Thursday, 27 November 2014
To put this in context, hundreds of millions of people currently have the right to work in the UK through the EU freedom of movement regime, and many are currently in the UK. If we withdraw from the EU and opt to control immigration from the remaining EU countries this will beg the question of what we do about EU nationals already living and working here, some for many years. They range from my friend's French-Algerian grandmother who married an English soldier in 1946 and has lived in the UK ever since with French nationality, to the Romanian pimp serving time for armed robbery. There isn't any catch all answer. There is no obvious and clear point between those two extremes where one will be granted permission to stay and another will be refused.
The only sensible answer that can possibly be given is that the situation will be reviewed in more depth, a policy will be set and a legal framework will be designed to examine each of these complex cases on it's own merits.
Of course this would be a lousy quote for a headline hungry editor so you have to make the news, so it needs a bit of spin, and spun it was. Let's have a look at the actual exchange:
Q: ‘What would happen Mark Reckless if we left the European Union. What would happen for instance to the Polish plumber who lives in Rochester. Would he be able to stay, would he have to go back?’
Reckless: ‘Well, I think in the near term we’d have to have a transitional period, and I think we should probably allow people who are currently here to have a work permit at least for a fixed period.’
Q: ‘Forgive me, if there’s a Polish plumber who for instance has got a house, got a family, got kids at a local school, are you going to deport him and his family?’
Reckless: ‘I think people who have been here a long time and integrated in that way I think we’d want to look sympathetically at. But what we’d want to do is new people coming in [interrupted by laughs from the crowd]…what we’d want to do is to look at new people coming in and apply a consistent, Australian-style point system and the same to people coming from Europe as we do to those coming from say the Commonwealth, from Australia, Africa, India, the Caribbean. We shouldn’t have a discriminatory system which favours Europeans against people from the outside.’
Is that really the shocking quote a frothing at the mouth racist ready to tear families and communities apart out of pure prejudice?
To my mind it's an honest if ill defined answer to a very complex question which doesn't have a 10 second soundbite answer.
The only rational answer is that we will set a policy and assess each case against it, with citizenship, indefinite leave to remain or work or residence visas granted as appropriate, and denied where not appropriate. Can he explain every nuance of that policy at the hustings? No. Can he decide the outcome of this hypothetical future visa application with no more information than some hypothetical Polish plumber with kids at a local school? Of course he can't.
Mark Reckless gave an honest, rational and necessarily incomplete answer to a ludicrously vague question and a certain section of the media tried to make a story out of it by presenting certain facts in a certain way, the day before a by election. Fortunately in this instance they were unable to do so, but the crude simplicity of the attempt makes it a good case study of how the media do this. Often they are more successful.
Friday, 21 November 2014
'If you believe that the world is bigger than Europe, if you believe in an independent Britain, then come with us and we will give you back your country.'
The words of Mark Reckless in his acceptance speech after his decisive victory in the Rochester & Strood by election.
Can't argue with the first part, but the last sentence sort of made me want to put my head in my hands.
No Mark, our country is not something you will gift us because it is not yours to give. It is, as you say, our country and we are taking it back.
It isn't just semantics. It's really quite a fundamental point. If UKIP stands for anything it is surely a more humble form of politics, where politicians are truly our representatives, and the authority they have is drawn from a true popular mandate. It's this, as opposed to the decades of back and forth between the two main parties that is attractive about UKIP and they forget it at their peril.
It was gone 4am when Reckless uttered these words and it was the end of a long and sometimes unpleasant election campaign so they can be forgiven. Forgiven, but not forgotten. UKIP are now in the spot light like never before and now it won't be just snide mentions in the mainstream media. Now their actions and words will be scrutinised and judged on their own merits, and if they end up following the other parties into the wilful obscurity of a political bubble who see the country as some sort of bargaining chip then they will be equally deaerving of our contempt.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
The idea has always been stupid, and is nearly dead anyway but that's no reason not to give it another kick.
The cry is that if we vote UKIP we will get a Labour government which is more pro EU and thus somehow worse than the Tories.
It's quite possibly true in certain seats that UKIP will split "the right" and allow in a Labour or Lib Dem candidate who is wrong about even more things than the Tory candidate who might have otherwise got in, but it's hardly the point.
There isn't some spectrum of Europhilia with UKIP at one end and the Liberal Democrats at the other. It's a simple binary choice whether we are in or out of the European Union.
You see the Tories, perhaps more than any other party have misrepresented the EU from the very beginning. This is a 6 decade old project to create a country called Europe through political and economic union. This isn't really a secret as such. It's set out in the 1957 Treaty of Rome which Edward Heath signed in the early 1970s. But to hear the howls from Tory "sceptics" you would think it had never been mentioned before.
Their position is more like Republicans in the US opposing federal government programmes. Well they might, but that doesn't make them anti United States. Only actually being espousing secession would make that so.
The idea that the Tories are "more Eurosceptic" than Labour is nonsense. They may be less in favour of centralised European government (although they may not be too when it suits them) but that doesn't make them opposed to the UK being a member any more than the South Carolina legislature opposing Obamacare amounts to that state seceding from the USA.
For those of us who think the UK should not be part of the European project at all the exact break down of powers beneath the European government (which is exactly what it is, by any measure) is immaterial, making the choice between pro EU parties irrelevant, and the "vote UKIP get Labour" cry with it.
The simple choice for secessionists is vote UKIP and either get UKIP or not. If not, then through ignorance or will the public have chosen to be part of this project.