Over Christmas, when very few people were paying attention, the Home Office put out a video and further information on its EU Settlement Scheme. Full of stock photos of smiling people, apparently having a whale of a time, the video provided a chilling and provocative reminder of the precarious situation EU nationals living within our community endure as we approach Brexit.
In a rare moment of clarity the Home Office confirmed that EU nationals would have to ‘apply’ to remain in the UK under the Settlement Scheme and a new menacing tone was introduced. The video detailed that criminal checks would be required and that specific data would be accumulated on EU nationals who have lived in the UK for decades. This time there was no dubiety about the cost. Every EU national without citizenship or leave to remain would have to pay the £65. Children would secure the ‘cut price’ cost of £32.50. The most invidious feature was the underlying threat that failure to comply or failing the ‘application’ could result in, well, who knows what…… It was as unsettling as it was sickening and sent alarm bells throughout the UK’s 3.6 million strong EU national community.
I suppose we all knew that this day would come. Immigration and ending freedom of movement is the cold beating heart of their Brexit. Keeping people out and othering those from beyond our shores is the de facto case for leaving the European Union. The day of reckoning was never going to be pretty. Leave groups have to be pandered to and the new dawn of Brexitised UK has to be clearly understood. We are creating a new drawbridge society and those who have already made the journey here will have to know their place and fully understand why this Brexit has to be done. Ending freedom of movement is paraded as the main ‘prize’ of their Brexit. For these Brexit Tories, those that made the journey under FoM are an unfortunate consequence of something that pre Brexit Britain got so badly wrong. EU nationals are, I suppose, for the Brexit Tories, Britain’s big mistake.
So far the Tories have been very careful to promote a culture of reassurance and comfort. A sort of ‘don’t worry your pretty little European head’ has been the tone and message. It was unsustainable. Promises of ‘no change’ to status and ‘everything will be the same’ can’t work when everything is to be completely different. Registration would always require applications and checks or there would be no point in any sort of registration at all. This is a Tory Home Office that created the ‘hostile environment’ its instincts are to start with suspicion and then work backwards from there.
At least they are starting to be honest. Their draft immigration bill sets out clearly the type of nasty, intolerant Brexit UK they want to create. Everybody knows that EU nationals greatly contribute to our economy but that doesn’t matter a fig when there are Faragists to pander to. Scotland’s population growth is almost entirely predicated on immigration. We have a dependency ratio that is about the most acute in Western Europe. Ending freedom of movement will be disastrous for our economy and for the service sectors that soak up the majority of inward migration. We didn’t vote for this Tory Brexit but yet we will be the nation that will be most impacted from this, the main plank of their case for leaving.
I loathe their Brexit. Everything about it simply diminishes us. It is impossible to identify any redeeming feature of what the Tories are doing to us in this chaotic and clueless mission. But it is what they are doing to our friends and colleagues from Europe that makes me loathe their Brexit even more.
As we shape up the sort of new country we want to be in Scotland we will assess everything that the Tories have done on immigration and vow to never, ever follow them down that souless, barren, self-defeating cul-de-sac. Scotland is better than this and soon we will show that to the world.