Let us begin by admitting that there is no way the British public can be denied of some sort of Brexit. Too much of emotional capital has been spent on this subject, and there is a lot of fatigue. So lets set about figuring out what sort of Brexit is possible.
Let us also concede that there is no way any solution will be better than what we have. Calling a second Referendum violates a basic rule of fair play – and the British people are conscious of this given that it is a sport-mad nation – there are no takesy-backsies. You cannot rerun the game until you get the result you want.
I will allow myself a few assumptions here:
1) Article 50 is postponed to a later date. This removes the severe time pressure that the country is under. This could be triggered either by a Prime Minister suddenly come to her senses, or by Act of Parliament (such as the Private Member’s bill under discussion) or could be offered by the EU.
2) There is a new leader in charge of the discussions. Mrs May is discredited not for losing the vote, but because her stubborn-ness, unwillingness to compromise and lack of imagination have burnt her with the EU.
3) We assume that the EU, also, puts someone else in charge other than Michel Barnier (who is similarly discredited in the UK) and the Germans take a lead in the negotiations with the consent of the EU. Not directly but indirectly. This could become Angela Merkel’s project.
The first thing to concede is that Freedom of Movement must end – but not in the ham-handed way the Tories proposed. Any restoration of FOM is a red rag to the English right wing. But there are intelligent ways to temper it.
To start with, all the cack-handed mechanisms proposed by the Tories must end. The toxic language has to go.
1) All EU nationals currently in the UK can opt for British nationality if they wish, but failing which they have Indefinite Right to Remain. No ifs no buts, no cack-handed Home Office mandarins asking questions. They just have to show who they are, where they live and what they are up to. A simple one-page form will do.
2) With this offer, the EU will allow all current UK residents in the EU the same right to remain indefinitely and the same right to citizenship. This removes a very sore point in the Brexit negotiations today.
3) Any EU national can visit the UK visa-free for as many days as he/she likes. With this the EU should offer the same rights to citizens of the UK. This will satisfy the Benidorm mob who would otherwise have to pay 14 quid for a visa.
4) Any EU national can apply to work in the UK via a simple one-page work application process backed by a UK employer. It could be any job – picking apples in Norfolk, packing crates for Waitrose, a barista in Pret, or a banker in the City. There should be no income barrier, no educational barrier, no skills barrier. The point is, unless there is paid work, no one can establish residence in the UK. The EU should reciprocate with a similar set up for British nationals.
5) Britain continues to be part of the Erasmus program, the various scientific collaborations, the various joint EU projects (like Galileo), and other initiatives. We secure this right through budgetary contributions. More on this later. Doing so ensures that universities and students can continue to develop their skills and carry on research. Movement of students under this program to be tracked through the one-page application process (which should get approved in hours).
6) Intra-company transfers of people are automatically approved. Some element of trust is necessary. This is a protocol the EU and the UK must sign up to. This ensures that companies can hire and deploy people freely.
7) Any UK national can go and live in a EU country as a permanent resident subject to completion of a one page form that includes proof of income, and the same right is available to the EU. This ensures that the English pensioner can go live in Spain if he wants to. Note that these people contribute to the local economy and in my personal experience, play a very positive role there. If the Spanish chase them them out, it would be entirely their loss.
The net result of all of the above is that the right to unimpeded freedom is ended but replaced with a simple, benevolent but trackable system of people movement. The operative word is benevolent – and this is why Theresa May, Sajid Javid and others at the Home Office should be told to stay as far away from it as possible.
In my view, Britain cannot do without migration and migrants. Brexiters want that limited. But the way the Conservatives have gone about it has poisoned the atmosphere. Their ‘Bloody Foreigner’ approach has unleashed some very unpleasant forces into the mainstream – swivel-eyed loonies, racists and bigots all of whom lurk in every society.
In the Labour Party, other than the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, almost every one of the closet Marxists controlling the party believe in nonsense like the lump of labour theory. Or that if immigration controls wages then incomes will rise in the UK. These self-serving idiots should perhaps seek employment in the Democratic Republic of North Korea to ply their trade. There is a great shortage of Behavioral Economics wisdom in British politics.