Opinion: People should not be pawns in the Brexit dance

Original article written by Stephen Fear for the Bristol Post on 5th April 2017 (also featured on SouthWestBusiness.co.uk on 8th April 2017):

IT seems to me that the British Government is getting all the blame for not coming out early and guaranteeing residency for immigrants already living in the UK. But surely this is a two-way street?

In my opinion, both the European Union and the British Government should act together right now in declaring that this is a given. It is totally unfair on all European people to do otherwise.

People should not be used as pawns in a political war dance over Brexit.

Many British pensioners are seeing out their twilight years in places like France, Portugal and Spain, most are self-sufficient and add considerably to the character and economies of the countries they now call home, just like the many Polish, Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants in the United Kingdom.

It isn’t just for the British Government to go solo on this issue. It is something that the remaining 27 EU nations need to agree and act on, too. So please, Mrs May and Mr Tusk, stop dancing around this issue and agree now to take it off the agenda by declaring it done. Do the right thing and agree right now that all existing residents, in whatever EU nation they now live, can remain indefinitely. Go even further and give them nationality of that nation if they want it. That’s the only right and democratic thing to do.

I have many friends throughout Europe, some of whom are MEPs from different member states, and all that I have spoken with about this issue agree that people should not be used as bargaining chips under any circumstances.

What will Brexit hold in store for the countries of Europe? Well, everyone has an opinion on this but most seem to be unsure. According to a recent poll, about one third think it’s great, one third think it’s catastrophic and one third are bewildered. I don’t know which camp you are in but I reckon most people are bewildered.

Personally, I think there are some quite big unknowns that may yet come into play and be serious game changers. The possible election of Marine Le Pen in France would be one. She would almost certainly call a referendum asking the country to leave. Another is the possible collapse of a major European bank. This may not be as unlikely as you think and would cause the EU to go into a tailspin. It is entirely possible that a major bank may fail in Spain or Portugal as neither country has fully recovered from the financial collapse of a decade or so ago. If this were to happen, there would be a very real pressure on Germany and, with the German federal election coming up in September, would give rise to calls there for a referendum to leave also. We have the Italian election due before May 2018, which is yet another added pressure on an already fractured alliance.

We live in a changing and uncertain world, that’s for sure.

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