The Supreme Court has spoken: article 50 can only be triggered after a parliamentary approval, and the prime minister cannot start the procedure without the majority’s support.
In the coming weeks, we are likely to witness one of the most spectacular political debates, speculations and announcements in a decade. Now that the rules are clear and players are set, we can only appeal to their consciences.
What started with a referendum and its near-drawn result has since evolved into a one of a kind situation. The government insists on imposing drastic changes to the country.
Those who voted to leave the European Union vary in their views – most believed the UK would stay in the single market, as campaigners on both sides repeatedly assured us, some wanted to help the NHS with money that doesn’t exist, others thought that reversing trade agreements to the 1970s will cure the country of all modern evils and in a way bring back the times of their youth.
Amazingly, Theresa May not only refuses to acknowledge that the referendum results are not a simple “let’s get out”, as those who wanted to improve the NHS will not be heard, but also insists on leaving the single market – an option that the pro-Brexit campaign did not dare to even mention.
It is now up to the Parliament to straighten what the populists and the mislead public twisted. Joining the EU enabled the UK to thrive, and we cannot allow leaving it to negatively affect lives of anyone who has since helped build this country.
Today’s speech by Theresa May clarified one thing: UK government is aiming for a hard Brexit. The four freedoms of the EU will soon become a thing of the past here and today’s British PM went a long way to assure her audience that the future is bright. Or is it?
Prior to the June referendum, Vote Leave insisted time and time again that there is no intention to leave the single market. Today we heard that the UK prefers control over freedom, national interest over that of the continent and it dreams big of conquering the world – after it lost its colonies and now is losing 27 closest neighbours and allies.
In a promise-rich and well-rehearsed show there seems to be something for everyone. What isn’t there but will inevitably happen, is the prospect of an effectively poorer middle and working class, limited options for students and an increasingly hostile environment for minorities. This cannot end well.
Now that the turmoil of December festivities have passed, we finally have a moment to catch a breath and take a look at the events of the past two weeks.
In short, we have not received the guarantees – a gift we were hoping for so much, even though we well deserved it. While hearing cheerful wishes of peace and love all around, we tried to suppress our ever-present uncertainty and upset.
But the world wasn’t standing still. Today Ivan Rogers (https://yhoo.it/2iwpvtE), the British Ambassador to the EU resigned, causing a stir not only at 10 Downing Street, but pretty much nationwide. He had angered Eurosceptics in December when it emerged he had told ministers it could take 10 years to negotiate a free-trade deal with the EU and yet opinions that UK lost invaluable EU insight seemed frequent.
In other stories, Mrs May is considering giving up on the European convention of human rights. According to Charles Falconer, “it will be green light for despots and a disaster for ordinary people” (http://bit.ly/2hN3B1p). Also a prominent Northern Irish politician says Theresa May will ‘very likely’ face court challenge to block human rights law reforms, amid local anger at potential breach of Northern Irish peace treaty (http://ind.pn/2hR4oiH).
Meanwhile, another territory, the Orkney Islands threatened seeking independence from both UK and Scotland if Brexit is to pull them out of the EU (https://yhoo.it/2hPhK16).
On a more personal level, we heard the shocking news of the Home Office rejecting permanent residency applications of even those who have nowhere to “go back” to, having spent most of their adult life in the UK: the heart-breaking story of a Dutch woman, told to leave after 24 years on the Isles, with British kids and husband (http://bit.ly/2hxnpJe), followed by that of a German neuroscientist (http://bit.ly/2iwvBdv), whose application for residency was also rejected.
This has raised serious doubts of all Europeans who may not have a British spouse or an impressive scientific career. If those who seem most rooted, desired or ‘entitled’ to stay are rejected, what chances do the ordinary people have? As the Guardian reminds us in the latter story, under current rules, EU/EEA nationals automatically gain permanent residence after five years, provided certain criteria are met. “The PR document I applied for doesn’t give me permanent residence rights, it simply confirms them. So it really should be a formality. But the Home Office seems to want to make it excessively difficult for people”.
What we can do now is perhaps sit and wait for the Supreme Court, whose verdict is due later this month. This in turn will determine the way in which a Brexit-triggering decision will need to be legally taken, and is likely to shed more light on our still uncertain future.
The continuing informal voices from ordinary citizens regarding guarantees of the right to remain were strongly echoed and supported with official pressure this week.
The British Future think tank published its report, concluding that EU nationals already living in the UK at the point when Article 50 is triggered should be guaranteed the right to settle here permanently. The Inquiry’s report calls on the Government to make a clear public commitment that the 2.8 million Europeans in the UK can stay, and should be offered permanent residence with the same health, social and educational rights as British citizens.
After Article 50 is triggered, EU citizens could still move to the UK under free movement rules until we leave the EU – but their post-Brexit status would be dependent on whatever future arrangements the UK negotiates with the EU.
The Inquiry panel included voices from Leave and Remain, different political parties and from business and trade unions and was chaired by Gisela Stuart MP, former Chair of the Vote Leave campaign. Its remit was to examine how the Government can protect the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit and to make practical recommendations as to how to do this, starting from the premise that this is the right thing to do.
The Inquiry’s report also recommends major changes to the application process for permanent residence, which, it says, is onerous for the applicant and risks overwhelming the Home Office with one of the biggest single administrative tasks it has ever undertaken. At the 2015 rate of processing it would take 150 years to process the applications of all EU nationals currently in the UK.
In a separate grassroot initiative, forty Polish community leaders called on MPs to guarantee EU citizens their acquired rights after Brexit in a self-funded ad in in @theHouse_mag
They said the guarantee would be in the best interest of the United Kingdom and discourage further intimidation of migrant communities and hate crime, which has hit the record levels following the June referendum. In a strongly worded message, the community leaders wrote that a denial of such guarantees would be seen as betrayal of trust of the people who were encouraged to come to the UK, made Britain their home and contributed hugely to the economy.
Meanwhile, an upcoming legal challenge was announced to submit the Brexit processes review in the Irish High Court – a refreshing and most welcome reminder that there is more than one nation in this country, run by more than one capital’s powers.
There is also a new suggestion that the June 23 referendum result may have been influenced by foreign powers. A Labour MP has claimed that it is “highly probable” that Vladimir Putin’s Russia interfered in the UK’s Brexit vote.
Ben Bradshaw said Moscow’s likely interference in the vote would fit a pattern of meddling in other nations’ affairs, following the CIA’s accusation that Russian hackers tried to influence the recent US elections: “I don’t think we have even begun to wake up to what Russia is doing when it comes to cyber warfare. Not only their interference, now proven, in the American presidential campaign, [but] probably in our referendum last year. We don’t have the evidence for that yet. But I think it’s highly probable.” Even though denied by Downing Street, the idea certainly raises further questions and begs for an investigation and we will keep you posted.
Finally, today’s Guardian reports on Helena Kennedy QC suggestions for collecting together bills, rental or home ownership documents, employment paperwork, or evidence of appointments for those who do not have jobs. She chairs a Lords EU subcommittee that has just completed an investigation into the “acquired rights” of Europeans in the UK and Britons living in continental Europe. She warned of deep anxiety among EU citizens in the UK but also British nationals living on the continent.
After hearing from a series of experts, ambassadors from across Europe and Britons living overseas, the group will on Wednesday call for a unilateral undertaking to immediately guarantee to safeguard the rights of all EU nationals in the UK. Saying that Theresa May has a “heavy moral obligation” to make the first move, it also warns:
- Question marks over the rights of EU nationals to live in the UK “may be fuelling xenophobic sentiment”, as suggested by the Bulgarian ambassador.
- People living in the UK for more than five years may not be eligible for permanent residency because of the little-known requirement for students and non-workers to have private healthcare.
- Uncertainty is making Britain a less attractive destination, which could widen gaps in key parts of the labour market, including medical and financial services.
Whatever we may think of each of the individual developments mentioned above, we must agree that they show a strong tendency for undermining the official line of the PM and her government, on the basis of ethical, legal and human rights standpoint and research. We remain optimistic that we won’t be forced out of our homes and will continue to contribute to our chosen home country.
https://waitingfortax.com/2016/12/09/new-brexit-challenge-in-the-irish-high-court/ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/russian-interference-brexit-highly-probable-referendum-hacking-putin-a7472706.html https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/14/eu-citizens-collect-proof-of-living-in-uk-helena-kenney-qc-lords-brexit-reports
This week may be one of the most important ones for our situation since the referendum in June. Not only is the Supreme Court hearing the government’s appeal against the High court judgement, but also the Home Secretary Amber Rudd revealed her plans for those EU citizens who are currently living in the UK.
A historic Supreme Court case, in which all eleven judges are considering the government’s appeal regarding the use of the royal prerogative, will continue until Thursday and we will hear the verdict in January next year. If the government loses its appeal, it may file another one, ironically in the European Court of Justice, or alternatively accept that the whole Parliament will have a say on what happens with Brexit from now on, which is likely to slow down the process or might even stop it altogether.
In the meantime, during Home Office questions in the Commons, Ms Rudd said: “There will be a need to have some sort of documentation … but we are not going to set it out yet.
“We are going to do it in a phased approach, to ensure that we use all the technology advantages that we are increasingly able to harness, to ensure that all immigration is carefully handled.”
The opponents of the idea point to the high cost of the move, an estimated £100m, and the LibDems suggested the idea would require extra 3,000 Home Office staff.
The news comes after the latest migration figures showed that almost 100,000 EU citizens living in the UK have applied to the Home Office to secure their status in Britain. The surge in applications has meant that a backlog is rapidly building up in a system, which currently processes only 25,500 permanent residence applications a year.
Ms Rudd’s remarks suggest that once verified and documented, the EU citizens will be allowed to remain in the UK.
Yesterday, outside 10 Downing Street, a group of determined people stood in the cold with a mission: to deliver a message to their prime ministers. About to begin was a meeting of two PMs, Polish and British, and some of their cabinet members, with security and xenophobia on the agenda. Poland’s mission was to gain assurances of support in the face of recent mood in Kremlin, Britain’s to find an ally at the Brexit talks table.
Under the logo of A Million, that group of dedicated citizens, representing a number of organisations, living in the UK but still caring about their country of origin, stood patiently to get their chance to tell the national leaders that they are people, not bargaining chips. After Beata Szydlo had offered David Cameron to exchange certain rights of Poles in the UK for favours, the Polish immigrants’ confidence in her is low, and at this nerve wrecking period of uncertainty, it was particularly important for them to have a say.
The BBC News reported on the events of the day, giving a commentary on preparations to the politicians’ arrival and zooming in on the protesters’ banners. Across the road, a smaller group waved Polish flags but were ignored by the journalists and at the crucial moment of the officials’ arrival invisible to the VIPs too, their view blocked by a lorry. As it happened, A Million’s group were the only ones to remind the two governments about the duty to serve their nations.
Hailed as a successful event, a bilateral summit of Polish and British prime ministers and their cabinets, brought about little new. The 150 British troops to help protect Poland-Russia border had been promised before. There was general talk of business and education. Neither side agreed to definitely guarantee migrants’ rights on their respective territories. In spite of the Downing Street talk of “an excellent and historic first summit,” there is still work ahead of us.
In spite of political turmoil after the US elections, the most important events in the UK this week were the Remembrance celebrations.
On Friday I visited the Westminster Abbey Field of Remembrance. On a cold quiet evening I spent a while listening to a historian who told a story of Poles who fought in both world wars. Europe’s nations’ histories are intertwined, and the Polish-British relationship started well before the fathers of today’s European Union started shaping their dream.
After a series of bad decisions at the end of 18th century, Poland ceased to exist. Over a hundred years later, in 1914, Poles were incorporated into three conflicted WWI armies and tragically often fought against each other. It was only in 1918, when the three occupying powers crumbled, that Poland was reborn as an independent country, celebrating henceforth 11/11 as its Independence Day. Right from then, it had been developing a special bond with Britain.
In 1929, it opened its embassy in London, and a decade later, in May 1939, Britain gave Poland an unprecedented guarantee to support her ally, like it had supported Belgium in WWI, as PM Neville Chamberlain decided that after invading Czechoslovakia, Nazi Germany could not be allowed to threaten another country.
As M. Pruszewicz of BBC News puts it, “Britain hoped that would be enough – it was not. Germany attacked and defeated Poland in a few weeks. Britain declared war, but could not aid Poland.
“Poland’s defeat, followed by that of France, ensured that those Poles still able to fight found their way to Britain. Polish servicemen gained a reputation for bravery and ingenuity. One of the Polish squadrons in the RAF, 303 Squadron, recorded the highest number of kills of any squadron in the Battle of Britain.
“The first cipher crackers to break Germany’s Enigma code were not based in Bletchley Park but Warsaw. The Poles realised that mathematics held the key and made a vital disclosure of their working methods to the Allies at the start of the war.” They were only officially honoured in 2014.
There have been a number of waves of Polish immigration to Britain since the WWII, all of them related to political changes, including the most recent, and perhaps the most controversial one, following the expansion of the EU.
Standing with my Polish flag and a poppy on it, on the corner of Whitehall and King Charles Street, just meters from the Cenotaph, I experienced a wealth of impressions: how proud the veterans were to be there on the day, how many different people came and went, speaking languages I sometimes couldn’t even name, how much respect was shown from the crowds to those parading and how touching the whole ceremony was. I guided some lost Polish women, watched the Queen lay a wreath on a bystander’s smartphone, which she so kindly shared with me. But most poignantly, I saw Polish veterans march in the parade, on par with the British ones – an undeniable proof of how strong the bond between our nations truly is.
This week saw us shellshocked by a High Court decision. Three senior judges ruled that no other body than the Parliament has the power to make or unmake the law.
A storm followed, both in the media and among ordinary citizens. The government announced it would appeal from the court ruling, the Leavers question the judges’ abilities and Remainers’ hopes are rising. Commentators suggest that if the government wins its appeal, May’s Brexit timetable could be on track, however if a parliamentary vote is indeed required, the negotiations in the Commons and the Lords could extend for months.
For all the EU citizens this could mean a long time of still not knowing if we would eventually be allowed to stay and on what conditions.
We are a million.
According to many researches, over one million Poles live on the British Isles and Polish is the most popular foreign language. For years, the Poles have been considered hard working, honest people who are family oriented, look after their neighbours and have an innate need of order.
Since WWII, we have been a permanent element of the British society, respecting the traditions of the Crown, working towards the country’s economic and social growth and sharing our know-how, from the NHS to the London School of Economics, where our top economists, including former prime ministers, are lecturers, to top jobs in the City, the European capital of finance.
The voice of the British people on the country’s future is very important to us. Recent changes in the government, votes in the Parliament and a lack of countrywide consensus seems to reflect the views of not just the four nations, but also other inhabitants of the British Isles. As a significant group living here, we feel obliged to publish our opinions on the fate of what is also our home. We are sure of the need for a single voice expressing what we say in a million of our daily conversations with neighbours, both British and European, all of whom say it is high time to speak up.
This is why we are speaking up now. Not only in the name of a million Poles, but also the confused British and other European citizens. We all want the right to stay in our home, chosen with our hearts and the laws of which we have dutifully observed. We want to teach our children what poppies mean and why the Polish pilots gave their lives for Britain 70 years ago. We want to be heard.
We are a million. You will learn more about us soon.