PM brave Brexit New World:Immigration Still Key


If you were pulling together a strong poker playing team you might want some like the Prime Minister Theresa May on your side: Strong, resolute and prepared to call the opponents bluff when the stakes couldn’t be higher.

That’s probably the way the vast majority of political commentators both and abroad viewed the 'New Iron lady''s speech yesterday outlining her 12 point Brexit plan. And I guess whether you were a Remainer or Brexiter, you’d be foolish not to wish her, almost ‘mission impossible’ well. Clearly there are certain goals from the 12 point plan that jump off the page and are easy to support namely:

  • Right to remain for Brits living in the EU and EU nationals in the UK
  • Protecting workers’ rights As EU law is translated into British law
  • Striking a “comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade deal with the EU

The trouble with this particular poker game is that there are multiple factors that are not in the UK’s favour.

Firstly, when everyone can see your cards, it’s difficult to bluff what you can’t hide. Secondly, it is one nation - or group of nations, the UK - against 27 others, and they all have to agree.

Thirdly, for the UK, immigration or restricting immigration has been and still is the number one Brexit driver. This aspect above is most diametrically opposed by the EU as a whole.

And lastly, an issue that cannot easily be squared is the fact that the remaining 27 countries cannot be seen to let the UK win this poker game. If the UK were seen to have won what incentive would it be, particularly for those countries where anti-foreigner sentiment is becoming the norm, to remain in the EU and play by its collective rules? Already the Prime Minister of Malta Josepth Muscat   has said:

"We want a fair deal for the United Kingdom. But that deal necessarily needs to be inferior to membership. This should not come as a surprise to anyone."

The weeks, months and possibly years are going to usher in great uncertainty. Furthermore, in a global political back drop of protectionist policies, - in no small measure driven by President-elect Trump - along with anti-foreigner sentiment, the future doesn’t bode well. In particularly, the transformation of anti-foreigner to the rabid xenophobia, the likes we witnessed during referendum occurs at lightning speed.

Finally, our own open poker hand must, like the PM’s, be resolute in regards to the areas we care about; not just workers rights, but race equality rights, and many would like to see the UK striking a comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade deal with the continents of Africa, the Caribbean and the Asian Sub-continent.

Now that would be progress.

Simon Woolley