A letter to Ian from Marc

Dear Ian

Clare has asked me to write to you. I understand that over lunch you were discussing Brexit . I hate to use that word. I feel it diminishes the significance of a 44 year old relationship breakdown as much as “Brexiteer” gives its proponents an inappropriately gallant and brave aura. There is no d’Artagnan to be found here. She said that we took a similar view of the referendum result but that you were resigned to acceptance of “it” because you viewed yourself as a democrat.

Your view is one I respect; however, it seems that we presently have differing opinions as to our respective best responses to the “result”. She invited me to write to you and I thank you for affording me an opportunity to do so. Your opinions are well-respected by her and she is a good judge. I hope that you do not mind me responding in this forum because the response might have a wider application. I, too, believe that I am a respecter of democracy, as much as we can know it, and in so far as we can define it.

A survey carried out by Ipsos Public Affairs in October 2016 asked voters which issues they attached most importance to when voting in June 2016. Some 74% of those who voted to leave the EU attached “very important weight” to the ability of the UK to “make its own laws”.¹·¹ So, it is reasonable to suggest that 3 out of 4 of the 17.41 million who voted to leave did so believing that the issue of “sovereignty” was of the most fundamental importance. The total electorate was 46.5 million. I postulate that 13 million people evidently believed that the nation had lost parliamentary sovereignty, those very voters attaching the greatest significance to that issue when determining the recipient of their votes. More so even than immigration and the effect of the same on the UK economy, the second and third issues by the same weighting.

But I shall return to them.

On 2nd February 2017 the Government published a White policy Paper entitled “The United Kingdom’s exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union”. Section 2 deals with the overwhelmingly important issue of sovereignty (for those who considered that they may have wanted to leave the European Union). The admission is unequivocal:-

“The sovereignty of Parliament is a fundamental principle of the UK constitution. Whilst Parliament has remained sovereign throughout our membership of the EU, it has not always felt like that.”

I think that the appropriate response to this admission is to look then at why it has not always felt that Parliament had, after all, retained its sovereignty.

For decades I have protested about the misinformation generated by significant sections of the UK media. Indeed the European Commission in the 1990’s set up a special “myth-debunking” unit to deal with the emerging nonsense¹·². You will find an Economist link below to bendy bananas and the other mischief that has occupied the media’s irresponsible attentions.

I recently spoke with a retired lady and mentioned that I had bought some bleach at a hardware shop. Her husband suggested that shortly I would no longer be able to walk around a shopping centre with a bottle of bleach.

“Because of more EU Regulations…” she guessed.

Of course, as her husband pointed out, the reason is that anti-chemical attack legislation is being planned; domestically, I should add.

Supposedly thoughtful and experienced “leaver” views have focused upon the “Common Market” that Britain joined in 1973 and ratified by way of a first EU referendum in 1975. Indeed, rather more convincingly than the second one in 2016. This is the idea which some people advance (with subtle media encouragement) that we were joining a free market and nothing more. In December 1972 the then Prime Minister Edward Heath published in The Illustrated London News in the following terms:-

“The Community which we are joining is far more than a common market. It is a community in the true sense of that term.”

Heath then went further in his understanding.

“It (the European Community) is far more than a common market…

…it is concerned not only with the establishment of free trade, economic and monetary union

…but…with social issues which affect us all – environmental questions

…working conditions in industry

…consumer protection

…aid to development areas

…maintaining good relations between the industrialized countries which is vital for the prosperity of the whole world.”

My decades of protest at this gross manipulative bias have met a brick-wall of general casual acceptance. Even worse, a casual acceptance actively preyed upon by some of the very representatives who were meant to epitomise the parliamentary sovereignty so revered by those who voted to leave the European Union.

“Dear Marc” wrote my MP on 18th February 2016, “…outside of the EU, we would be able to make the laws in the UK Parliament that work in our national interest, and stop sending £350 million a week to Brussels…”.

That sounds like restoration of “never-lost” sovereignty and how much do we send again?

I once read a play by the Swiss playwright, Max Frisch, named Biedermann und die Brandstifter. The play premiered in 1958 and its English title was The Fire Raisers. In essence, the character Biedermann is conned by an affable stranger and allows the stranger into his attic at a time when reports of arson are rife. He is then further duped and lets another stranger in. The warning signs are obvious to all apart from Biedermann and his wife. The attic becomes a stockpile of inflammable material and Biedermann then watches as his house is burned down by virtue of his unwillingness to deal with the lodgers and resignation that he had to share the house with them.

In our present predicament the house is not just existing bricks and mortar. There are children in it. 39.9% of those who voted aged 55 or over voted to remain in the European Union. 68.5% of those aged 18-34 are believed to have done so.¹·³

The wilful peddling and casual acceptance of lies is also undergoing something of a metamorphosis. The fodder for the naïve is being replaced by something rather more sinister.

“Remainer Universities” staffed by academics subjected to scrutiny by a Member of Parliament as to their political views, with impunity; High Court judges publicly vilified and called “Enemies of the People”.

I return to immigration, the stuff of Daily Mail and Express hyperbole for decades. “Waves of migrants” stealing jobs so gleefully exploited by UKIP in their distasteful poster campaign showing migrants fleeing conflict. If the National Socialists were still with us they may have had a breach of copyright claim.

The deliberate attempts to merge the concepts of refugee status with economic migration. The blatant falsehood surrounding Turkey’s accession to the European Union. The roadside billboards:-

Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU. Vote Leave.

The reality, of course, failed to interest the rabid media. Migrant workers were draining the country of resources, claiming benefits and hospital beds while editors foaming at the mouth with mock-indignation were content to allow the lies to become more virulent.

As long ago as 5th November 2013 the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London had reported that “UK immigrants who arrived since 2000 are less likely to receive benefits and less likely to live in social housing than UK natives. What’s more, over the decade from 2001 to 2011, they made a considerable positive net contribution to the UK’s fiscal system, and thus helped to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers”.²·¹

The Prime Minister was also complicit to an extent because as Home Secretary she clearly had possessed the powers conferred on her by the European Union²·² to control levels of intra-EU migration so as to restrict the right to remain of those who did not have work after 3 months. The reality, of course, was that:-

i) most intra-EU migrants were working (hard) and contributing taxes, as above; and

ii) there was no inclination whatsoever to implement restrictions at a time of austerity and public spending reduction.

However, she failed to advise and properly inform the populace of the fact that unfettered immigration into the UK simply did not exist.

Potential referendum voters were subjected to demonstrable and fundamental dishonesty at almost every conceivable level on issues which they were likely to have viewed as the most important when considering how to vote.

But what of the referendum itself?

Constitutionally this was an advisory referendum. It is just that nobody wanted to tell the population that is was not binding. Ultimately Parliament is sovereign. The United Kingdom has a parliamentary democracy, ironically so revered by those wanting to leave. But binding the (second) June 2016 referendum was not. Explicitly so.

Actually, a consultation paper; nothing more and nothing less. David Cameron did not want to be seen to have been offering something which diminished his “come on then, bring it on” credentials and UKIP kept quiet too because it served their interests to have their supporters believe that it was binding in terms of encouraging voter turn-out.

Being non-binding may also explain why it was so poorly constituted from a democratic perspective because:-

a) those likely to be most directly affected were disenfranchised, namely:-
i) 16 and 17 year olds who had previously been afforded a vote in the Scottish independence referendum;
ii) those who were now living abroad and had done so for more than 15 years but retained British citizenship; and
iii) EU citizens living here and paying taxes, some for decades but who had not applied for UK citizenship before the referendum; and

b) there was no “supermajority” requirement as is required under most constitutions in situations of major constitutional review (generally a 60/40 or 66/33 requirement to effect change being required). Therefore those wanting to remain were always at a fundamental disadvantage because the status quo is more difficult to promote, such is human nature; and

c) statistically older voters are more likely to vote. Again, that is life but it slews a supposedly democratic process.

In 2016 the population of the UK was 65.6 million, its largest ever, according to the Office for National Statistics. Consequently under 27% of the population voted to leave but this is said to constitute the “Will of the People”.

Marnix Amand in Prospect magazine has considered specifically the Swiss referendum experience (and experienced in such matters they certainly are). This was his verdict²·³:-

“David Cameron drew up a textbook example of a referendum done wrong: asking an ill-informed electorate to choose between a costly and constraining EU marriage full of unsavory compromises and a fantasized Brexit-with-benefits. The utter vagueness of the Leave option allowed their campaign to cast the widest net of all, encouraging each voter to keep their most favorable version of Brexit in mind, however far that may be from the Leave politicians’ intentions.

This was an act of political genius. It allowed hard and soft Brexiteers, free-market fundamentalists and protectionists, open-door internationalist and xenophobes to all joyously add their votes together and stick it to the EU.”

However, the lesson to be learned from Switzerland is clear. On an ill-conceived immigration referendum there in 2014 a subsequent election then gave the government sufficient legitimacy to effectively ignore the result.

Jeremy Paxman said of Cameron on Irish broadcaster RTE’s The Late, Late Show that what he had done was “nigh-on unforgiveable”.

We cannot and must not let our descendants suffer the poor democratic consequences of (as the marcher at a London protest pictured above in July 2016 put it):-

Lies, Deceit, Nurtured Ignorance

The house cannot be allowed to burn down due to the irresponsible actions and dishonesty of the lodgers in the attic. The house must be repossessed. If the fire has started already then it must be extinguished by education and allocation of resources made available to restore the damage. The house is the inheritance and if the price to pay is a somewhat deflating recognition of naïvety and a propensity to fantasise then it must surely be paid. As David Davis himself has said “if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy”.

There I shall conclude without even anything other than a passing mention of electoral interference, computer “bots” programmed to target voters by artificial intelligence controlled abroad and the looming EU Tax Avoidance Directive 2019.

I hope that you can think of yourself as being democratic whilst helping to preserve the house. We need good people to do so and we need them quickly. Thank you for your time and attention Ian.

Kind regards




¹·² https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/06/daily-chart-15

¹·³ Source: Survation http://survation.com/

²·¹ University College London CReAM paper http://www.cream-migration.org/

²·² Article 7 of Directive 2004/38/EC

²·³ “Take it from the Swiss: the Brexit referendum wasn’t legitimate” by Marnix Amand / November 9, 2017 https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/take-it-from-the-swiss-the-brexit-referendum-wasnt-legitimate

Copyright statement: “fair use” claimed for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

Proper preparation prevents…

Taking a reflection at the Brexit White Paper produced by the Government after the referendum it would appear that some writing may have been on the wall.

Recently two members of Team Brexit appearing before the Select Committee seemed to suggest that the impact papers had not actually been comprehensively considered by DExEU. Redacted copies are now to be made available, it seems.

In the light of allegations that the British delegates to the “negotiations” have been ill-prepared (remember the picture of them sitting on one side of the table with no papers?) a look back at the great White Paper seemed timely; only 47 words in to the substantive script there appears a little clue.

Prime Minister Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Lancaster House, 17 January 2017

Foreword by the Prime Minister
“We do not approach these negotiations expecting failure, but anticipating success.
Because we are a great, global nation with so much to offer Europe and so much to offer the world.
One of the world’s largest and strongest economies. With the nest (sic.) intelligence services…”

Evidently not the best proof-readers though, eh?

Either that, or the document was so “hot-off-the-press” it wasn’t proof-read at all.

The task of redacting the impact studies now falls on the same shoulders…



A matzoh ball of a situation

A matzah ball, or a matso ball? Even a matzoh ball. It seems that many Jewish culinary enthusiasts cannot agree.

Unlike Brexit of course, the spelling of which is possibly the only issue surrounding “it” upon which a general consensus lies.

What is a matzoh ball?

Hard Brexit, soft Brexit; red, white and blue Brexit?

A matzoh ball is a dumpling typically seen in Jewish Eastern European chicken soups. It is typically made from a mixture of ingredients squashed together; a bread element, some chicken or other fat, water and seasoning.

Loss of sovereignty, immigration, laws, bureaucrats, taking back control.

When formed and splashed in the simmering-temperature clear chicken soup the Matzoh ball cannot be rectified. The die is cast. A bit like a soufflé.

“The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification…(under Article 50, Treaty of Lisbon)”

As witches being drowned (or occasionally spared) at the behest of the Witchfinder General the matzoh balls are either “floaters” or “sinkers” after a certain time in the boiling broth. Success or failure is judged thus.

Jerry Seinfeld is no stranger to the matzoh ball, and French linguist Sylvia Rochonnat sought advice as to the meaning of a Seinfeld-delivered “matzoh” gag from a script:-

George: Anyway, I’m thinking of making a big move.
Jerry: What?
George: I might tell her that I love her.
Jerry: Oh, my!
George: I came this close last night, and then I just sort of chickened out.
Jerry: Well, that’s a big move, Georgie boy. Are you confident in the “I love you” return?
George: Fifty-fifty.
Jerry: Because if you don’t get that return, that’s a pretty big matzoh ball hanging out there

Seinfeld aficionados may recall this scene and attempts by online linguists were been made to assist Sylvia to define and explain Jerry’s reference to a matzoh ball.

“…if she doesn’t say “I love you” in return there would be significant, awkward complications for future communication between them”¹·¹

…the UK seeks a “deep and special partnership”

“…this is a pun on ‘balls’, i.e. if George has misread his friend’s feelings towards him, it will be a great source of embarrassment to bare his soul & declare his love to her”¹·²

only 18% of people in nine countries surveyed compared with 49% of people in Britain believed that the European Commission should aim to keep the UK as close as possible https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/future-europe-comparing-public-and-elite-attitudes

“…you’re at risk of getting seriously hurt emotionally”¹·³

Where are those impact studies?

“…it also plays on the image of a ball game (i.e. throwing a ball back and forth). So if you are throwing a ball, and it’s not thrown back to you, you feel pretty bad for having thrown it in the first place”²·¹

“The ball is in your court” May tells EU

The European Commission has said the Brexit “ball is entirely in the UK’s court” as the next round of formal negotiations kicks off in Brussels today∗¹

“…it’s a lot of dough (money) at risk/you could be left holding the bag”²·²

“I would say we are far from having reached the necessary financial commitments before we can open phase two, we are not halfway there.”∗²

With thanks to Jerry Seinfeld, it looks there’s a pretty big matzoh ball hanging out of somebody’s pants.


Sources and credits:-
¹·¹ Bruce Popp, USA 04/08/05, ProZ.com

¹·² Flo in London 04/08/05, ProZ.com

¹·³ Conor McAuley, France 04/08/05, ProZ.com

²·¹ Carolingua, USA 07/08/05, ProZ.com

²·² writeaway, USA 04/08/05, ProZ.com

∗¹Financial Times 09/10/17

∗²Emmanuel Macron 20/10/17


“We voted for the Common Market, not this.”

In December 1972 the then Prime Minister Edward Heath published in The Illustrated London News in the following terms:-

The Community which we are joining is far more than a common market. It is a community in the true sense of that term.

There appears therefore to have been some confusion as to precisely what “we” voted for and ratified in 1975.

The then Prime Minister seemed (with the presumed benefit of a contemporaneous understanding) to have felt differently to referendum voters in 2016, most of whom had never voted in 1975. You would now have to be aged 60 or over to have done so.

Heath then went further in his understanding.

It (the European Community) is far more than a common market…


…it is concerned not only with the establishment of free trade, economic and monetary union

“Monetary Union?”

…but…with social issues which affect us all – environmental questions

“Won’t affect me –  I’ll be long gone.”

…working conditions in industry

“Socialism through the back door, as Maggie said.”

…consumer protection

“Who needs cheap calls if you don’t go abroad?”

…aid to development areas

“Is that what the Welsh are bleating on about?”

…maintaining good relations between the industrialized countries which is vital for the prosperity of the whole world

“Why does anybody need trade agreements?”

…and with working for an improvement in relations between East and West

“It all changed when the wall came down.”

In the context of Heath’s message to the country something has gone seriously wrong in terms of the understanding of what people were voting for in 1975, evidently. All of Heath’s objectives in terms of the European Community are instantly recognisable to anybody in the run up to the 2016 referendum. If, therefore, voters wanted to take us back to what was voted for in 1975 how have they achieved their objectives?

They have not, of course.

The discernible change in circumstances upon consideration of Heath’s message in 2017 relates to events in 1990 onwards in the easterly “half” of our continent. The stated objective of the Community could not have been clearer in terms of inspiring an improvement in relations between east and west. Consequently when the wall came down the Community had partially achieved its objective. The rebuilding of a Europe split tragically by an iron curtain was the furtherance of the objective.

When a person aged 60 or over says

“I’ve got nothing against Eastern Europeans apart from them sending money back home, taking jobs, hospital beds, school places and claiming benefits. That’s not what I voted for. I voted for a Common Market only. I’ve no problem with that…”

he or she is clearly mistaken.

It’s funny how referendums cause such confusion. Not to mention how many people under 60 seem to think that they know what they cannot have voted for. Because “we” did vote in 1975 by a clear majority. A very clear majority if your only knowledge of a referendum is that, so-described, which took place in 2016.



Jingo Lingo

David Davis, the so-called Brexit Minister, was asked on television of Michel Barnier. He enlightened the audience by saying that he was “very French”.

A piece of masterful self-assertion in the process of the “negotiations”. Imagine the impeccably dressed Barnier, cool as a cucumber, being asked the same question of Davis.

“Il est vraiment…anglais”.

So what is there to learn of Davis’s response?

Davis is scared witless of Barnier, and rightly so. Barnier exudes the cool and understated confidence of a poker player holding a good hand but not afraid to lose one in the course of a long evening’s entertainment.

The banal uttering of Davis says more about its origin than its object. It is a real door opener into the mind and machinations of the Chef of the Department for Exiting the European Union.

A confident and sage Davis would have immediately lauded his opposite number, assured of his own standing in this meeting of minds.

But he let this slip. It was a good question. Simple but extracting. Rather like asking a Prime Minister whether he has shared prayer with a President.

The answer is tainted by stereotypical illusions of Johnny Foreigner. Did Barnier smell of aïl?

Did Davis spot a necklace of onion bulbs that everybody else missed when Barnier strode confidently to his lectern? Had Barnier enjoyed a long lunch? Did he order escargots or cuisses de grenouille?

Imagine the vice versa. Did Davis have baked bean residue on the bottom of his tie? Did he ask for Heinz Salad Cream, or insist on Heinz Tomato Ketchup? Did he order rosbif, bien cuit?

In consideration of the strengths of each “side” entering the illusory negotiation phase Davis’s comment shows the weighing scale in true perspective. Seriously unbalanced.

Appearance is not everything, of course. A Cheshire-cat grin from ear-to-ear does not necessarily reveal a chancer with no hand. The grin has to be placed in context.

This is one of the most critical few months that the United Kingdom has faced since World War II.

Continue reading “Jingo Lingo”

The philosophy of impotence – the demise of the state

On a practical level it appears that the apparatus of state has crumbled. It has been allowed to wither under various guises. Perceived lack of efficiency, a need to privatise for dogmatic principles of a post-Thatcherite era, a sale of assets to prop up an ailing economy during the financial crisis of the late noughties and latterly “austerity”.

For those who have reason to interact with the vehicles of state the demise is clear to see.

Privatised prisons propped up by emergency state intervention when order breaks down, as it frequently seems to. Prisoners filming ritual beatings for drugs.

Benefits’ services run by private companies; similarly almost all utilities provision. The NHS on its way. Schools run by academy trusts.

Post Offices all but vanished from high streets, tucked away in a branch of Martin’s or W H Smith.

Courts closed down, Police stations closed down, ambulance stations and fire stations closed down. Central administration helplines with never-ending menus to navigate.

In my interaction with HM Court Service I used to go 10 miles to my local County Court but then my local Court office closed, as did the one 25 miles away, leaving another 20 miles away open by appointment only.

There is a strange feeling in local Courts now. Many of them are either closed or resemble the Marie Celeste.

Clerkenwell County Court

A Court used to be a place in which people who worked there had names. They were real people. You could ask for “Mr X” or “Mrs Y” to help and they would willingly oblige. A working world of building relationships and human interaction. Now, the national issuing office is nearer to 200 miles away, served by a telephone administration service. I am not critical of those who work there or answer the telephone advice line. Quite the reverse.

The state has virtually no visible role. Group 4 Security is more logo-recognisable than the machinery of state. Councils are selling off and converting buildings of significance to meet their budgets and keep Council Tax bills down.

A visit to the Continent places the British position in perspective. The state becomes visible again. Town halls, Courts, flags, railway workers with whistles and uniforms, the state logo on hats of smart uniforms.

Signs announcing European Union and state funding arrangements for roads, bridges and projects, shown to the precise Euro in investment value.

The result of the referendum has many causes, too complicated to apportion between the factors. The easy targets for the politically outraged are the right-wing and highly xenophobic press, or the self-serving ambitions of disingenuous politicians.

There is, however, an even more fundamental reason why the slim majority of those who participated on 23rd June 2016 voted to do something that no European politician, save for the likes of Farage, countenanced or thought possible. After all, the club of 28 is the richest economic members’ club on the planet to which excluded nations aspire only to belong.

The state at state-level has almost ceased to function. At supra-national level the non-existence of the nation state in the United Kingdom has meant that the European Union has similarly been let down and neglected. No signposts showing investment (even in areas heavily reliant on it), no flags on town halls, perhaps no town hall at all.

It is ironic that those who wanted to leave the European Union turned their attentions to a time when Britain was perceived by them to be Great.

The time that they yearn for is an era when the state assumed a greater proportion of GDP. A time when it was readily visible in terms of nationalised industries, utilities, educational provision and infrastructure of government. The Conservative Party makes no secret of its desire to reduce the role of the state and the proportion of expenditure it controls, to levels progressively lower. Whether this is a bona fide attempt to balance public finances or a politically dogmatic deep policy agenda masquerading as financial prudence can be left to speculation.

A change in the visibility of the state seems long overdue. If and to the extent, however, that this means contemplating withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights (which is something more significant than EU legislation but deliberately confused with it mendaciously by Eurosceptics) and replacing it with a national Bill of Rights then the resurrection of the symbols of state might be something we should fear and not welcome.

Soldiers on our streets provide a measure of increased visibility of state. Coming on the back of the paring of the state to its bare bones it should be an uncomfortable place for the government to be.

Aristotle said of the state that it was “not a mere society, having a common place, established for the prevention of mutual crime and for the sake of exchange…

But our civilian state has been left impotent. The referendum vote has delivered a message that the public actually want more and not less visibility of the state; to a government committed to do the opposite.

When Theresa May announced that she was intending to create a Britain which “worked for everybody” and her Chancellor rolled back austerity the pair of them may have had Aristotle in mind when he said that “if liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.

Her “working for everybody” mantra was a modern-day Marie Antoinette moment. The people of Boston, Lincolnshire, ravaged by underinvestment were being offered their cake. They must be wondering if and when it will ever be served up.

Migration and the philosophy of impotence

Impotence is defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as a “lack of power to change or improve a situation”.


The net migration figure last year was 273,000 of whom 164,000 people came from outside the EU. The 17th May 2017 London Evening Standard editorial was particularly savage about Theresa May’s pledge to reduce the figure down to the “tens of thousands”. Its editor served in the same government:-

“So you would assume that Mrs May would jump at the chance to bury the pledge. That’s what her Cabinet assumed; none of its senior members supports the pledge in private and all would be glad to see the back of something that has caused the Conservative Party such public grief. But no. Mrs May has kept digging.”

The impression given by the Evening Standard editorial is that migration figures had become an obsession for the Prime Minister, possibly going back to her time as Home Secretary when she patently failed to control immigration numbers.

However, she had at her disposal a means for controlling immigration numbers, notwithstanding freedom of movement which derived from the European Union itself, found in Article 7 of Directive 2004/38/EC which prescribes and defines rights of residence in other member states in a way which might be surprising to some who voted to leave the European Union upon the basis that uncontrolled immigration was their “burning issue”.

Article 7

Right of residence for more than three months

1.   All Union citizens shall have the right of residence on the territory of another Member State for a period of longer than three months if they:

(a) are workers or self-employed persons in the host Member State; or

(b) have sufficient resources for themselves and their family members not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State during their period of residence and have comprehensive sickness insurance cover in the host Member State; or

(c) are enrolled at a private or public establishment, accredited or financed by the host Member State on the basis of its legislation or administrative practice, for the principal purpose of following a course of study, including vocational training; and have comprehensive sickness insurance cover in the host Member State and assure the relevant national authority, by means of a declaration or by such equivalent means as they may choose, that they have sufficient resources for themselves and their family members not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State during their period of residence; or

(d) are family members accompanying or joining a Union citizen who satisfies the conditions referred to in points (a), (b) or (c).

Tabloid newspapers failed to refer to the limits of the right of residence in another state, dependent upon the exercise of the discretion of the national government of any member state. In short, if there had been a problem with excessive numbers of penniless EU migrants coming to the United Kingdom for more than a holiday without work then their continued presence was permitted by means of inaction by the UK Government and in particular the Home Office, formerly presided over by the incumbent Prime Minister.

Then, on 14th June 2016, a ruling by the European Court of Justice confirmed that EU rules on free movement did not prevent Britain and other member states blocking payment of welfare benefits if migrants were unemployed and unable to financially support themselves independently. Little attention was given to this crucial decision in which a European legal institution did exactly what tabloid editors accused it of being incapable of. Independent scrutiny of the executive, namely the European Commission. In favour of a member state; in this case the United Kingdom.

As long ago as 5th November 2013 the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London had reported that “UK immigrants who arrived since 2000 are less likely to receive benefits and less likely to live in social housing than UK natives. What’s more, over the decade from 2001 to 2011, they made a considerable positive net contribution to the UK’s fiscal system, and thus helped to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers”.

“The positive contribution is particularly evident for UK immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA – the European Union plus three small neighbours): they contributed about 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits over the period 2001-11.”

Again, a report not widely disseminated by tabloid editors.

If a high percentage of migrant workers are young this also helps to reduce the dependency ratio – a crucial issue for government budget at a time when the country faces an ageing population with retirement burdens.

More migrants workers are educated to degree level than non-migrants, and this suggests a positive impact on the quality of the workforce.

There is also a particularly attractive positive about European migration. Migrant workers from the continent are likely to be more flexible and return home, if the economic situation were to deteriorate.

Having relied so heavily on economic migration to use it as a source of prosperity and wealth stimulation the idea that it should be taken away has with it a clear and obvious danger. Put simply, there will not be enough hands on the decks. The decks then become tarnished, worn and unfit for purpose. Or the produce rots.

The government’s impotence lies in the mismatch between the truth and the rhetoric. Is the gap too wide between the two to be scaled without party political damage?

There is a conflict of interest because characters at the head of government are connected with the failure to control migration to the extent that it was permissible to do so. That apart, migration was (and still is) in the best interests of the country. Migrants are attracted by buoyant economies. Regrettably the Prime Minister is likely to find that the sure fire way to reduce migration is to reduce the buoyancy of the economy and therefore the prosperity of the country. If she prioritises migration then she is pursuing a single interest to which she is too close. She has history. Lots of it.

Equally, she knows of the economic peril and readily advised audiences prior to June 2016 of the careful consideration that she had given in reaching her decision that Britain’s best interests were served by remaining in the European Union, freedom of movement notwithstanding. At that stage the interests of tabloid editors had evidently not crafted her approach.

As Sophocles said in Antigone:

“I have nothing but contempt for the kind of governor who is afraid, for whatever reason, to follow the course that he knows is best for the State”.

Sources and links:-
i) London Evening Standard

ii) ECJ Ruling 14th June 2014, Luxembourg

iii) University College London CReAM paper