John Harris writes: n the wake of an ocean of writing linking Brexit to the zeitgeisty Dunkirk spirit, here’s one more martial metaphor. Self-evidently, this is the phoney war stage of the process. Negotiations have barely started; the prime minister is on holiday. Most importantly, the fragile tangle of threads that defines what passes for Britain’s economic wellbeing – that mixture of affordable essentials, freely available credit and dependable house prices which ensures no one gets too uppity about stagnating wages – just about remains intact. Meanwhile, ministers – and Labour politicians – talk about the fundamentals of leaving the European Union as if we can push Brussels in any direction we fancy and freely choose no end of measures to ease our passage out.
The recent noise about freedom of movement is a case in point. If the government has a coherent position, it seems to be that migration from the EU under current rules will end in 2019, but also carry on, with – according to the home secretary, anyway – the proviso that during an “implementation phase” of up to four years, people from the EU will simply have to add their names to a national register. Thus, a great human army which keeps so much of Britain’s economy ticking over will still be available, just as long as the right arrangements are put in place.
This is, of course, somewhat less than credible, as evidenced by a mounting crisis that has yet to turn critical but is bubbling away across the country. At the very least, we are fundamentally changing the basis on which people can live and work in the UK, swapping residence as a right for a much more uncertain system dependent on political caprice. [Continue reading…]