UK nationals are already employed in the United Kingdom at historically high numbers. One would think that the Brexit camp, who ran their campaign to leave the European Union on a triad of demonstrable lies — 350 million more pounds a week to the NHS, that Turkey would be joining the EU, and that a vote to leave would be a vote to cut immigration — would be eager to welcome a demonstrable truth.
But if you’ve been paying attention to politics in the United Kingdom as of late — and this piece of writing itself is already several weeks behind — you would be forgiven for not even realizing that the statistic — which you can look up yourself — could actually exist.
In reading Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister exhorted businesses to “train up local young people before you take on cheap labour from overseas.”
But if she’s not talking about giving jobs to UK nationals, if she’s not going to acknowledge that UK nationals are already employed at historically high numbers, what is she talking about? When she tells her conference about putting “More doctors in the NHS” when she raises the possibility that foreign doctors might get kicked out at some point in the future, even though foreigners comprise up to 26% of all doctors and 11% of all staff, what is she implying? When she talks about “enhancing workers’ rights,” how does that square with the headline of “Firms Must List Foreign Workers?” And who gave May and company the right to have schools send parents a letter asking them whether or not their child was born in the UK?
And here’s a head scratcher: what does it mean when May declared that “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere,” adding, “You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means?”
For all the world, ‘citizen of the world’ sure seems to be a phrase constructed in such a way as to suggest that it could implicate jet-setting global elites in eventual policy — as if she had just read a recent column from Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal — but if that were the case, how would that logic square with the ‘nudge’ to list foreign workers, the nudge to list foreign children, and the nudge that even Doctors themselves aren’t welcome in the very country in which they live? What ‘nudge-worthy’ crime has a ‘citizen of the world’ committed against the idea of citizenship in sending their child to school before starting their shift in a hospital? And would they even be able to get into the hospital, given the horrifying idea floated that pregnant mothers would have to show their passports before given birth?
While writing this, the news broke that foreign firms would not have to list their workers after all, as the Home Secretary had previously suggested less than a week prior; that the government would probably give ‘amnesty’ to 600,000 EU nationals staying in the country with non-permanent residency right by 2019 and that ‘every EU citizen already living in the UK could stay’ (this coming four days after Liam Fox was reported to have said that EU nationals in the UK were a ‘bargaining chip’); and a Conservative MP offered up the euphemistic assurance that anything that leaned toward the world of the untoward was nothing more than ‘mood music.’
But why leave the threat of an Apartheid-like government hanging in the air by asking that the list be put together in the first place? Why make a show of it? Why summon a figurative ‘orchestra’ to play ‘mood music’ at all? What was the purpose of this? Why not just go up on stage in Birmingham, say, “Nowt,” and then turn around and leave?
‘Citizens of the world’ have contributed to UK universities (where, as the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford recently put it, “one was judged by the quality of one’s mind, not the colour of one’s passport”), workplaces, hospitals, and sports teams. They contribute to the food. They contribute to life — to being a good neighbor, contributing a bit to a bit of overheard banter, and so much more. After the spike in hate crime attacks following the Brexit vote, after folks in the U.K. kicked up a fuss over the use of the phrase a ‘swarm of migrants,’ the idea that someone in a position of responsibility would take that particular kind of dehumanizing language even further — i.e., ‘If you’re not from here, you’re nothing’ — is surprising and not at all in keeping with the philosophy of countless people I’ve met in the country.
What’s more, there are innumerably better ways to deal with our emotional reaction to Globalization and deindustrialization than this, too: at the governmental level, it seems reasonable to seek a Norway option, as Gordon Brown suggested in July; given that people have to live somewhere and can’t move about with the world with the same kind of flexibility a corporation can, it would be worth exploring the usefulness of a land value tax and the usefulness of membership in a tenants union, too; elsewhere, and I’m not kidding, the government should look into accepting and providing more funding to local councils for refugees, as recent studies have shown that — amongst other benefits — “… the real income of host-country households increases by as much as $69 per refugee in Rwanda”; and as the value of the value of the pound plunges and exports rise, it’s worth bearing in mind a blog post from Paul Krugman in 2013 that highlighted how much nontradable goods still occupy the U.S. market itself, meaning that — if there is an economic plus-side to Brexit at all, if there is to be something that exists beyond mood music lists — it’s something that seems to require an interventionist government moving in the manner of FDR.