… in the best of all possible worlds” (Voltaire, Candide)
AS THE Brexiteers ramp up their obsession with “Project Fear” so they expect us to overlook their own Panglossian equivalent: Operation Comfort Blanket.
With Captain Bernard Jenkin in command yesterday they enlisted the aid of the most unlikely attack dog yet released, Telegraph columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer, to yap at the ankles of the unfortunate French economy minister Emmanuel Macon whose only sin was to remind anyone who cares to listen — which does not include the Leavers — that there is no guarantee that France will continue to co-operate with the UK when it comes to having several thousand illegal wannabe immigrants taking up space, time and public money disrupting Channel traffic.
Jenkin of course doesn’t want to hear this; it is of the essence of Operation Comfort Blanket that we all must believe that Brexit will mean a return to the England of warm beer and John Major’s dream of little old ladies cycling to Evensong.
A bit like St Mary Mead without the murders.
“Nothing very much will change,” is the soothing message, “you have nothing to fear from leaving. Bluebirds will sing again over the white cliffs of Dover tomorrow. Just you wait and see.”
Since this is dangerous nonsense let us unpick it carefully.
To begin with a lot of the sub-text of the Leavers is to do with immigration. It’s the pea under the thimble, you might say. When you’re looking at this you’re not paying attention to the other things they are saying. Or not saying.
Because in reality, Cash and Fox and Lawson and Johnson and Farage (perhaps not Farage who is out of his depth in such company) aren’t really all that much exercised about immigration; they are much more interested in a vague concept that they call “sovereignty” but since most of the sheeple don’t really understand that concept and are not all that concerned about it anyway what is needed is something they do understand and “immigraion” seems to be what they are unhappy with.
So if we can convince them that GB can “regain” control of its borders we can keep Johnny Foreigner out and all will be well again. Patriotism is the watchword! The last refuge of a scoundrel, according to Samuel Johnson who knew a thing or two about human nature.
The argument falls down on several fronts:
1 As an island and a country not subject to the Schengen agreement GB already has control of its own borders. It also has, for reasons which should be clear even to the modern breed of Conservative backbencher though perhaps not to a Telegraph columnist, a vested interest in securing the EU’s external borders, something it can do a lot better inside the EU than outside.
2 While it is true that the Le Touquet agreement is a bilateral arrangement between the UK and France (as far as Eurostar is concerned it now includes Belgium) and is nothing directly to do with the EU, it is an agreement between two EU member states. What would happen in the event that one of those states ceased to be a EU member is anyone’s guess. But M Macon has suggested one possibility!
3 The Leavers are applying Operation Comfort Blanket and guessing that everything would carry on unchanged. The French in the form of M Macon (and to an extent François Hollande who has been making vague noises about “consequences” without being any more specific) are saying possibly not and there are very good reasons, which the Leavers are not bothering to point out, why France might well wish to re-establish the security of what has suddenly become an EU external border.
Why would the French choose to end the Le Touquet agreement? For a start, what’s in it for them? The situation at Calais is an expensive nuisance and an embarrassment. The people of Nord-Pas de Calais would dearly love to see the back of the whole lot of them. If they want to go and make a mess of Britain then let them. And so on.
Then there is the situation as described above. The Channel ports would no longer be simply stopping points between two EU member states. France’s responsibility for frontier security is increased since the Channel now represents an EU external border. Any joint responsibility for its security has ceased. It may be that France and GB have a joint interest in maintaining security but that interest is no longer underpinned by joint membership of the EU. The music has changed. We’re into a different dance.
But in any event this is smoke and mirrors since those who are arguing for Brexit on the grounds of immigration have still not thought their argument through.
Population statistics are easy to find but not always easy to analyse so rather than fill the page with reams of numbers I suggest you look at the government’s own figures.
The point at issue is what happens to population movement in the event of Brexit and there are so many combinations and permutations that the number of possibly answers is considerable.
Let us look at just a few of the variables:
GB rapidly agrees a deal to remain in the EEA — this will mean (at least to an extent) freedom of movement though may provide Cameron with the ability to discriminate against foreign workers. If you are happy with GB discriminating in this fashion try getting a job in Qatar building their World Cup stadia and see how you like it.
GB decides that freedom of movement is a no-no — forget EEA membership.
In the latter case, what happens next? Are we going to deport all the EU nationals currently (legally) resident and/or employed in GB? Are we read for the influx of British ex-pats kicked out of France and Spain?
In this scenario, all EU citizens have become aliens. Is this going to stop Eastern Europeans from attempting to get into Britain thereby swelling the number of illegals in GB?
And what about those illegals anyway? If France kicks them all across the Channel what are the prospects (realistically) of booting them all back to France? Remember the ‘Jungle’ is not full of Bulgarians; it is full of Syrians and Somalis and Sudanese and a dozen other nationalities from all parts of the alphabet who, like Dick Whittington, think the streets of London are paved with gold (though they would probably settle for them not being open sewers knee-deep in camel dung).
And if we really, really “regain control of our borders” (pardon my mirth) can we afford the Border Guards we would need to patrol the coast from The Wash to The Lizard to stop the people smugglers from landing them there?
And all this for what? The Leavers’ dream is a potential nightmare. It’s not a question of “can Britain go it alone?” It’s a question of “what does Britain gain by going it alone?” A spurious excuse for some form of “sovereignty”, as if GB wasn’t a sovereign country already with the right to make her own laws and argue the case for subsidiarity and greater democracy in the EU where she would be looked up to by most of Europe instead of looked down on as a whingeing nuisance.
Cameron has no need of a “Project Fear”. The Leavers are ‘frit’ enough without any help from him!