Thursday, 2 March 2017
EU Aliens:foreign nationals in the UK - we did better 100 years ago.
Nearly 100 yeas ago (in 1922 to be exact, as a result of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921) the Irish Free State "exited" the United Kingdom. Compared with the legalistic shenanigans of the UK's departure from the EU, the Irish exit was achieved only after a bloody and murderous struggle, which in some ways still continues.
Nevertheless the status of what became Irish citizens still living in the rest of the UK at the time was astonishingly generous and civilised. They were and are welcome to stay, or go and come back, or bring out their relatives. Anyone still living in the Free State who wanted to come was welcome to do so, and still is. Not only that, but they could and still can vote in both local and parliamentary elections, and as far as I know enjoyed and still enjoy all rights of citizenship.
It is worth remembering that this generous and humane settlement was made at a time when many aspects of UK society were far from liberal. Murderers could be hanged, prisoners subjected to hard labour, youths could be birched, male homosexual activity was illegal and "offenders" could be castrated, women had only just received the right to vote, but not until why were thirty (the male age was 21)
Given our now more enlightened age, the government's ploy to use the the security of EU nationals of countries living in the UK as a bargaining counter is mean and petty.
It was a younger Theresa May who in 2002 spoke of the Tories as the "nasty party." Her determination to reverse the House of Lords' resolve to secure the rights of EU citizens already here and so maintain the liberal tradition exemplified by the Irish settlement, is nasty , illiberal and distasteful. Our government puts us to shame.