Brexit: Closing Our Doors Will Ruin Our Country

06/09/2017 12:46 BST | Updated 06/09/2017 12:46 BST

Last night (5th September) a document was leaked to news outlets outlining Home Office plan for dealing with the difficult issue of EU migrants and their families living and working in the UK, from March 2019 onward. In short, they won't be welcome. Low-skilled workers can get a visa & stay for two years, more "valuable" workers (your value will be determined by the Government) get 3-5 years then you're out.

It is almost impossible to overstate how wrong-headed, pig-headed and self-destructive this plan would be for the future of the UK.

This document unravels what little progress has been made to date on our negotiated exit from the EU, and will turn negotiations into a very nasty battle indeed. It also flies in the face of statements made by ministers who have repeatedly said they want to preserve EU citizens' rights post-Brexit, and trashes the idea of a Transitional deal. It is the single most self-destructive document produced by Theresa May's government since the Referendum Bill.

From a practical viewpoint, the effect on the UK workforce will be devastating. It's well known that migrants from the EU and beyond contribute hugely to the UK economy in terms of their work input and taxes. This plan is designed to systematically make those migrant workers feel unwelcome, less valuable than UK workers, and to put a ticking clock over the head of every one.

Business simply won't stand for it. Big businesses with skilled workforces will simply relocate - the administrative overhead of dealing with EU worker visas, plus the fact that, skilled or not, their time is limited, means the pull for those businesses toward Europe will be almost irresistible. It's different for food producers, who are already drastically short of migrant staff, and are Britain's largest manufacturing sector (you can't move a potato field) - they will simply fold. There'll be fewer migrant workers, because there'll be fewer jobs here for them (and us).

The Institute of Directors has already said this plan will lead to fewer nurses, teachers and care workers, the Food and Drink Federation director has said he is "alarmed" at this proposal, which shows "a deep lack of understanding of the vital contribution of EU workers". In short, this plan represents economic suicide for the UK, in the cause of appeasing a small number of xenophobic Hard Brexiters.

Then there's the issue or border controls. Most of the people or Ireland will be horrified by this little beauty, which most certainly means a Hard Border in Ireland. According to the paper, border controls will require all EU citizens to have their passports checked on entry to and exit from the UK.

Consider the effect on this half-hour bus journey between Clones and Cavan, both in the Republic of Ireland. See the thin dark line criss-crossing the route? That's the UK border that is. Four border crossings in half an hour. Or possibly a bit longer when there are passport checks every time. (h/t @timoconnorbl for pointing this out).


Last but by no means least, there's the effect of this on the EU negotiations themselves. Quite apart from the being a huge display of bad faith by the UK at this delicate stage, it means an absolute end to Single Market and Customs Union membership/advantages from the moment it applies. So that means NO transitional arrangements past March 2019. A simple cliff-edge, disastrous Hard Brexit. Again, the EU simply won't allow transitional arrangements with this plan in place - it can't, to protect the EU position of the Four Freedoms and prevent the UK's long-wished for Have Cake and Eat It scenario.

If this plan, which is designed to appeal to only the most right-wing and xenophobic of Brexiters, was to become a firm idea, literally the only thing left to negotiate would be the Brexit Bill - and this would likely be much higher, as rather than vital things like Euratom and Open Skies being shared in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation, they will be EU property which we will be asked to pay heavily for the use of. Trade deals with the EU would just be at the back of the queue, with WTO rules the most likely outcome.

All of this looks like horror story stuff, but it is distinctly possible, even likely, if the Government gets the Repeal Bill through parliament. At that point, David Davis, Boris Johnson or any other government minister can enact this plan without Parliament getting a say in it. Any MP voting for an unamended Repeal Bill is putting xenophobia and right-wing tabloid headlines ahead of the UK economy and trade with the EU. Voters will not forget that.