The House of Lords, by a majority of 102, voted to amend the Article 50 bill, attempting to ensure that EU Citizens living in the UK will have a guaranteed right to stay, before we begin our negotiations with the EU. As I sit here grimacing at a sub par Question Time, I feel like I have to weigh in on this nonsensical issue, in as few words as possible so that I can return to my ever growing pile of IB work.
Brexiteers have often been seen as out of touch, racist, xenophobic little Englanders, but one thing that was never questioned was the right of EU citizens to remain here after the referendum. Was immigration an issue? Yes. Did Brexiteers want the countries immigration policy to the UK be decided by the UK government? Yes. Did the result signal a vote against the open door policy that we have adopted since 2004? Yes. But were deportations ever mentioned? Of course not. I do not think for one second that the UK will deport EU nationals after the negotiations are finished. However, do I agree with the Lords decision to amend the Article 50 bill. The answer to this is a resounding no, for two key reasons.
The bill in question is simply deciding as to whether the government should begin negotiations with the EU on the 1st of April this year. The idea that the act has anything to do with the terms of the negotiation is ludicrous. Negotiations, by their nature, are between 2 or more parties. In the case of the ever more divided European Union, we are effectively entering talks with 27 individual countries in a collective manner. The idea that we should begin strong-arming the government into a particular direction before the talks begin is ludicrous at best, and at worst will potentially harm our eventual negotiating strategy.
But secondly, and most importantly to me, simply because of how it is overlooked by so many on the other side of the debate, is the status of the 1.2 million UK nationals living in the EU. It was well publicised that in talks with Angela Merkel, Theresa May attempted to remove the status of EU and UK citizens from the negotiations. However, Mrs Merkel refused. The sheer hypocrisy of the Lords, and those backing their decision astounds me. Why on earth should we ‘guarantee’ the rights of EU citizens in the UK, when the EU has stated that it will make no reciprocal deal before the negotiations begin?
The UK government has a duty to protect the people of the UK. To me, that includes both UK citizens abroad, and people living in the country, contributing to the economy and adding to the culture of the country. But the idea that we should blindly guarantee the rights of EU citizens living here with no such deal in place for UK citizens abroad is simply illogical. If this idealistic ‘act of good will’ approach may work in the minds of the liberal left, but in the cold, harsh world of reality, one must take nothing for granted. The next two years are going to be bruising for the UK, and I genuinely believe that we will be better off for it outside of the EU, but this approach by the House of Lords simply does not make sense to me.