Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Brexit: picking our battles

The question of who should oversee citizens rights in the context of Brexit is a vexed one. Superficially it is clear cut. Why should the EU enjoy imperial judicial influence over those who have opted to stay in the UK? It's not like the UK is a serial abuser of human rights - and even if we were this is still a matter of sovereignty. The US has no authority on US citizens living in the UK. Why should the EU?

The fact, though, that we have been a part of the EU does muddy the waters somewhat. To my mind the choice is stark. If you want the protections and rights of EU citizenship then the place for you is in the EU. The UK should take measures to facilitate that choice. I struggle to see any practical reason why the EU should extend its hegemony.

This though is a matter of doing the job properly. Why create unnecessary cliff edges and why shaft people when we don't have to? As far as phasing it out there needs to be an international element to the jurisprudence, as some people will be outside the jurisdiction of the UK courts - or will have no redress if the UK courts/government wrongly exclude them.

If that isn't the ECJ, we will have to go to the expense of creating a new panel - which will then adopt many of the ECJ judgements in conducting its proceedings - so for the sake of expediency we have to ask if it's worth all the hyperventilation. The ECJ in principle may be a bad thing but in practice it is not going to matter all that much for the purpose of Brexit.

It would seem that fetishising sovereignty on a self-expiring issue might well be an overreaction - especially if we wish to store up goodwill for the latter stages of negotiation. Again this is a question of picking our battles wisely - and the more important questions are still a way down the road.

If there is any reason to get worked up it is that the very concept of EU citizenship is the root of leaver objections to the EU. Many of us have no real issue with extensive economic integration but citizenship is basically a takeover of those functions best reserved for the nation state - and "social Europe" is very much a power grab in pursuit of a country called Europe. This is why I would pay almost any price to leave the EU.

We are, however, leaving the EU - and we do know that even if we retain a high degree of freedom of movement, EU citizenship is coming to an end - and that is no bad thing. The question, as ever, is whether we do it with a chainsaw or a scalpel. Do we hire the axeman or the surgeon? In respect I'm going to stick with my general rule - look at what the ultra Brexiteers want - then recommend the opposite.

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