Wednesday, July 06, 2016

May be, May be not

Should I stay or should I go?

Much is being made on social media of the hard line positions taken by Conservative candidates for party leadership (and therefore the next Prime Minister). This is particularly true of Theresa May.

But how seriously should we take these statements?

On a simple matter of numbers, there are millions of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU. Getting them all to "go home" would be both morally wrong and impractical. It would hugely damage the economies of Europe, including the UK.  Theresa May is well aware of this.

So why is May saying such things?

The reason is simple: she's the most pro-Europe of the candidates for PM: she campaigned for Remain.  Like the Labour Party, the Conservative Party membership is considerably more Eurosceptic than its MPs.  Once the Conservative MPs have reduced the number of candidates to two (which will happen tomorrow), party membership make the final choice.  So, with an eye to them, May is trying to position herself as more Eurosceptic than she actually is.

In reality, what can we expect? Broadly the alternatives are somewhere between 
  • fully free movement of people around the EU and UK (e.g. The Norway Model)
  • to "fairly free", where (for example) people who have jobs, are in academia or are self-supporting will be free to come and go, but others are not.

So if you're a Polish plumber or banker, or a Brit who has retired to Spain, or a European academic doing research in the UK, don't let some campaign rhetoric disturb you.

It's not going to happen.

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