Category Archives: Brexit

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.

Abandon ship!

Sunrise Orient wreck
Sunrise Orient wreck.
Do you remember when the Coalition government got into power in 2010 and introduced austerity because the UK’s finances apparently were so dire that foreign investors would pull out their money if nothing was done? There was some truth in that, but of course the Tories only made things worse by taking money away from poor people (who would have spent it) and giving it to the rich (who didn’t do much with it), so the deficit has continued to rise.

I’m mentioning this because the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has now abandoned Osborne’s fiscal rules because Brexit is forcing him to do so. This means that the deficit is likely to rise dramatically soon, but without seeing the improvements that borrowing to invest could have led to without Brexit.

The pound is already falling like a stone, but once the financial markets fully realise that the UK is heading for a hard Brexit (and Theresa May was very clear about this on Sunday, as I’ve discussed before), and once they’ve factored it this ballooning deficit, it’s likely to fall even faster.

I’m also very concerned that the Treasury seems to be contemplating to pay compensation to companies for losses caused by Brexit if they remain here. On the one hand they have to do so to prevent all exporting companies from leaving before March 2019, but on the other hand the money for doing so can only come from printing even more money, which isn’t going to be good for the exchange rate.

Of course the pound will stabilise at some point, but it can fall a lot before that happens, and there won’t be many well-paid jobs left at the end of it.

GDP of ArgentinaPerhaps things won’t be that bad, but I’m starting to think the UK could go the way of Argentina, which over a hundred years fell from being on the same level as Germany or France, to a point where their GDP per capita is less than 30% of the USA’s (see the adjacent graph).

Unless the majority of non-Brexiteers in the House of Commons get their act together and kick out this mad government before it’s too late, Scotland has to get off this sinking ship fast or we’ll get dragged down with it.

The Blue 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 Blue Tribe as “the 33% of voters who want Scotland to be an independent country inside the EU [mnemonic: blue as the Saltire and the EU flag]”.

The Blue Tribe of Scotland encompasses a spectrum of people, ranging from people who’re closer to the Yellow Tribe and are relatively happy to put up with an independent Scotland being outside the EU so long as we get independence, to people who’re closer to the Green Tribe and only want to see Scottish independence within Europe, not without.

The Blue Tribe is the only one of the four tribes that has lost two referendums in short order, first the Indyref and then the Brexit vote. As a result, many of its members are getting a bit paranoid and are wanting to play it safe, calling Indyref2 only when victory is practically ensured. Although I’m a Blue myself, I do wonder whether this ultra-cautious approach is going to cause us to miss the boat by delaying the next independence referendum for too long.

Both the SNP and the Green Party are dominated by the Blue Tribe. However, the SNP also contains most of the Yellow Tribe, and the Green Party also contains a good number of Green Tribe members, so it would perhaps be more accurate to think of the SNP as a Yellow-Blue Party and the Green Party as belonging to the Green-Blues. As a result, the SNP is now perhaps finding it harder to rally all its members behind a new referendum than the Green Party.

It would probably be fair to describe the Blue Tribe as internationalist civic nationalists, and most of its members are probably as far removed from ethnic nationalism as you can get, which of course made them rather angry during the last Indyref when they were accused of being blood-and-soil nationalists.

So although this tribe is the one which has dominated Scottish politics for the past decade, its members are feeling rather paranoid and under attack. This will probably not change till we win Indyref2.

Brexit means hard Brexit, so Scotland must leave the UK

Theresa May has apparently been spending quite a lot of time reading up the EU: “[T]he prime minister is ploughing through hundreds of pages of briefing papers on all aspects of EU policy. After six years at the Home Office, she knows justice and home affairs inside out, but is having to learn at speed the intricacies of the customs union and the impact of Brexit on 38 economic sectors. She wants to master the detail before revealing her hand.” However, she must have set herself the Conservative party conference as her deadline to learn enough to decide what Brexit should mean, because today the time for waffling was clearly over.

In spite of claiming that “there is no such thing as a choice between ‘soft Brexit’ and ‘hard Brexit’,” everything else in her conference speech was pointing very clearly towards the hard variety:

We’re going to talk about Britain […] in which we pass our own laws and govern ourselves. […] In which we win trade agreements with old friends and new partners. […] Our laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster. The judges interpreting those laws will sit not in Luxembourg but in courts in this country. […] We are going to be a fully-independent, sovereign country, a country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts. So it is not going to a “Norway model”. It’s not going to be a “Switzerland model”. […] And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

She could hardly have been clearer than this. She wants the UK to fully leave the European Union and to become as independent from it as for instance Russia or Egypt. I think it’ll be an economic disaster because a lot of jobs are going to move to rEU countries, and she’s now given all companies the clarity they’ve requested to start the process.

She also slapped down any hope of Scotland getting a separate deal (such as the Reverse Greenland that has been discussed in the past): “[W]e will negotiate as one United Kingdom, and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom. There is no opt-out from Brexit.”

Finally, she gave us a time for Brexit: “We will invoke Article Fifty no later than the end of March next year.” This means that Brexit will take place no later than March 2019 (but possibly a few months earlier).

I thought it was right and proper for Nicola Sturgeon to explore all alternatives to a new independence referendum, and to bide her time. If Theresa May had opted for a soft Brexit, I’m sure we could have lived with that for a few years, and if they’d be open to a Reverse Greenland solution to allow Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar to remain within the EU after England and Wales left, if would have been very hard to argue that we needed to vote on independence at this point in time.

However, now that we know that the UK is leaving the EU fully no later than March 2019, with no special deal allowed for Scotland, there are no reasonable alternatives left on the table. We can of course hope that a majority of MPs decide to get rid of Theresa May within the next couple of years and elect a soft-Brexit Prime Minister instead, or that Brexit gets blocked permanently by the Northern Irish courts, but I can’t see it happening.

There’s only one realistic way to prevent Scotland from leaving the European Union and the Internal Market in 2019, and that’s by voting Yes to Scottish independence before then. It’s time for a new independence referendum, and this time we’ll win it!

Fisking Alex Neil’s article

Minión asegurado
Minión asegurado.
I mentioned Alex Neil’s article (“How my party leader Nicola Sturgeon could get ‘neo-independence’ from Brexit – without another referendum”) in my post about the Yellow Tribe of Scotland. However, his article seems to be attracting some support and I thought it’d be useful to look at it in more detail, so here’s a fisk of the main parts:

Three months on from the EU referendum it is blatantly obvious the UK Government hasn’t got a clue about how or when to proceed with Brexit. […] The Scottish Government has therefore got a golden opportunity, which it should not let slip, to fill the void by putting Scotland’s Brexit demands at the top of the UK/EU negotiations agenda and doing so now. Rather than wait until Theresa May eventually gets her act together, the Scottish Government should immediately publish its “List of Scottish Demands” for the Brexit negotiations. […]

Yes, fair enough, but it can easily seem like an acceptance of Brexit if the demands don’t go far enough, and it can easily undermine any effort to call a new independence referendum. It also means accepting Westminster’s view that it’s irrelevant that a large majority of Scots voted against Brexit, instead of insisting that the Scottish people is sovereign and voted to Remain.

Top of the list of Scottish demands should be the transfer of the powers being repatriated from Brussels, as they relate to Scotland, to the Scottish Parliament; not Westminster. All the powers relating to existing devolved matters, such as farming and fishing, should automatically transfer to Edinburgh. Brexit also provides the ideal opportunity to devolve all the other powers currently controlled by Brussels to the Scottish Parliament.

The problem with this is that it’s completely contrary to making Scotland an independent country within the EU. Basically, if Westminster is currently in charge of A, B and C, and the EU is in charge of D, E and F, an independent Scotland within the EU would take over A, B and C rather than D, E and F, so if we follow Alex Neil’s proposal, once we leave the UK and join the EU, we’ll have to swap A, B and C for D, E and F instead of simply taking over A, B and C. That doesn’t seem very sensible, especially not if Scottish independence is expected to happen within a decade or so. I can only interpret this as a way to sabotage any subsequent move to rejoin the European Union.

This would include powers currently exercised by the EU covering employment laws and workers’ rights, environmental protection, social policy, consumer protection, certain aspects of transport policy, some aspects of energy policy, public health matters, and certain aspects of justice and home affairs policies as well as external affairs.

So basically Scotland would take over legislation that was already harmonised with the EU and then start changing it to make it different? Or would we try to keep it in sync with EU legislation? I rather suspect Mr. Neil has the former in mind.

Finally a range of other powers which haven’t been devolved to Scotland because of EU rules should also be transferred to Edinburgh. The most important of these would be giving the Scottish Parliament full control over Value Added Tax (VAT).

This actually would be OK, because the EU does allow the various member states to set their own rates. The reason Scotland hasn’t been able to do that is because the EU requires one set of rates per member state. So rejoining the EU while having different VAT rates from the rUK wouldn’t be a problem.

The UK Leave Campaign’s promise during the referendum that if the UK voted for Brexit then Scotland would get control over immigration policy must also be honoured and included in Scotland’s List of Demands.

I believe this has already been shot down by Westminster, but it was probably always going to be a non-starter so long as the UK doesn’t issue residence permits that are only valid for specific places – otherwise everybody wanting to move to England would simple go via Scotland if that was easier. From an EU perspective, this shouldn’t be a problem so long as Scotland maintains a less restrictive policy than the rUK.

The second item on Scotland’s List of Demands should be the transfer of all the funding associated with these new powers mentioned above, including Scotland’s share of the UK annual contributions to the EU budget, itself estimated by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre to be worth around £800 million a year net of all the funding Scotland currently gets from the EU. With this money, post-Brexit the Scottish Government could continue to finance all the projects currently supported by the EU in Scotland to the same level of funding as at present and still have another £800 million per annum or so left over to invest as we choose.

To be honest, this reminds me of the Leave campaign’s infamous promise of £350m to fund the NHS (which was later disowned). Given that the UK is likely to lose an enormous amount of money due to Brexit, the reality is more likely to be a cut to the block grant going to Scotland.

In other words, the Scottish farmers would be expecting replacement subsidies from the Scottish Government, which unfortunately wouldn’t have any money to pay them. That doesn’t sound very attractive to me.

Don’t get me wrong – if the Scottish Government could convince Westminster to add all of the above to the block grant, it’d be great, but I don’t think there’s a snowflake’s chance in Hell of that happening.

The accumulation of all these new powers and finances would bring about “neo-Independence” for Scotland, creating the ideal platform for advancing to full sovereignty for the Scottish people in the early 2020’s.

As far as I can tell, these proposals would make it significantly harder for Scotland to join the EU, compared to remaining inside it when the rUK leaves, and this would worry all those voters who think that Scotland needs to be in the EU in order to be successful as an independent country. Furthermore, if the block grant to Scotland goes up, Scotland will get even more dependent on the UK and that would make it even harder to convince people that we can pay our own way after independence.

So far from creating a platform for advancing to independence, I fear Mr. Neil’s proposals would push Scotland even further into UK dependency.

The third key item on Scotland’s List of Demands must be continuing access to the benefits of the European Single Market. Eleven per cent of all goods and services sold furth of Scotland every year go to the EU. These exports support many thousands of jobs in Scotland that we can’t afford to lose; so retaining both free access to this market along with the other benefits of the single market, such as “passporting” for our financial sector, is essential.

Good – the only kind of Brexit I could live with is a soft Brexit, which basically means being an EU member without any influence (like Norway).

However, I’m not entirely sure how this tallies with repatriating “employment laws and workers’ rights, environmental protection, social policy, consumer protection, certain aspects of transport policy, some aspects of energy policy, [and] public health matters”. Some of them, perhaps, but many of these areas are covered by normal EU rules and would have to be adhered to. For instance, this is what Wikipedia writes about the EEA: “The non EU members of the EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) have agreed to enact legislation similar to that passed in the EU in the areas of social policy, consumer protection, environment, company law and statistics. ”

Scotland should continue to benefit from the free movement of people between Europe and Scotland. The crucial role played by people from Europe and elsewhere in the world in staffing some of our key industries such as tourism, agriculture and horticulture has to be protected. There is no reason why Scotland shouldn’t be able to implement its own immigration policy which would allow free movement to continue.

So basically we’d continue to have free movement of EU citizens, as well as freer immigration from the rest of the World. That’s fine, but as I wrote above, I simply cannot see how Westminster will put up with it, given that the main demand of the Leave campaign was for the UK to control its borders. It would entail having completely different immigration policies north and south of the border, which would be fine if Scotland and the rUK were independent countries, but it’s a complete non-starter at the moment.

I’m afraid that much of Alex Neil’s article to me sounds quite delusional and would seriously undermine any effort to achieve Scottish independence in Europe within my lifetime (I’m 44).

Don’t get me wrong – if Scotland could stay within the Internal Market in some sort of Norwegian set-up while the rUK pursued its wild hard Brexit dreams, that’d wouldn’t be too dire, but it would be almost impossible to implement and would depend on Westminster being willing to jump through hoops to make it happen, so I believe it’s a complete non-starter. But very importantly, it’s also completely incompatible with his vision of ‘neo-independence’ within the UK, which makes me suspect that the paragraphs about remaining in the Internal Market have been added to make pro-EU SNP members go along with his proposal.

It’s very clear that the only way we can build a coalition for independence is by focusing on the majority of Scots who want to continue to be part of the EU. Alex Neil’s proposal will only really appeal to the Yellow Tribe, and they only represent 11% of the electorate, so if we go down this road, independence will not happen for another 50 years.