What the Immigration Proposal Leak Tells Us

Passport control at Heathrow. (C) Dannyman on Flickr under CC 2.0.

Whoever leaked the government’s outline plans for post-Brexit immigration arrangements yesterday has told us one thing – that the infighting at the top ranks of the Conservative Party is vicious and will be ongoing for the foreseeable.

The papers could only have been leaked on instructions from the very top of the government. Those at both ends of the government’s internal debate on Brexit might have motives for doing so, but more of that in a moment.

A flexible negotiating position, as David Davis would describe his stance, could be a sensible strategy if he was negotiating only with Michel Barnier. The problem is that he is negotiating with a number of other actors, and those with most power to shift his position are in London, not on the continent. To be precise, he is negotiating with the Prime Minister, with the Cabinet as a whole, and with parliament. To make it even more complex, in negotiating with parliament, he must deal not only with his own back benches but at the very least with the DUP, and if things get messy possibly with the small but crucial phalanx of staunchly leave Labour MPs. It’s enough turbulence to make Maverick from Top Gun bring up his breakfast.

The leaking and backbiting won’t stop. The perception is still that Theresa May is a caretaker Prime Minister, and of course a lot of her colleagues covet her job. As Matthew d’Ancona notes, the Conservatives seem completely consumed by the internal power balance and the succession, oblivious to the possibility that a political asteroid might banish them from power for a generation.

As for the policy papers themselves: what we’ve seen look like they come straight from the Prime Minister herself, possibly with Nick Timothy still advising by telephone.

Wherever they’ve come from, if they survive in this form, with the hardest possible treatment of EU citizens (the family reunion proposals are brutal) they make it very difficult for a sensible transition arrangement to be negotiated. Remember that the EU27 governments are going to need to sign off on any final deal: how will this play in Warsaw, Madrid or Vilnius?

So who leaked them? It could be anyone. For the soft Brexit/continuity Remain faction, this has brought British business, small and large, pronouncing them as doom for the British economy. For care homes, farms, and warehouses, these proposals would make recruitment very difficult. Those wishing a more generous post-Brexit mutual immigration arrangement with the EU would certainly have motive in having these proposals derailed before they become a fixed position. Leaking them to The Guardian ensured the first commentary heard on them was a negative one from business and migrant representative organisations.

But leaking might also suit the really hard Brexiteers. Underneath the press conference bluster, David Davis had a point when he said that Michel Barnier was exaggerating how badly the last round of negotiations had gone, especially at the level of officials, far from the media spotlight. One could certainly see a path towards a transition of some years and eventual EEA-lite status from the initial UK position papers. This will harden attitudes across the continent, especially in the East and South, making eventual compromise harder to attain; for those who want Brexit to mean a complete reorientation of the UK away from its contintental neighbours, that would be ideal. Leaking them to The Guardian would make an angry Prime Minister (if she is angry) focus her search for perpetrators elsewhere.

Finally, if you’ve read this far, do consider reading Faisal Islam’s long read piece on the Sky News website. Whatever your position on Brexit, it is the clearest and most comprehensive analysis of the current state of play I’ve seen.

  • Oggins

    Firstly you applied some to his point? Can you explain why? Can you explain why you tried to defend it or insert some into the point? Hmm? Nope.

    I find it funny you asking me to quote someone correctly when you inserted words into his argument, at least my was on point. Yours was made up!!

    He never tried to define a sect, he labelled and implied that all African and Islamic as hostile and violent. Didn’t define any particular group. It is like saying everyone born in Ireland is Irish ?

    In terms of explaining it is defined in the definitions or racism above. The quote in relation to haven’t a leg to stand on as you have provided no proof that it isn’t racist. You in fact have tried to insert words to make it so…

    In terms of agreeing, your spending a lot of time defending badly explained points.

    FYI not a republican, Irish nationalist yep, Irish republican no.

    I will let you get back to you YouTube links of councilor Bunting and Britain First, as this seems to be your level of thinking.

    Jamesy mate, wee tip. Actually read what is posted and don’t try to defend the indefensible. Pause before you type, let it filter, because so far dude, you haven’t proven his comments were not racist, whilst I have.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Absolutely not, I get you are from the Mainland and are a Unionist and so do not care about the border region and the multiple crossings as someone that lives there, but there is no easy way out of this for anyone.

    The British government and the DUP have been lying through their teeth about the technology, like all other things Brexit. They don’t have any and it will not work. Similarly as they lie about controlling migration.
    Eventually they will aggressively impose something that works for Britain and namely England, rather than the United Kingdom.

    They have lit a power keg of social tension within Ireland regardless of what they do, whether it’s a hard border with checks or some sort of customs cold war stand off.

    When Northern Ireland comes between a Rich Tory or DUPer and his or her money, the money sadly always comes first.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Where are these going to be put?

  • ted hagan

    Brexit scandal/ Interesting Paisley jnr story breaking about alleged cash for trade deal.

  • ted hagan

    Great Britain is the so-called ‘mainland’

  • Gavin Crowley

    They are proposing that the checks on inbound EU citizens by the Republic will meet their security needs and that no subsequent checks will, in theory, be needed within the CTA. Similarily a Chinese visitor can, in theory, wander within the CTA without passport checks.
    ‘Random’ checks and workplace controls are intended to supplement the system.
    It relies on ‘trust’ (which you can read as a threat to end the CTA if Ireland doesn’t walk in lock step).
    One obvious flaw is that they won’t need a passport to get into the CTA through Ireland, and could be accidentally in breach of the requirement to have a passport while in the UK.

  • hgreen

    “The phrase “virtue signalling” is a slur and it is everywhere; it is part of the Trumpian scream. Empathy, fellowship, society, love? To the critic of the “virtue signaller”, they are all vanity, whether online, at a protest or at the ballot box.”

  • james

    ‘Jamesy mate, wee tip.”

    Thank you.

    “Actually read what is posted”

    Always do.

    ” and don’t try to defend the indefensible.”

    Never have.

    “Pause before you type, let it filter”

    Should be careful also not to accord too too much weight to this sort of thing

    “because so far dude, you haven’t proven his comments were not racist, whilst I have.”

    Well, you’re half right. I think you have indeed proved, as you (incongruously) boast, that his comments were not racist.

  • Devil Éire

    The use of Britain to refer only to Great Britain is also mainstream, and not confined to Ireland, as evidenced by its usage by the UK national airline. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d0cc5ab30707d5384701f9e6b32a342be93c6600826a680228c267efb1729936.jpg

  • Zorin001

    When you start playing with the big boys the media glare suddenly becomes a lot, lot stronger.

  • Sean Danaher

    Thanks Ted. Two 5* holidays in Sri Lanka. Possibly he has developed an interest in Buddhism?

  • Oggins

    Thanks, think I did within the definition. Your tried to defend it by putting words into the sentence…

    So keep on trying

  • Nevin

    ” it is the clearest and most comprehensive analysis of the current state of play I’ve seen.”

    Yet there’s virtually no coverage of the EU direction of travel, EU turbulence, key players and the impact of the interventions by various EU protagonists. In other words, there’s almost a complete absence of context for the various game plays by pro-remain, pro-leave and neutral players.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Nothing on Slugger on yesterday’s statement from Barnier that UK has it all wrong, NI will have special arrangements etc? I was hoping to comment 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman
  • MainlandUlsterman


  • MainlandUlsterman

    On the Norway-Sweden border though, that seems to work in a friendly enough way, despite being an EU border. Both are in Schengen which helps I suppose, but I gather it worked more or less OK also when they weren’t. Given that there has to be an EU border on the island now we’re leaving the EU, wouldn’t achieving something like between Norway and Sweden be a decent result?

  • Kevin Breslin

    It had 40 years to develop, and not 200 road crossing to close.

    What existed prior to the joint membership of the European Economic Community was nasty and bitter.

    There isn’t going to be any decency about the Irish border … even the Leave Liars know they’ve put it in jeopardy through their ignorance.


    It’s going to get heated and its going to get nasty and there won’t be any Whitehall handwaves to ease the tension.

    This is a shambolic mess that is going to hurt real people’s lives in the border regions I grew up in. All because some English people think British workers are paid too much and they want cheaper New Zealand lamb.

    There is no political appetite for a Norway-Sweden like border, but in the name of the divergent sovereignty of the two nations on this island for all practical purposes, those who support the union are going to have to change that, and frankly I cannot see them doing so.

    The Union doesn’t make Northern Ireland anywhere near as British as the “Mainland” and the border does nothing to stop the place being closer to the Irish people culturally and economically.

    Being a British funded and controlled part of Ireland isn’t exactly stimulating entrepreneurship we’ve seen South of the border, and less so with Brexit closing doors.

    It’s only right unionists have to ask the question as to why they want the border there in 2017 … it’s not so that people in Northern Ireland can remain closer to the British in GB in my opinion.

    This border baggage comes with the Union to an English first Brexit attached.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Dublin I guess, as you still do passport checks when going to other EU countries. Like now, people are then free to travel without checks into N Ireland overland but would be checked if at an air or sea port. So maybe at Glasgow if flying there. So it’s messy and inconsistent now and would continue to be messy and inconsistent, depending on mode of travel.

    I think what we might end up with is free movement of EU citizens into the UK as before, but checks before collecting benefits and taking up a job. It’s not like travel into the UK is going to be stopped or limited in any way. What will be limited is the right to stay and work and claim benefits. If people want to stay without work and with no rights to benefits or any income, they will run of out of money. I don’t see a huge issue arising with large numbers of people coming to Britain without the ability to make any money or survive, as long as enough is invested in policing black markets in illegal labour. Potentially that could need a lot of beefing up.

    If people of independent means want to come here and spend their money then let them, that’s more tax income for us.

    What I wonder though is whether perhaps this leads us down an ID card path. I am not averse to that, plenty of countries have it. I know freakazoid right wing libertarians object for some theoretical reason. But ID cards might make the administration of work and benefits a bit easier.

    As for north-south stuff in Ireland, I think there will be common sense applied. If we start to see lots of migrants coming through the Republic into NI to get into mainland UK without passport checks, which I guess is the main issue, it may be we need some extra checks on flights and ferries into mainland UK from NI, perhaps with fast track queues for UK and Irish citizens so we don’t get inconvenienced by it. Play it by ear, that may not be necessary. But personally I have no issue showing ID for airport or ferry travel, indeed it worries me if none is asked for. Again, having national ID cards might make this less controversial, as showing a passport is a symbolic thing for some people that they object to.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    also I’m not “from the mainand”, I’m from Northern Ireland. I live in mainland UK now. And as an Ulsterman I do care about N Ireland. I wouldn’t be on the site as much as I am unless I took something of an interest. Of course I accept as someone not living there now, I get no vote and so on. This is a news and comment site though and I may still have insights and analysis worth sharing. Take it or leave it. At least I make it clear on the label where I’m coming from.

  • Get The Grade Get The Grade

    I think there has been a very deliberate conflation of the terms “UK”, “Britain” and “England” over the years. Go around the world and people will still refer to the UK or Britain as “England”, for example. I guess that is what happens when you are in a small political union dominated by one nation.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    They could have signs and ads around Belfast and the major ports for people outgoing saying in several languages something like: “Not from the UK or Ireland and got here without a passport? You will need one for onward travel elsewhere in the UK. If you travel to mainland UK without a passport you will be committing an offence and may be arrested and/or deported immediately upon discovery. Please enquire at your country’s consulate in Belfast or embassy in Dublin for further information.”

  • Get The Grade Get The Grade
  • Get The Grade Get The Grade
  • Get The Grade Get The Grade
  • Kevin Breslin

    Well try going to the border regions and ask the denizens of these areas personally … they are nothing more than little people who are expected to be the martyrs of Brexiteer greed.

    Westminster, the DUP and to a lesser extent Sinn Féin are trying to create a democratic deficit for their own short-termist point of views.

    The Irish government somewhat surprisingly has shown the most initiative out of anyone here. Starting with the All Ireland Civic Discussion on Brexit, a Conversation I’d argue the “United” Kingdom needs if it still wants to have the nerve to call itself United.

    Frankly it sickens me that border denizens are being reduced down to being puppets for these agendas. It will be a recipe for public outcry.

    People across Ulster from Donegal to East Belfast and North Down, have shown their capacity to say NO when they need to raise their voice against politicians who feel their votes are easy won.

    People before Parties.

    The Good Friday Agreement was based on the principle of It’s Your Decision, sadly when it comes to Brexit in Northern Ireland, I find myself agreeing with Martina Anderson on political concent and by-in for the 6 counties … “Britannia waves the Rules”

  • Get The Grade Get The Grade
  • Get The Grade Get The Grade
  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m not trying to belittle your contribution in the slightest … it’s just this issue is a lot more sensitive for those who live outside the Belfast/Antrim bubble, Lough Neagh ring, that is not positioned directly near the border. Many of us, even border unionists like Robbie Butler and Doug Beattie are very vocal about their concerns on this.

    It’s no personal slight at you, this is all on me.

    It will become a concerning matter for the UK too, but only because it’s being run by a government of low standards, who think comprehensive free trade deals can be done and I will paraphrase here “chatting over coffee”.

  • Devil Éire

    Britain can mean the UK and frequently does.

    Yes, but you’ll have to work harder to back up your claim that it’s mainly in Ireland that it’s used to refer only to Great Britain.

  • Tochais Siorai

    I think you might have fallen into the SF trap, james when you talk about Irish republicans on Slugger.

    Myself, I’d take a fairly wide definition – I’d see the vast majority of IRs as being well outside the fold of the ‘Republican Movement.’

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that wasn’t the main point of my comment, that was obiter dictum. What I meant was it’s used a lot more that way in Ireland than is usually the case. In Ireland, Britain usually means the other island and rarely the UK. Not so much elsewhere. But it’s a question of observed usage, impossible to prove definitively.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I share your concerns Kevin, for what it’s worth!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Isn’t it talking about the UK there?!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    what point are you trying to make though? You have just posted a lot of cartoons and graphics which leave NI out of the UK map. So what? We know people frequently do that. It’s annoying and sloppy but how is it germane to the point I was making?

    Also, your examples have a few different things going on:
    – In your 1st, 4th and 5th examples, it’s just lazy drawing. The cartoons seem to refer to the whole UK and they just didn’t bother drawing NI
    – In your 2nd example, you show a headline about Brexit that refer to the UK as Britain, which I think isn’t what you were trying to portray.
    – in your 3rd example, it’s a map of the Tour of Britain cycle race, which shows the route of it, which is all in England, Scotland and Wales. Which is why the map only shows the main island. The Tour of Britain is not obliged to cover all parts of the country any more than the Olympic badminton team is obliged to have a player from NI in it before calling itself a British team.

  • Devil Éire

    I see. A throwaway remark with nothing to back it up. Carry on.

  • Get The Grade Get The Grade

    “In Ireland, Britain usually means the other island and rarely the UK. Not so much elsewhere.”

    The cartoons here are taken from British and European media outlets. In most places outside of Britain one finds “Britain” does indeed mean the “UK” (so I agree with you there) – but the interesting thing is that in those places “UK” and “Britain” are viewed as one island (you are underestimating the intelligence of satirists if you think they are being lazy!) this is a viewpoint that mirrors the Irish distinction of “Britain” being the neighbouring island alone.

    For what it’s worth, the German nickname for the British is “Inselaffe” – translated into English as “island monkey” and their nickname for England/Britain/UK is “The Island”.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    in both Germany and France they commonly call the UK “England”

  • Sub

    Nothing also on the Lead story on last nights local news

  • Barneyt

    What is now the UK was originally called Britain, but the use of Britain to denote the UK jurisdiction as it stands today ceased in 1945. I am going to go along with laziness and perhaps add a little bit of ignorance. It should be team UK and not team GB, Ukexit and not Brexit. I just feel if you (London) cause so much trouble in maintaining a jurisdiction give it its rightful name.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that’s not how language works, Barney. What people actually say kind of is the language. I’ve shown many examples of the usage of Britain to mean UK, so this is really a non-debate as far as I’m concerned.