Teresa “I see Jihadi’s” May as well as Michael “Jar, Jar” Gove and the government itself have all refused to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit. In effect both she and a number of the others in the Tory race seem determined to use them as pawns and bargaining chips in any dealings with Brussels. Oddly enough this was originally a suggestion of UKIP, which just goes to show how its increasingly difficult to tell the difference between UKIP and the Tories.
Naturally this is both unnecessary and hugely distressing to many EU nationals. I mean there are reports of kids getting quite distressed about the possibility of being deported. And naturally what the UK does to EU citizens, the EU will respond in kind to UK citizens in the EU.
We also have stories of EU citizens rushing to apply for dual nationality, as well as UK citizens seeking EU citizenship. I mean take this one from the beeb where the descendant of a Jewish escapee from nazi Germany is trying to get a German passport to escape that now neo-fascist policies of the UK Tory party. How low have the leave voters dragged the country?
EU citizens are an important part of the UK economy, they pay taxes, work in the NHS, invest in the UK, many of the premiership’s footballers are EU citizens (I would hate to be a leave voter at the start of next season….you might want to keep that to yourself). Many UK citizens are married to EU citizens, even Farage. The government is in effect proposing to tear apart families and undermine the UK economy.
Fallout of Brexit on third level education
In my sector of third level education, this failure to reassure on the rights of EU citizens is causing serious problems and anxiety for students . Universities have been fielding calls from EU citizens (some already here, some planning to come and study) who are naturally worried about the implications.
This is already have a measurable impact on the third level sector. Universities are reporting a drop in students already (in my department our first year intake is already down). Fearful of the impact of Brexit, research projects are being put on hold and UK academics are being pressured to withdraw from any grant applications (I have first hand accounts of grant applications with many months of work put into them that went into the bin this week). Academics in other EU states are also indicating that they are pulling back from collaboration with UK universities or academics (most grant applications require collaboration to be successful). And some uni’s are also reporting that Professors are either quitting or indicating they plan to quit the UK unless some sort of guarantee on their rights, or those of their research students and support staff, is issued soon.
And incidentally, if a Professor is the PI (principle investigator) on a research project, the money follows him out the door, as its always attached to the academic, not the university. Yes, if a professor is in receipt of say £1 million in EU grant money per year, and he decides to leave the UK and move to Germany or Ireland (how hard do you think he’ll have to look to find a new uni?), that £1 million/year follows him. Indeed, any equipment he’s bought as part of that project also follows him out the door. We had something like this happen a few years ago, when some professor got the hump (nothing to do with the EU, some sort of falling out) and left, taking his grant money, much of his support staff and his lab equipment with him.
So you can imagine the impact this will have. And its worth noting that this paralysis on collaboration, will have a knock effect for private companies (many of them small high tech start up firms), as they often provide matching funds for said research projects. Many of these firms are only in the UK to take advantage of UK’s academia, its diverse portfolio of experts from around the world and its access to EU research funding. They leave and many of the UK’s high tech firms leave, taking a large chuck of venture capital with them.
And yes, I am aware that the UK could negotiate access to EU research funding (but we’ll have to pay for that, so where’s your £350 million a week going to come from?), but that’s not going to matter if academics lose freedom of movement. Without some sort of a cast iron guarantee soon, the damage will already have been done.
Market Jitters continue
And its understandable that the economy continues to be jittery. I’ve seen some leave voters trying to delude themselves that the FTSE 100 has been recovering for the last few days (I assume they’re not familiar with the term “dead cat bounce”), so it can’t be that bad.
Well, no the FTSE 100 is 80% based on foreign stocks, the FTSE 250, which represent more British stocks has been falling the last few days, now down a full 10% in just two weeks. Some individual shares are down by much more than this (e.g. Aviva, has fallen by 25%, Barratts is down 35%). The pound has slid by 20% v’s the dollar, hitting rates unseen since 1980’s.
A falling pound, falling FTSE 250 yet a slight rise in the FTSE 100 (particularly mining stocks) tends to suggest that money is starting to flow out of the country in search of safe havens (read anywhere not run by a bunch of dopey racist bigots). And perhaps most worrying of all several large property investment firms have now moved to stop investors withdrawing cash from the funds. The last time they had to do that was back during the financial crisis. So lets be clear this is bad news….unless you don’t plan to retire….ever!
Oh, and as I hinted might happen a few days ago, the Bank of England has now allowed banks to relax capital rules (in order to stop a freeze on lending), a key post financial crisis measure designed to prevent the banks needing a bailout. So in essence the BoE is telling banks – be as reckless as you like boy’s, we’ll bail you out with taxpayers money.
But I digress, clearly the economic effects are starting to be felt and this unwillingness to commit to being in the single market and guarantee the rights of EU citizens is not helping matters. If the government does not get a handle on the situation, events may spiral beyond their control. Already several financial firms seem to be drawing up relocation plans as too is Easyjet.
And there is a very simple horse trade here that will solve everything. As I mentioned in a prior post, they government will at some point have to get parliament to approve Brexit. It would make sense to do this before talking to the Europeans, as trying to do it afterwards could get very messy. So in return for pro-remain MP’s either voting for article 50 (or abstaining) we stick a rider on that bill that guarantee’s all EU citizens their rights within the UK and commits the UK to remain part of the single market (in essence the UK…or at least England & Wales…ends up like Norway…but without the fish!).
Yes, this would tie the hands of the PM when negotiating with Brussels, but to be honest he or she’s not going to have a lot of wriggle room anyway on these matters. Yes, as I discussed before even the Norwegians will tell you EEA membership without being an EU member represents very poor value for money (its like being a Mighty Morph Power Ranger, but ending up as the pink one who is constantly having to be rescued by the others). And yes, it would be a betrayal of every promise made during the referendum campaign by the leave camp. But given that they seem to have deserted the field, its up to the grown ups to try and fix the mess. So if such measures are seen as going too far the obvious alternative is another referendum or a general election.