Without having recourse to tarot cards, reading tea leaves or analysing chicken entrails, a few things are coming together that make Brexit look like a better bet now than a month ago.
First of all a new ICM Poll indicates that the two camps are now running neck and neck which is a decent improvement for supporters of Brexit. Secondly, there is no disguising the fact that the EU is in complete disarray over migrants and while the bulk of the voting public may not be up to speed or indeed remotely interested in the technical issues surrounding EU membership, it doesn’t require any special insights to spot an orchestrated cock-up.
The migrant crisis also coincides with a spate of stories in the news to make all but the most stubborn question multiculturalism. For instance there’s the radical student teacher who induced her after-school class of tots to write letters to jihadi ‘heroes’ in Syria or the ex-con (paywall), currently out on bail, who has been organising children to write to Muslim prisoners and whose group supported Lee Rigby’s killer. These kinds of stories do little to make people feel welcoming towards yet more Muslim migrants.
The Government has just released a swarm of statistics – of which more in my blog tomorrow – on terror crime which have been reported to a certain degree in the media, and as long as terrorism is seen as an external threat – that is one that comes from alien lands or cultures – any EU moves to heighten the security risk for the majority in the UK can only boost the numbers who want out of the Union.
And then, for those who noticed, there was David Miliband, the elder statesman and sage over the water who as a younger statesman manqué is remembered more for his posing with a banana than for his wisdom and courage.
Miliband major has popped up on the airwaves to pronounce that the UK should take even more Syrians than David Cameron has promised while choosing to overlook the fact that if Britain takes only 20,000 Syrians, it is nonetheless taking 20,000 more than a combination of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and indeed any other country in the region who might be better placed to offer a permanent home to people with whom they share a language, religion and culture.
Ex cathedra pronouncements from political failures in exile are threadbare gestures that might just stick in the craw of a citizenry that thinks its hospitality is being abused and its interests ignored in the name of gesture politics and tokenism.
For those with more of an interest in the nuts and bolts of the relationship with Brussels there’s the extra UK contribution of £1.7 Billion which David Cameron has now discreetly paid over after loudly protesting before last May’s election. George Osborne had added his touch of misinformation by claiming that he had reduced the amount by 50 per cent when he had only deferred the second instalment to September. All hail our brave negotiators!
In case you’ve forgotten, this amount was calculated in part on the basis that Britain’s economy is not as squarely on skid row as others in Europe and in part because of the hidden cash economy of prostitutes that some EU genius has been able to compute out of thin air. Or, goodness knows, on the back of his or her expenses.
The ungainly scramble within the Schengen area to re-establish border controls to staunch the free flow of migrants between countries when only weeks earlier Germany was unilaterally tearing up the Dublin Agreement makes a farce of the treaties and protocols which underpin the Union. The legitimate question for UK voters is why pay massive subscriptions to a capricious body as apparently lawless as the Wild West?
And the countries of the east, the former Warsaw Pact members, aren’t wearing it. These countries never experienced the influx of foreigners that the post-colonial period brought to Britain and France and they never imported guest workers as the former West Germany did. The only demographic change they experienced was the departure of the fraternal Soviets in the early 1990s and they are point blank neither willing to accept an EU-imposed quota of foreigners on Germany’s say-so nor prepared to accept a tearing up of the rules on the same basis.
Mrs Merkel’s Vice Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, stated last week that Germany could cope with 500,000 new arrivals per year for several years. Let Germans decide what they do in their own country: if their birth rate is declining, let them import replacements if they wish.
Germany suffered dramatic losses of population during the Black Death and later through the Thirty Years War and always managed to recover pretty nicely. But note in a spirit of European solidarity the obvious truth that if you keep topping up the population with non-Germans you will end up with something that isn’t much like Germany anymore and Germans may increasingly come to resent that.
The Gabriel proposal impacts on the UK directly because Mrs Merkel and the EU have told Mr Cameron that freedom of movement for EU citizens is a ‘red line’ and not up for negotiation. Germany’s 500,000 new citizens per year will be perfectly entitled to take up residence in the UK if they wish and the Brexit camp need to make a noise about this.
Of course, the rule governing freedom of movement ought to be amended to reflect the preparedness or otherwise of EU countries to accept migrants. At the very least, freedom of movement should be restricted to those EU nationals born in the countries whose passports they hold so that Germany’s new immigrants can stay in Germany since Germany wants them there but they can’t come to Britain or anywhere else where they are not welcome.
This is fair and sensible but wholly unacceptable to Mrs Merkel who is beginning to sound like an angry bag-lady, by turns abusing and cajoling passers-by and the more she shouts, the less the UK electorate will want to join her and her mangy dog-on-a-string, Junker, under the bridges of Berlin and Brussels.