A newly leaked paper from the Home Office sets out policies to end "uncontrolled" EU migration. These include creating restrictions on EU movement. The problem is not that there should be restrictions, but that the plans reveal a Home Office that does not understand how EU migration actually works.
For too long, Theresa May has peddled a free movement myth that is rarely seen for the fiction it is. The myth is simple: that EU citizens from France to Greece can come and go across Europe anytime they want for as long as they want because we're all part of the same EU. The only problem is that - like all myths - this isn't true. May's government isn't being honest with the public.
Few freedoms are ever absolute - and freedom of movement is no different. Freedom of speech is no guarantee to say whatever we want. Likewise, freedom of movement is no guarantee to go wherever we want whenever we want.
In fact, there are already restrictions legally enforceable today. EU migrants must be in work or study - or have some realistic prospect for the same - in six months or they must leave. In some cases, they must pay for comprehensive health insurance in order to remain or be deported. The UK expels several hundred per year. Once expelled, persons can be banned from re-entry.
So how EU law works in the UK is very different from what the Prime Minister claims. We don't need May to impose restrictions, but come clean about - and better utilise - the restrictions she already has.
But don't expect to see this discussed by ministers for fear it reveals the free movement myth of "uncontrolled" migration to be the lie that it is. The government does have a dirty secret and it's this: they can actually restrict EU migration much more right now using existing powers and without the need for Brexit.
Other countries - France and Germany are good examples - are much better at enforcing free movement restrictions. They tend to use identity cards which make it much easier to expose free movement abuses.
Britain could relaunch such a scheme and begin to mirror the success of other EU countries that do much better at imposing existing restrictions on EU movement - with a European Court of Justice that has time and again supported the right of member states to manage migration and expel those who break the free movement rules.
Such a move to using identity cards or something similar would be likely very unpopular if reintroduced. But my point is that if the Prime Minister really wanted to curb EU migration and end any "uncontrolled" movement, it doesn't need to wait for Brexit to start hitting the brakes. It can do much more right now - and May's government has chosen not to do it. They have only themselves, not Brussels, to blame.
And so this leaked Home Office paper is just a gimmick meant to fool the public that there are no controls on EU migration (which is not true) and so the PM will create restrictions (some of which she already has) - in the hope that none of us will notice we're all being taken for fools.
How could this happen? Either the government does not understand EU laws it is so keen to end or 'take back control' of or it is simply choosing to be dishonest with the public about what it's doing - and many a government likes to make policy announcements that sound like greater change than they really are.
I suspect we're witnessing a combination of ignorance and deceit that does nothing to improve public confidence or achieve much success. We're watching a government out of ideas and out of their depths - I suspect things may only get worse.Suggest a correction