushy life. There'll be a few more short posts before the next big one. Maybe you even prefer the short posts? Right, that's enough, I'm off to bed to prepare for another day of emergency coding.