EU nationals want a guarantee they can stay in the UK. A rather angry man was allowed to make this case at the Supreme Court last week, although it had absolutely nothing to do with the issue at stake – Parliament’s right to vote on triggering Article 50 or not.
I guess he was a member of The Three Million group which is demanding assurances that they are not to be used as “bargaining chips”.
Which is, of course, exactly what the Government in its limited wisdom is doing – they will let the 2.8 million EU nationals stay in the UK if, but only if other member states reciprocate.
What they are assuming (which should have occurred to the Supreme Court to question) is that there is such a thing as EU nationality in the first place. Post-Brexit, in Britain it won’t exist, but the truth is it was always a chimera.
David Davis could make some feathers fly if he told his negotiating counterparts that Europeans do not have true citizenship to start with; that, in fact, all they have is a second class status dating back to Ancient Rome, so what is there to discuss?
This is not my observation but of one Kabir Chibber, the author of a very insightful article published in Quartz last September.
The first lines caught my attention: ‘How does a tribe live with the foreigner? Treat them too badly, and they won’t come. Treat them too well and what is the privilege of being a citizen?’ Touché! The truth is we cannot live with foreigners in the long run who stay being foreigners – not at least in significant numbers.
But Europe thinks we can. As Chibber observes it has been running the world’s biggest open-air social science experiment over the last two decades, since 1993 when it quietly created the entirely new concept of European citizenship to exist ‘over and above national citizenship’.
The result is that we here (as in any country in Europe) now live with two categories of foreigners – European and non-European, ironically it being the Europeans who have little incentive to integrate.
Hence we have the troubling phenomenon (to the liberal Left) of British citizens of, say, Pakistani origin in Sheffield objecting to the way newly arrived Romanian ‘Europeans’ are changing the face of their community; of second or third generation immigrants who are fed up with migration’.
Up until the referendum, Europeans (certainly of the liberal Left variety in London) assumed they were living in a country in which everyone else thought of themselves as Europeans too. Then a veritable Pandora’s box of “what citizenship means in a world full of tribes living among each other” burst open.
Historically, permission was always needed to live in somebody else’s country. The EU changed all that when it came into being in 1993 from when, Chibber also tells us, net migration tripled in 10 years (EU and non-EU). With the 2004 Constitutional Treaty, the UK then became one of only three EU member states not to restrict migration from the eight new Eastern EU member states. What followed he says was the ‘biggest influx of immigration in English history, causing the fastest increase in population ever recorded’.
It also created an immigration ‘inequity’ in the UK. While non-EU migrants were still normally required to get a work permit to stay, bestowing on them a right to live here while they had a job, this has not applied to EU migrants. To acquire further ‘rights’ such as to welfare, the non-EU migrant then has to undertake a process of naturalisation, which in turn requires him to have worked here for a number of years then to pass a citizenship test and an English language test.
Not so for ‘European citizen’ migrants who, by contrast, can stay as long as they want without a job; work without having to learn English; bring their families too; and seek jobless benefits after three months. The 3 million club suggests there must be 3 million of them.
It is no wonder that unlike migrants from India and Pakistan (Poles now outnumber Indians as the biggest immigrant group) ‘Europeans’ do not bother to apply for citizenship. Less than 20,000 of them did in the decade to 2010. Why should they?
They have all the rights of citizenship without the obligations; though many do not perceive themselves to be British at all.
That is what the great technocratic European Project fails to understand. It “has spent all its energy focusing on the economic benefits of internal migration without trying to cultivate a feeling of belonging”.
Belonging means an identity. It has taken us centuries to achieve ours – for us to become British and it is an ongoing process. It has depended on successful assimilation and integration – which ultimately has rested on migrants committing to and wanting to be absorbed into British life.
That’s why there should be no issue here. Quite simply, EU ‘citizens’ currently living or working in Blighty should be invited to make up their minds. If they want to stay then they must make a commitment to the country – that means applying for a work permit and then they can begin the process of naturalisation if they wish. So, no to Mr injured Three Million group. You can’t have your cake and eat it any longer. You have a choice and are free to exercise it.
(Image: Tom Page)