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.


  1. It would seem they are still the'nasty' party.

  2. Nevertheless the status of what became Irish citizens still living in the rest of the UK at the time was astonishingly generous and civilised

    That's basically because the UK just decided to ignore Irish independence, and simply continue treating Ireland as if it was a part of the UK (hence the free movement area) and Irish citizens as if they were still citizens of the UK.

    It's a bit of a different situation when you are dealing with not with UK citizens who have suddenly decided to declare themselves foreigners, but with foreigners who moved to the UK.

    (For my part, I think that the situations of both EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU, should have been made secure long ago as part of a joint declaration between London and Brussels — and that the blame for this not happening, given it was explicitly offered by May's government, rests squarely on the shoulders of those in the EU who are taking a ridiculous 'no negotiations about anything until Article 50 notification is received' stance).

    1. You're right, this is a different situation. But whatever the motive the Irish settlement was more generous and humane than the present illiberal use of lives as bargaining chips.

      On your second point, this is yet another illustration of our selfish UK-centred approach to the EU: you expect them to bend the rules (in this case , I believe, rules written by a British civil servant) to accommodate our convenience rather then act according to them.

    2. I don't believe the rules actually forbid such a declaration of intent, do they? It's entirely Merkel's decision to interpret them that way. But perhaps you know the precise wording of the rules better than me.

      Anyway, this isn't about accommodating 'our convenience', it's about accommodating the many, many EU citizens in Britain and UK citizens in EU countries, who are currently living in uncertainty. Surely it's worth bending a rule, even if rules have to be bent, to give them security and clarity about their future?