Sunday, 24 December 2017

Are we restoring British identity, or losing it?

Britain is a potpourri of nationalities which makes Britain Great. We may be an island, but we’re also part of a planet. 

The British have probably been the most prolific migrants in the history of the world. British people have gone to live in all parts of the planet, and still do. 

According to research conducted by Finaccord, Britain is the third biggest exporter of people to the rest of the world.

The World Bank estimates that between 4.5 million and 5.5 million Britons live abroad, representing about 7-8% of the UK population. 

To put that in context, only about 0.8% of Americans, 3% of Spanish and 2.1% of Australians live abroad.

So we go there, and it’s not surprising, that people from across the world come here. It works both ways. 

Our great country has benefited from people from other countries coming to settle here, just as other countries have often benefited from Britons living there. 

Foreigners, and the sons and daughters of foreigners, are a boon, and not a burden, to Britain.

After all, Liverpool football club is managed by a German, coached by a Bosnian, and has players from over 12 countries, including Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Cameroon, Croatia, Estonia, Spain, Netherlands and Suriname.

What sort of team would Liverpool have if they could only choose from British or English stock?

Winston Churchill is considered to be one of Britain’s greatest war leaders. But his mother was an American.

Hampton Court Palace is considered to be a great British landmark. But the gardens and much of the interior was designed by Daniel Marot, a French Huguenot refugee.

Some Brexiters say that they have nothing against migrants, but we simply have too many of them, causing Britain to be overcrowded.

But you only have to fly over the country to see that most of Britain is countryside, with huge swathes of natural open spaces. 

A recent survey showed that only 2.27% of England’s landscape is built on, and elsewhere in the UK, less than 1% is built on. 

This country has plenty of space. 

So, should we really be so tight-fisted about EU migrants coming here? 

Especially as millions of Britons have gladly made use of the right of residence across the EU as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. 

And especially since the numbers of citizens from the rest of the EU now resident in the UK represent only 5% of our population – which is small, and not a mass. 

The Conservative government clearly thinks that ‘free movement of people’ to Britain (rather than from it) represents a serious threat to the country.

Their speeches reveal a profound dislike of migrants. They indicate that the Tories want to introduce new laws after Brexit that would never be allowed under EU rules because they would be discriminatory.

Immediately after last year’s referendum, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, claimed (without any evidence) that foreign workers are “taking jobs British people could do”

Consequently, she proposed that companies should list the numbers of foreigners they hire and firms that have too many could be “named and shamed”.

The policy idea was soon dropped, following cries of protests. But it was too late: we'd had a public glimpse of the Tory’s true colours. 

Of course, it’s blue – just like the new British passport, that’s going to make us all ‘British’ again (hallelujah).

Brexit Secretary, David Davis, said last year that British jobs should be offered first to British workers, rather than having to endure competition from other citizens from Europe.

Under EU laws that wouldn’t be permitted. But those EU laws are unlikely to apply after Brexit, if the Tories get their way. 

During the referendum campaign Michael Gove, then Education Secretary, now Environment Secretary, said on BBC’s Question Time that it was necessary to reduce the numbers of migrants because working people’s wages were “held down” by immigration. 

There is no evidence to support that claim, either. 

But you get the idea of the true blue Tory plans for Britain once we’ve become ‘more British’ again and away from that nasty European Union.

When the EU referendum was just a glint in David Cameron’s eye, back in 2013, the Tory government sent Home Office vans roaming the streets of London, with notices warning illegal immigrants to ‘go home or face arrest.’

The notice on the vans claimed that there had been ‘106 arrests last week in your area’. But the same number of arrests was used in whatever areas the vans were located. The Advertising Standards Agency ruled that was misleading.

But it was the slogan, ‘Go home..’ that drew the greatest criticism, as it reminded people of slogans used by racist groups against immigrants.

I guess we should have seen the writing on the wall/van of what was ahead.

At the Tory conference the year before the EU referendum, the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, gave a shocking anti-immigrant speech that even drew the ire of Tory supporting newspaper, the Daily Telegraph

Mrs May said then:

“Because when immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society.

"It’s difficult for schools and hospitals and core infrastructure like housing and transport to cope. 

"And we know that for people in low-paid jobs, wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether.”

How can she possibly square that with her message last week to three million EU migrants settled in Britain that she doesn’t want them to leave? 

For ages, Mrs May has pledged to bring down EU migration to the UK to ‘a trickle’. For ages, she said that we had too many EU migrants here. But now she says Britain would be poorer if they left.

Blue? Mrs May should be red with embarrassment.

Recently the Home Office launched ‘Operations Adoze and Gopik’ to remove EU migrants sleeping rough in the UK, even if they were working or had permanent right of residence. 

(Even the name of the operation - Adoze and Gopik - sounds sinister).

But this month the policy was ruled unlawful in the high court.

The court ruled that the Home Office’s position was contrary to EU law. It also found the policy was discriminatory and amounted to an unlawful systematic verification of the EEA nationals’ rights to reside. 

Paul Heron, a solicitor representing the claimants, told Sky News that the policy had led to a "sweep mentality" that had seen migrants rounded up without their circumstances being investigated.

Mr Heron, from Lambeth Law Centre's Public Interest Law Unit (PILU), added: 

"Our clients were either working or had been working, and had fallen on hard times.

"They are coming here to seek work, for a better life. They are not coming here to beg.

"This ruling should make Theresa May's government think again before introducing policies on immigration that criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in our society."

In her ruling, Mrs Justice Lang advised Home Secretary Amber Rudd to "take stock" and said ministers had proposed a revised policy that was "more nuanced".

Take stock? Policies that are more nuanced? No, the Tories won’t do that.

What they’re doing is toning down the language a bit, hence Mrs May’s “sweet” Christmas message to EU migrants here.

They’ll say one thing now. But after we’ve left the protection of liberal, well-founded EU laws, the Tories will be able to show us their true colours once again.

Blue. The most right-wing blue of any government in recent times.

Make no mistake. This is a very nasty government, that endorses xenophobia. 

It’s clear that the Tories can’t wait for Britain to leave the EU so that it can impose discriminatory laws that would not be compatible with EU membership. 

The Tories claim that leaving the EU will make us more British; that Brexit will enable our national identity to be “restored”.

But Britain in the EU never lost its identity.

And during our four decades of EU membership, our British values pretty much mirrored the inherent values of the EU, which pretty much mirrored ours.

Those values, as enshrined in Articles 2 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), include, “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”

Is anyone reading this worried that on leaving the EU, we will be leaving behind some of those precious British values, that the Tories look set to dismantle?

If you don’t like what our ‘British identity’ may look like after Brexit, it really is time to speak up. Because very soon, it will be too late.
Other articles by Jon Danzig:


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