France 2017: The next big surprise?

France’s Presidential election set for April 23rd could deliver the next major political surprise with the increasing popularity of Front National’s Marine Le Pen.

From the outset most of the political elite were confident that Les Républicains candidate François Fillon would win, only for his campaign to be derailed by revelations of his wife’s ‘fake job’. They are now turning their hopes to the centrist ‘Blairite’ candidate Emmanuel Macron.

The left has begun a resurgence in the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party) with the election of Benoît Hamon who is compared to Jeremy Corbyn.

Whatever the outcome, the elections will not halt the growing turbulence in French politics.

France 2017 main presidential candidatesFrance Presidential election 2017, main candidates: Fillion, Hamon, Le Pen, Macron, Mélenchon

Growing support for Front National

The Front National, led by Marine Le Pen, has been able to tap into widespread disillusion with the mainstream parties and exploit anti-immigrant feelings.

The driving force behind the growing threat from the Front National is summed up in an interview with the BBC’s Lucy Williamson. Fabien Engelmann a former left union member now Front National mayor of Hayange, a declining manufacturing town, explained that:

“The left betrayed its voters, betrayed the workers, the middle class, the shop owners,” Mr Engelmann told me. “There’s also mass immigration today, and I think that after a while you can’t welcome the poor from across the world. We have to stop this immigration and take care of our own.”

This sense of betrayal is understandable given that during the 2012 election campaign, François Hollande visited Hayange and promised laws preventing blast furnace closures. The promised law was watered down and the furnace closed a year later .

The danger of left voters defecting to the Front National is a real one and was also highlighted in the BBC interview. Patrice Hainy joined the Font National and although he became disillusioned and switched support to Jean-Luc Mélenchon, he described the danger of the Front National:

“I was attracted to them because the other parties don’t listen to the people, and I believed the FN was listening to me,” he explained. “It attracts weak members from the left. I was from the left and I was angry with our politicians who are sacrificing French people.”

Failure of Socialist Party rule

Hollande’s Socialist government’s enthusiastic adoption of pro-market policies have had very little impact on the sluggish economic and job growth. The unemployment rate has stuck stubbornly around 10% for the past few years while GDP and employment growth is lagging behind that of the major western economies.

The poorest have been hit particularly hard. Al Jazeera reported in an interview with the Paris director of the food aid charity Les Restos du Coeur that, about 32 percent of those who use the services of [Les] Restos du Coeur are single mothers with children and that those requiring help was growing at around 3% to 4% per year.

The Socialist Party’s leadership became so pro-business that one socialist MP protested that his objective, is not to vote for all the measures that Sarkozy did not manage to pass and which we fought against in opposition..

Damaged Socialist Party swings to the left

The damage done to the socialist base was shown by the turnout in the preliminary rounds of the primaries to choose a presidential candidate. At 2 million this was nearly a million less than the primaries in 2011.

Party membership also suffered, down 40,000 at 86,000 since the unpopular Hollande took office.

Their failure in government triggered a sharp shift to the left in the party with the election of Benoît Hamon who beat ex-prime minister Manuel Valls.

Hamon’s success was greeted with relief. A typical reaction was summed up by Fayçal Bourich speaking to France 24:

“He’s just what we need,” Fayçal Bouricha from Paris’s troubled northern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois told FRANCE 24 while attending Hamon’s rally in the capital’s fifth arondissement, where hundreds of supporters had gathered. “He’s young, he has ideas to renew the Socialist Party and he’s in touch with what’s actually happening in society today. He’s in touch with reality. Valls seems to be offering nothing new. I don’t see him changing anything,” he said.”

Harmon has put forward radical policies that have captured attention not just in France but internationally. They include support for a universal basic income of €750 a month, taxing companies that replace employees with robots and stopping the ‘unbridled Uberisation‘ which undermines workers rights.

A positive sign is that while the socialists still look to come only fourth in the elections, they have been rising in the polls since Hamon’s election.

The elites swing behind Macron

It seems the establishment are losing a candidate every week! Their hopes were pinned on Valls of the Socialist Party, who lost out to Harmon. Fillon has been wounded, perhaps terminally, by a fraud scandal. They have now swung behind Macron, who was Economy minister until he resigned in 2016 to form the En Marche! party.

As Economy Minister Macron advanced the interests of business with the ‘loi Macron‘ (Macron Law), which was welcomed by French business organisations as a real step in the right direction in attacking workers rights. His economic programme differs little from that of Hollande’s discredited government.

Reboot 2002?

With Fillion facing accusations of fraud, a repeat of the 2002 elections looks unlikely. In 2002 Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, made the second round and the left vote gave victory to the conservative Chirac on the slogan ‘vote for the crook not the fascist’.

If the run off does involve Fillion and Le Pen, then the Thatcherite programme of assaults on jobs and conditions, including the sacking of 500,000 public sector jobs proposed by Fillion, will provide little incentive to back him as the anti-fascist option and may actually drive some voters to Front National.

The most likely outcome at the moment is a run off between Marine Le Pen and Macron. Although Macron is very much part of the establishment which may be seen as an Achille’s heel, at this stage he looks the clear favourite. However, a low turn out from traditional left voters coupled with a switch of left voters in dying industrial towns such as Hayange mentioned above, may confound expectations and play in Le Pen’s favour.

Backdrop of a changing world

Davos 2017Davos 2017 – Global Economic Outlook

The events in France are not taking place in isolation, they are part of the fall-out that hit the western world after the 2007/08 crash. The working and middle classes have been made to pay for a crisis not of their making.

Against a backdrop of growing global instability, the neo-liberal consensus that underpinned western policies has degenerated into an ossified orthodoxy that now looks obsolete in the face of rapidly changing events. The ground is being prepared for more crises and social upheavals.

This is now being reflected in French politics with the rise of right-wing populism on the one hand and on the other, the leftwards shift of the Socialist Party. It is also manifesting itself in the main capitalist party Les Républicains in splits and acrimony amongst its leadership. Ex-Prime Minister Alain Juppe refused to stand in Fillion’s place because as Reuters reported, …The Republicans were too divided for him [Juppe] to be able to rally them behind him.

Will normal service be resumed?

The current French political landscape illustrates the fragility of the middle ground consensus of the established parties on the left as well as the right.

The elites are hoping that with the election of Macron or Fillion normal service will be resumed. But the turbulent nature of the election is a harbinger that normal service in France will be that of crisis and upheaval.

Gary Hollands – March 12th 2017

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Media demands a new Labour leader

The media seized on Labour’s by-election loss of Copeland, a seat it had held for eighty years, to vent its hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn and demand his resignation.

In blaming Corbyn they provide a fig leaf covering the damage done by Labour’s right-wing’s disastrous attempt to remove him after the EU referendum and their continuing campaign to destabilise his leadership.

The vast majority of Labour members have no interest in another leadership battle. They joined the party to support Corbyn and take the fight Tories based on his radical platform of the ‘Ten Pledges’[1].

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn: Prime Minister’s Question Time 2017

Copeland and Stoke Central

The BBC described the loss of Copeland as a shock, remarking that; “This victory marked an astonishing political moment for the Conservatives.”.

As with other manufacturing areas Copeland has been hit hard and changed by an industrial decline exacerbated by the 2007/08 financial crash. This left the Sellafield nuclear plant as the main employer with over 5,000 workers with many more employed in the local supply chain.

Corbyn’s team pointed to a hostile media and late interventions by Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair, but Labour did not help itself with its weak and confused messaging on nuclear power.

The profound consequences of the Stoke result in regards to UKIP’s challenge to Labour in its heartlands are yet to be fully appreciated by political journalists. Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor, gave little more than a passing nod preferring to myopically fixate on Corbyn:

“As for Labour, relief that it has at least repulsed the perceived threat of UKIP but its slow painful anguish under Jeremy Corbyn seems set to continue.”

The Stoke Central by-election represented UKIP’s best chance to follow through on their boasts of replacing Labour as the party of the working class. UKIP failed dismally and in the process looks to have inflicted terminal damage on themselves.

Labour should not be complacent, while UKIP is probably finished as a viable force, the conditions and the disillusionment that gave rise to UKIP are still present. If Labour fails to fill the vacuum then it will be filled by apathy or a more reactionary force.

Problems part self-inflicted…

After the EU referendum vote, rather than attack a Tory party in disarray, ‘rebels’ in the Parliamentary Labour Party chose to abandon that battle and launch an attack on Corbyn and his supporters. During the campaign the constituency parties were shut down which crippled the party in its communities for three months.

This allowed the Tories to recover from the resignation of David Cameron as Prime Minister and deliver the new Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, an extended honeymoon.

Just a few days before the Copeland and Stoke Central by-elections Tony Blair gave a provocative speach to Open Britain where he encouraged remain supporters to challenge the Brexit vote. He also found room to deliver barbed criticism at the Labour Party:

“The second challenge is the absence of an Opposition which looks capable on the polls of beating the Government. The debilitation of the Labour Party is the facilitator of Brexit. I hate to say that, but it is true.”

Peter Mandelson, Labour peer and ex-Trade and Industry Secretary, seemed determined to plough on with his plotting, even if there were two by-elections just days away:

“I don’t want to, I resent it and I work every single day in some small way to bring forward the end of his [Corbyn] tenure in office.”

These ghosts of the past, haunting the party with their discredited neoliberal ideology, have shown themselves to be no friends of labour.

Article 50 – Labour’s predicament

The media’s latest phase of its campaign against Corbyn began with Labour’s predicament over triggering Article 50. Two-thirds of Labour voters voted remain while two-thirds of Labour constituencies voted leave showing the complex and diverse nature of Labour’s electorate.

It was inevitable that this contradiction would play out in the Labour Party and it meant that Jeremy Corbyn had a difficult hand to play in reconciling the two sides. When Article 50 is triggered this debate will become largely academic and the spotlight will be turned on the Tories.

Changing leaders, lessons of Kinnock

Kinnock in the sea
Neil Kinnock falls in the sea

Most attempts to draw parallels between Labour now and in the 1980s are misguided, however the experience of the Kinnock, who replaced left-winger Michael Foot, is worth examining.

Kinnock did everything demanded of him by the media, for example expelling the Militant Tendency. The media still dumped on him from a great height, not once but twice with two election defeats. Kinnock got no thanks for his services, the media treated him as a joke.

One big difference between Kinnock and today is that at least he had a programme and a strategy. Beyond getting rid of Corbyn, his modern counterparts appear to have nothing to offer.

Labour ‘rebels’ need to step up

The right-wing spent the year up to the Brexit vote on an incessant media campaign to force out Corbyn, only for them to end up humiliated by a second leadership contest defeat.

Even now, many of Corbyn’s opponents in the parliamentary party have refused to step up and serve in the shadow cabinet. Instead they have been sulking away on the back benches leaving their newer colleagues to shoulder the burden.

The radical platform of Corbyn’s 10 Pledges

10 Pledges
Jeremy Corbyn: Ten Pledges

Workers are faced with Tory assaults on all fronts including, a social care and housing crisis, the creeping privatisation of the NHS and Brexit being prepared as a trojan horse for a bonfire of workers rights. These problems are actually no longer exclusively confined to the working classes, they also affect large swathes of the middle classes right into the Tory heartlands.

Labour’s Ten Pledges give a platform to address these problems and also represent a refreshing break from New Labour, taking Labour back to its radical roots.

The majority of the policies encapsulated by the pledges are popular across the classes according to reports on polling by Yougov and polling organisations.

To give just a few examples:

  • Nationalisation of the railways and Royal Mail is supported by around two thirds of the public including conservative voters. Nationalising the utilities is also popular with over half in support
  • Nearly 60% support the building of more social housing, John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, has plans to build 100,000 new council houses a year
  • 60%, including 42 per cent of Tory voters, support calls to give local councils the power to impose rent controls
  • There is nearly 60% support for bring free schools and academies under democratic control of local councils

This doesn’t mean ordinary people will automatically back Labour in their droves just because it puts forward popular left policies. The Labour party is still tainted by a credibility gap inherited from the days of Labour’s right-wing rule and will have to work hard to gain the electorates’ trust.

Unite to fight the Tories

Labour Party members know that with a hostile press, boundary changes and the dire legacy left by the right-wing in the collapse of Labour’s vote in Scotland they face an uphill battle. They have little interest adding to those problems by indulging Labour’s enemies with another leadership contest. Their priority, and the reason most who joined the party since Corbyn’s rise, is to fight for the election of a labour government on a socialist programme.

The message from Labour Party members is quite simple, it is now time to unite behind Jeremy Corbyn and take the fight the Tories.

Gary Hollands – March 2nd 2017

Notes and references

1. Jeremy Corbyn’s Ten Pledges:

  • Full employment and an economy that works for all
  • A secure homes guarantee
  • Security at work
  • To secure our NHS and social care
  • A national education service, open to all
  • Action to secure our environment
  • To put the “public” back into our economy and services
  • To cut inequality in income and wealth
  • Action to secure an equal society
  • To put peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy

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Israel: Democracy or tyranny of the majority?

US president Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyanu recent meeting, where they all but agreed to scrap the two state solution, merely formalises Israel’s march towards an apartheidesque state.

Defending the Israeli state, supporters praise Israel’s democratic credentials. Freedom House, an NGO part funded by the US, assessed that; “Israel remains the region’s only Free country.”.

But opponents detail the discriminatory apartheid type laws and state sanctioned violence towards Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, which points to Israel being little more than a tyranny of the majority.

Demolished Palestinian home
Palestinian children stand on their demolished home

Discrimination against minorities

A report for the European Parliament found that Israel is operating a discriminatory legal framework:

“While Israel is a democratic state that enshrines its citizens’ rights to ‘life, body and dignity’ in its Basic Law, Palestinian citizens of Israel are discriminated against in a variety of manners. Their national identity as Palestinian living in Israel and religious identity as non-Jewish mean that they are denied equal individual rights. In a number of ways, discrimination against them is supported by the Israeli legal system.”

The same report found that as of 2011 there were in the region of 30 pieces of legislation violating international law that discriminate against Arabs. Just a few examples are:

  • Law of Return and Citizenship Law. This discriminates against the spouses of Palestinian Israelis by barring them from citizenship or residency
  • ‘Ban on BDS Bill’. Public support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is made a civil offence punishable by fines up to €6000.
  • Citizenship Law amendment. Requires the declaration of a loyalty oath to Israel as a “Jewish, Zionist, and democratic state, to its symbols and values…”. Violates article 18 of UDHR right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  • Negev Development Law amendment. Provides Jewish families with land and excludes Israeli Palestinians, those suffering the greatest impact are members of the Bedouin tribe.

The impact of these laws are devastating for Palestinians and Israeli Arabs; they deny them freedom of expression and to practise their culture.

Land theft

Palestinian land has been the subject of relentless expropriation by the Israeli state. The West Bank, an Israeli occupied territory, has been salami sliced by settlements that have grown on stolen land.

Land theft 1946 to 2009
Palestinian loss of land

There are various methods of land theft deployed against Palestinians including the erection of barriers to prevent Palestinians access to their farming and grazing lands. Then after three years, under the ‘Emergency Regulations for the Exploitation of Uncultivated Lands’ act, the Israeli state takes the land. If that fails then the military can use laws such as the ‘Emergency Regulations (Security Zones) of 1949‘ to force Palestinians off the land or grab it outright.

Since the election of Donald Trump the Israeli state has dropped all pretense of its land seizure programme. The Knesset’s approval of the “Regulation Bill”, which seeks to retrospectively legalise 4,000 settlement homes built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank, formally institutionalises the theft of Palestinian property.

Israel’s own Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions programme

The siege of Gaza where businesses and infra-structure are attacked is a deliberate ploy to throttle its economic life. Goods are heavily restricted from entry, even life saving medical supplies for cancer treatment are denied. Fishing boats are frequently shot at or harassed by the Israeli Navy to disrupt business and food supplies.

In this light, Israel’s supporters fury at the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, branding it anti-Semitic, is especially galling considering that BDS is a peaceful movement as opposed to Israel’s violent economic blockade against Palestinians.

Suppression of language

Arabic, the first language of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, along with Hebrew, which is the first language of Israeli Jews, are official state languages. In reality the status of Arabic is inferior to Hebrew. Adalah, a legal rights NGO, in ‘The Inequality Report’, gave an example:

“For example, more than 200 major principle decisions issued by the Supreme Court have been translated into English and have been published on the court’s website along with the original Hebrew decisions. Although the majority of these decisions are relevant to Palestinian citizens of Israel and to Palestinians in the OPT, none of them has been translated into Arabic. In addition, many official forms are not available in Arabic. Ministries routinely refuse to accept official documents in Arabic…”.

Ethnic cleansing

There is a long record of the Israeli state clearing Bedouin villages to be replaced with Jewish only areas.

Israel plans to demolish 35 of those villages in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the south of Israel displacing 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel. In their place towns such as Hiran will be built exclusively for Jewish residents.

Bigotry and violence

Israeli politicians are not shy when playing the race card. For instance, Benjamin Netenyanu during the 2015 Knesset elections, pleaded with Jews to get out and vote, warning that the Arabs were coming out in droves to vote:

“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out.”

The Israeli state is not shy about using violence either, examples include state brutality towards young children in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), where forced confessions and sexual assaults by Israeli forces are routine.

Little more than a tyranny of the majority

Racism and religious bigotry is endemic in the Israeli state and its institutions. It abuses its majority privilege to discriminate against and repress the rights of racial and religious minorities with near impunity.

The claim that Israel is a democracy is a long standing geopolitical joke. The reality is that the Israeli regime is little more than a ‘tyranny of the majority’.

Gary Hollands – February 21st 2017

Postscript

UN report concludes Israel an apartheid state

Since this piece was written a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) was released 15th March. It concludes that by the criteria of International law Israel is an apartheid state.

A furore followed with pressure from the US and Israel succeeding in having the report removed from the ESCWA report launch web page. The head of ESCWA, Rima Khalaf, was forced to resign.

Interestingly, the reason given was an error of process, not the veracity of the report itself. Al Jazeera quoted UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric, This is not about content, this is about process,. The UN, as well as major media outlets, were aware of the report and its language well in advance so this seems a rather weak excuse.

The report authors were under no illusions on what the reaction would be:

“The authors of this report, examining whether Israel has established an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole, fully appreciate the sensitivity of the question. …Even broaching the issue has been denounced by spokespersons of the Israeli Government and many of its supporters as anti-Semitism in a new guise.”

And so it proved. Instead of critiquing the report, Israel and its allies engaged in distortion and ad hominem attacks on the authors. A typical example was the response of the CEO of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), Robert Singer, who without irony referred to the authors words above:

“Already in their preface, the two authors try to shield themselves against accusations of anti-Semitism. They probably know why. As the European Working Definition of Anti-Semitism makes it clear: denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor, is a form of anti-Semitism.”

For my part, I fully support the conclusion of the report’s authors that:

“To assert that the policies and practices of a sovereign State amount to apartheid constitutes a grave charge. A study aimed at making such a determination should be undertaken and submitted for consideration only when supporting evidence clearly exceeds reasonable doubt. The authors of this report believe that evidence for suspecting that a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people meets such a demanding criterion.”

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EU citizen rights – The Tory leave deception

Promises to EU citizens

All the major leave EU organisations during the referendum campaign made promises guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens to continue to reside in the UK. The official Vote Leave campaign was unequivocal in its promise to grant those rights automatically, Leave.EU said it would be “wholly illogical” not to.

After the referendum leave supporting Conservative MPs reneged on these promises and threw those EU nationals onto the table as bargaining chips for a trade deal with the EU, in turn putting at risk UK nationals living in the EU.

However examining the economic risks, the logistical challenges and the human costs, the only realistic option is granting EU citizens automatic rights to stay.

Theresa May - EU summit
Theresa May attends her first EU summit in Brussels

Campaign commitments

Vote Leave were emphatic in their commitment to EU citizen rights. A joint statement by Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, and Gisela Stuart on the Vote Leave website promised that:

“…there will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.” [GH: My emphasis].

Leave.EU, an organisation that lost out as the official campaign to Vote Leave, were equally emphatic in their commitment to EU citizens. Responding to the question, “I’m an EU citizen. Will I be deported if we leave the EU?”, they replied:

“Absolutely not! Think of the upheaval and inconvenience caused if the UK and EU nations suggested this idea – any proposal such as this would be wholly illogical and extremely unpopular. Remember there are elections in both France and Germany next year – any politician putting forward such an idea won’t be particularly well received by the electorate!” [GH: My emphasis]

No room for doubt

Leave campaigners took to task anyone who suggested that EU citizens would be at risk from a vote to leave. The government’s position was set out in a white paper:

“…They [UK citizens in the EU] all currently enjoy a range of specific rights to live, to work and access to pensions, health care and public services that are only guaranteed because of EU law. There would be no requirement under EU law for these rights to be maintained if the UK left the EU. Should an agreement be reached to maintain these rights, the expectation must be that this would have to be reciprocated for EU citizens in the UK [GH: My emphasis].”

Vote Leave challenged this, its chair Gisela Stuart replied that the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties would guarantee the rights of EU and UK nationals:

“You have got the Vienna convention, which guarantees the rights of existing citizens and existing arrangements.”

Peter Bone MP of Grassroots Out, was scathing in his dismissal of the government’s position:

“Clearly any EU citizen that is legally here if we come out of the EU would absolutely have the right to remain here. Any other suggestion is just absurd.

It is a scare story, full stop. It just shows how desperate the government and the remain campaign are.”

Leaving no room for doubt, the government’s position was also condemned by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg as, “really grubby politics”.

The deception, then and now

There seems to be no evidence during the referendum campaign of the 128 Tory MPs who voted leave expressing any doubts on unilaterally granting EU citizens automatic rights to stay – or at least publicly…

Liam Fox MP
Liam Fox MP – Vote Leave Campaign Committee

Of particular note is Liam Fox MP, who was a member of the Vote Leave Campaign Committee. He voiced no opposition to his organisation’s commitment to EU Nationals. Neither did he mention reciprocity for UK nationals in the EU as a condition. However, a couple of months after the referendum the Guardian reported that Fox had done a volte-face:

“Fox, who was speaking at a [Conservative conference] fringe event, said the government would “like to be able to give a reassurance to EU nationals in the UK, but that depends on reciprocation by other countries”.

He said any other strategy “would be to hand over one of our main cards in the negotiations and doesn’t necessarily make sense at this point”.”

This begs the question, why didn’t prominent leave supporting Tory MPs such as Liam Fox and the “thoroughly researched” John Redwood MP, challenge the Leave view on EU citizen rights during the referendum campaign?

Logistical nightmare, damaging to services and the human cost

Estimates put the numbers of EU citizens in the UK at just over three million. Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN), a UK NGO, estimates that it would take 140 years to process applications for residency:

“Over the last five years, the Home Office has been processing an average of about 25,000 applications for settlement from EU nationals and their family members. At this rate it would take 140 years to process the cases of 3.5 million EU citizens.”

Many public services depend on EU nationals. For example the NHS depends heavily on staff from the EU, the numbers rose from 33,420 in 2012 to 57,608 in July 2016. This dependency has been exacerbated by George Osborne’s, chancellor at the time, decision to end bursaries for student nurses which this year resulted in a 23% drop in applications to university nursing courses.

Many sectors of the economy are reliant on workers from the EU. A briefing paper for the House of Commons Library examined the dependence of the various sectors on EU nationals, for example in manufacturing it is 10.2%, in construction it is 9.1%, in Professional, scientific and technical the figure is 6.6%. These and other sectors would face severe disruption if they lost this workforce.

Though the numbers are not reliably known, many EU citizens have settled in the UK and have families. There have been a number of cases reported of EU partners of UK citizens being told to return to their country of origin to apply for the right of residency in the UK.

Examples include a Dutch woman with two British children who’d lived in the UK for 24 years was told to leave the country by the Home Office after she applied for citizenship after the EU referendum. A German neuroscientist married to a British woman had a similar experience in another incident.

These examples gives a glimpse of the possible human cost of refusing EU citizens’ rights to stay.

Automatic right to stay – the realistic option

The Tories concern for the rights of UK citizens is nothing more than a disguise for the threat of collective punishment against EU nationals in the horse-trading over a Brexit deal.

The Tories stance puts UK citizens in the EU in a more precarious position. It encourages those of the 27 other EU members with few citizens in the UK to play hard ball with the bargaining chips the Tories have thrown on the table.

Given the logistical challenges, the risks of economic dislocation and the human cost, this leaves granting EU citizens automatic rights to stay as the only realistic option. After all anything else, “would be wholly illogical”.

Gary Hollands – February 19th 2017

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