The walled city state of London

I’ve been really puzzled by recent reports that the UK government is thinking about “making future payments worth several billion pounds to the EU to secure privileged access to the single market for City firms to continue trading across the continent.”

It’s all a bit vague, but as far as I know, the City of London depends on many parts of the Internal Market, such as financial passporting, the free movement of people (to allow key personel to move around the EU easily), the free movement of capital, and probably also being within the Customs Union. In other words, we’d probably be talking about something approaching full EU membership (albeit without voting rights) for the City of London – which is, of course, also why they’re expecting to pay a lot of money for it.

I can see several problems with it, however.

Firstly, I’m not entirely sure why the EU would agree to it. Most of the member states are probably already salivating at the thought of poaching valuable financial companies from London.

Secondly, I’m not entirely sure where they would draw the border. Many financial companies are located outwith the boundaries of the historical City of London, so surely they’d want to pick a larger area – perhaps even the entire Greater London area.

Thirdly, this only makes sense if the government is expecting the rest of the UK to be outside the Internal Market – otherwise there wouldn’t be any point in going through a lot of hassle setting this up. However, how is this going to work? If EU citizens can freely move to the City of London but need to go through passport controls to travel to the rest of the UK, how will this happen? Will the government build a wall around London?

I really cannot for the life of me see how this can possibly work. Are they perhaps just trying to calm down the City of London while they figure out how hard a Brexit they want?

The Red Tribe of Scotland

I thought I’d have a closer look at the four tribes of Scotland as described in my two earlier blog posts.

I defined the Red Tribe as being “made up of the 23% of voters who are pro-UK Brexiters [mnemonic: red as the cross on the English flag]”. Politically they’re probably most like to identify with the Tories or with UKIP.

From a pro-independence point of view, it’s the least interesting group because it’s so unlikely any of them can be convinced to support Scottish independence, especially when it comes with the prospect continued EU membership.

It’s worth noting that although they make up less than a quarter of Scottish voters, they have a majority south of the border (or at least they did at the time of the Brexit referendum). They also hold political power in the UK, and as the only tribe they have won two referendums in short order, which means they’re feeling confident and bullish.

And yet – they can also be angry and touchy, because they were in a minority for so long on the question of Brexit, and they’re fearful others will undo their achievements. Of course they hate the SNP leadership, who represents the polar opposite of their views.

The Red Tribe has won some temporary allies in the Yellow Tribe, who don’t really want a new independence referendum before Brexit is done and dusted, and their relationship with the Green Tribe is now rather uneasy, because these pro-UK Remainers can suddenly see the attraction of Scottish independence within the EU.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the Red Tribe decides to rebuild their relationship with the Green Tribe (for instance by opting for a softer Brexit) or whether they end up scaring them away by being far too extreme. Whether we get independence soon depends on the answer to this question.

Getting permanent residency as an EU citizen

I’ve been thinking about getting a leave-to-remain certificate and perhaps eventually a UK passport, but I’ve been put off by the paperwork (and the intrusiveness of some of the questions). I never actually worked out exactly what would be required and what it would cost, though. Fortunately, Olaya De la Iglesia (an EU citizen who’s married to a local and has kids with them, just like me) has done just that on Facebook:

The paperwork needed to get a permanent residence card.
The paperwork needed to get a permanent residence card.

So as an EU immigrant that has lived here for 16 years and is married to a Brit and has 2 British born children this is the amount of paperwork I have to provide to prove to the Home Office I have lived here for 5 years (nevermind the other 11!).

Some people are wondering why I am doing this. No, at this particular point I do not NEED to have this to stay here, but I have British children and I am worried of what is going to happen to us if I do not secure ‘right to remain’ before Brexit actually happens. Additionally if I become naturalised I get to vote in any future elections, and if we leave we have our options open to come back, for example to visit my husband’s family without the need for me to arrange extra paperwork because I am the only non-Brit…. hope that clarifies it.

This is to get a ‘residence certificate’, NOT an application of citizenship, and this step was introduced only in March 2016, prior to that you did not have to do this. I shall give you a list of the things I must send, they all have to be originals and cover the whole 5 year period.

  • Application form – 85 pages!!
  • Passport (current and any previous passports held)
  • Payslips
  • P60s
  • Employment contracts
  • Letters from employers confirming dates and wage
  • If self employed at any point bank statements
  • Proof of address – *at least* 2 documents for each year evenly spread throughout the year
  • Child benefit letters
  • Tax credit letters
  • Evidence of every trip abroad
  • Marriage certificate
  • Photos
  • Special delivery signed for self addressed envelope (if you want to ensure you get all this stuff back)

The kicker is I ALREADY DID ALL THIS IN 2004!! I have a residence permit that entitles me to indefinite right to remain, but apparently it is of no use now. I have to do this again… and after this I have to;

  • Do the ‘Life in the UK’ test – £50 + book £10
  • Apply for naturalisation – £1236 (+ £80 if you want to use the checking service)
  • Attend the citizenship ceremony – £80
  • Apply for a passport – £82.25
  • Add to that postage costs, time taken, possibly transport to council and checking offices…. Oh, and if you get naturalisation application wrong, they reject it, keep the £1.2k and don’t even have to tell you why it was rejected!

Someone might say they have tried to make this difficult… I wonder what you have to do if you have £5mil in the bank?

She’s also very helpfully has created a petition (although it’s currently getting checked).

I pointed out in my article on Bella straight after the referendum that the hassle associated with getting a leave-to-remain certificate was a major stress factor for EU nationals here, and that vague reassurances from the Scottish Government are less useful than getting some help with the process (given that Holyrood won’t be in charge of residency requirement till after independence).

Nothing happened, so I asked the same question in writing at Nicola Sturgeon’s meeting with EU nationals in Edinburgh. Here’s the answer I got:

You ask if the Scottish Government could establish a helpline or advice bureau to help EU citizens secure a right to reside. You will wish to note that the Scottish Government funds the provision of an Immigration and Visa Support Service (IVSS) through TalentScotland. The main focus of this service is on providing guidance, support and information on business immigration for Scottish based businesses and inward investors. In addition, their website also offers general information aimed at both EEA and non-EEA nationals.

The information provided by IVSS includes links to Home Office guidance about how EEA nationals can obtain residency documentation, permanent residency documentation and citizenship. This is available at:….

To be honest, I was rather underwhelmed by this answer. The problem is not finding the form you need to fill out, but getting help with the process. For instance, what to do if you – like me – haven’t kept a record of your trips abroad. Or getting your application pre-checked to ensure it doesn’t fail because of a typo.

Of course the very best solution (apart from Scottish independence happening before Brexit) would be for the UK government to issue permanent leave-to-remain certificates to all EU citizens who were resident here on the day of the Brexit referendum. If they’ve already realised they cannot chuck us out, I don’t see what they’d lose. Surely processing all these huge applications must be extremely time-consuming, and it’d be more rational to spend that time negotiating a better Brexit deal. Fortunately, some EU citizens have started lobbying MPs for this. Let’s hope they succeed.

Royal visits to cloud cuckoo land

Victoria, Bayswater, W2
Victoria, Bayswater, W2.
There’s a rather bizarre article in today’s Telegraph. I thought I’d give it a quick fisk for clarity’s sake:

The Duchess of Cambridge will become a “potent force” in Britain’s bridge-building with EU countries as Brexit looms, a former ambassador has said, as the Duchess prepares to visit the Netherlands this week. […] It is likely to be the first in a regular roster of royal visits to European countries by members of the Royal family as the Government deploys them to help “beef up” bilateral relations with individual EU member states.

OK, fair enough. I guess it’s a better use of her time than so many other things she does, although I’m somewhat sceptical how interested the Dutch public will be in a visit by the wife of a man who might one day be king. They’re probably more interested in their own Royal House.

The Netherlands is Britain’s third-biggest export market, after the US and Germany, accounting for seven per cent of all exported goods, or £27.7 billion. The UK imports £41 billion of goods from the Netherlands every year, making it the third-biggest importer after Germany and China.

Wow, that’s quite a trade deficit! I can see why it’d be useful for the British economy if we could export a bit more to them.

One recently-retired British ambassador, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The need for embassies to build bilateral relations has come back into play as a result of the Brexit vote. During our EU membership partners have been cultivated in Brussels by ministers, not in capital cities.

Odd. I wouldn’t have thought one needed to exclude the other. Has the membership of the EU perchance made the EU embassies a bit lazy?

“But that is changing and we need to start beefing up our bilateral relationships with EU countries. Those links need to become stronger and the Royal family is a very potent force in that exercise. “It would not surprise me if we see more trips to Europe by members of the Royal family because there are 27 countries and we will want to let them know that we haven’t left the scene.”

I really don’t get this. If the powers that be think that UK exports will increase after a visit by a member of the Royal Family, why on Earth haven’t they made them visit all EU states regularly for the past forty years? And if it’s been neglected because contacts between the relevant ministers of two countries are more useful than contacts between royals, shouldn’t the Prime Minister make her ministers travel the World non-stop rather than relying on the Countess of Strathearn?

Royal visits are undertaken at the request of the Foreign Office, following invitations from host countries for the Queen or other members of the Royal family to pay a visit. Strengthening trade links with countries such as India, China and countries in the Middle East is one of the stated goals of royal tours. Until now, there has been little need for visits to European countries because of Britain’s membership of the European single market.

So basically the EU ministers are now refusing to speak to their EU counterparts because they’ve annoyed them with their xenophobic Brexit nonsense, so the Foreign Office has decided to send in the royals instead? They must truly be desperate!

Commonwealth realms and member states receive far more visits, with European trips largely restricted to war commemoration events or other specific anniversaries. That may now change, however, as Britain contemplates the process of negotiating trade deals with every EU member state.

What!?!? Don’t Telegraph journalists have any clue how the European Union functions? No EU member state can make its own trade deals, so although the UK will be regain that power after Brexit, crucially all the other member states won’t, and any such deals will have to be made directly with Brussels.

So the visit by the Countess cannot possibly affect a trade deal between the UK and the Netherlands (because there won’t be one), and all she can do is to schmooze local business leaders and try to talk them into buying more innovative jam. I’m not saying that’s impossible, but she could have done that without Brexit.

If this paragraph is based on a briefing the journalist from The Telegraph got from the Foreign Office, it’s rather worrying, though. They should be aware that such trade deals won’t be possible, and it smacks of incompetence of the highest order if they think otherwise. They’re basically sending the royals out to visit cloud cuckoo land if that’s the remit they’re giving them.

The Green Tribe of Scotland

I thought I’d have a closer look at the four tribes of Scotland as described in my two earlier blog posts.

I defined the Green Tribe as being “home to the pro-EU unionists who were perfectly happy inside both unions (28% of voters) [mnemonic: green for hope, because they will hopefully vote Yes next time]”.

Members of the Green Tribe typically voted No to independence but Remain in the Brexit referendum. They also typically vote Lib Dem or Labour (or in some rarer cases Green or Tory). This means that most of them have been used to being in power for a while, and seeing the SNP take over in Scotland and then losing the Brexit referendum must have been a shock to many of them, which means they’re now angry and confused, in many cases even passive-aggressive.

The interesting thing about this Tribe is that it has just lost its ancestral land. The Brexit referendum was won by Leave, and there’s no signs that the UK as a whole will reverse that decision. As a result, they now have to choose between their two beloved unions, the British one and the European one. If they go for the former, they’ll effectively join the Red Tribe, and if they opt for the latter, they’ll become part of the Blue Tribe instead.

What we don’t know is how the Green Tribe will split. Those members who weren’t very strongly attached to the EU, perhaps only supporting it because the tribal elders told them to, will probably remain faithful to the UK and will thus become Reds. On the other hand, those who mainly supported the UK because they saw it as a vehicle for internationalism will soon realise that the Blue Tribe members tend to share their goals, perhaps helped by yesterday’s #WeAreScotland tweets.

Obviously joining the Blue Tribe is only attractive to Green Tribe members if they think it’s a safe way to escape the newly xenophobic rUK and remain within the EU. If a new independence referendum gets put on the back burner, there won’t be anything of interest for them to find in the Blue lands.

We independence supporters need to be very welcoming to Green Tribe members looking for a new home, and we need to stop ourselves for reminding them that “we told you so”, tempting as it is. They’ll bring a new perspective on things – for instance, they might be nostalgic for the liberal and internationalist UK of yesteryear, and waving Saltires might enthuse them less than other independence supporters – but I’m sure that’ll do us no harm.

If we manage to win over a significant proportion of the Green Tribe, we’ll win Indyref2 easily. If we don’t, it’ll be a sair fecht. That alone should be enough to convince everybody to welcome them with warmth and patience.

Get it done!

My goodness how the time has flewn!
My goodness how the time has flewn!.
I’ve been a bit frustrated with Robin McAlpine’s articles recently. He’s been pushing for Indyref2 to take place a few years after Brexit has happened – something which I think would be utterly disastrous for Scotland – but at the same time he’s been one of the few people offering concrete advice on how to get ready for it.

However, today he’s written an article that recommends holding the next independence referendum sooner that he used to be in favour of. He still wants to hold it later than I think is wise, but at least our views are converging.

Also, very importantly, he has some really important recommendations on what we need to do now:

There needs to be a serious research unit set up immediately. It needs to be staffed with people capable of commissioning and carrying out the policy research needed to create what I’ve called a ‘consolidated business plan for a new nation state’.

We need a detailed plan for establishing a currency, a central bank, a civil service, a constitution, an embassy network, a pensions and social security system, a national grid with energy supply regulations, a tax system, an army. […] [We] need detailed proposals. And we’ve got 18 months to get it done.

And we need a proper cross-party, all-movement campaign organisation. Its job is to get every indy campaigner in the country trained, developed and prepared for the most important campaign they’ll ever fight.

And its job is also to prepare a proper, professional campaign strategy using all the approaches and techniques which are available – and which are shown to be effective. We also need all this done in the next 18 months.

I totally agree with all of these recommendations. Crucially, they can be done without calling Indyref2. Given the horrendous, xenophobic Tory conference, no rational person can criticise Nicola Sturgeon for following these recommendations now, and she’s then in an excellent position to call the referendum in 2018 if that’s the only alternative left that will protect Scotland’s place in the World.

Let’s get it done!

I wish I had a time machine

Großmutter und Großvater
Großmutter und Großvater.
I’m half Danish, half German. I grew up in Denmark (before flitting to Scotland when I was 30), but of course I still identify as German, too.

My German grandparents were born in 1899 and 1900, so of course they remembered both World Wars equally well, and they obviously had vivid memories of raising their kids between and during the wars (they had thirteen weans, born between 1927 and 1944, and ten survived till adulthood).

They weren’t Nazis. They voted against Hitler at every opportunity, but given the number of kids they had, there was a limit to what they could do. Nevertheless, I believe they always felt guilty not to have done more.

While they were still alive, their memories of the interwar period seemed somewhat irrelevant to me, like it was ancient history without relevance to the modern world.

And yet, today I’m sitting here wishing for a time machine so that I could speak to them. The Tories’ hideous conference is making me want to discuss Hitler’s ascent to power with somebody who lived through those years. How certain have you got to be that what you’re seeing is beyond the pale before you act? What should you be looking out for? What would they have done differently with hindsight?

My great-grandparents lost their entire fortune during the German hyperinflation. My great-grandfather was a lad-o-pairts who had moved to Stuttgart as a teenager, got an apprenticeship as a baker and ended up owning one of Stuttgart’s largest and most central bakeries with lots of employees, but he and and my great-grandmother lost everything during the 1920s, and they had to move in with my grandparents. My dad remembers them as grumpy and disillusioned.

Given the way the pound is falling like a stone, I wouldn’t mind using my time machine to have a wee chat with them too about what to do when you live in an economic basket-case country.

Sadly, however, there are no time machines, and we have to use history books and our gut feelings to navigate these troubled waters. I guess that’s why history keeps repeating itself.