Brexit – A fragment of sanity glimmers from the darkness
After last Tuesday, the rest of Europe and the vast majority of the citizens of an island just off the European continent, let out yet another groan of unity when UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she wants to reopen the Brexit negotiations. Having taken two and half years to finally win something back at home – it was inevitable that she was never going to win that one. Within a few minutes, the EU confirmed they would not renegotiate. One thing is for sure – the Brexit battle will labour on to the last minute of the last day of the last year. Never again we will say. However, there was at least a glimmer of hope in the darkness that shrouds our sceptred isle.
After MPs overwhelmingly rejected Theresa May’s deal in what looked like a deliberate act of self-harm last month, with the final deal, still seemingly decades away, was something that glimmered from the darkness that no-one even noticed.
EUactiv reports that “Today (29/01/19) the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee approved proposals to changes to the EU’s visa rules that, with or without a Brexit deal, UK nationals will not need an EU visa for short-stays of up to three months.
The change now needs to be backed by governments before being signed off by MEPs in March, allowing it to enter into force before the 29 March deadline when, as it stands, the UK will formally leave the EU.”
EUactiv also reports that although Brits hoping to live and work in an EU country still face an uncertain future, the visa waiver will allow tourism and most business activity to continue as it currently does.
Hoorah I hear you say.
This is of course provided that the UK does not self-harm again and revoke visa-free access, a type of limited freedom of movement – albeit for up to three months. Anything in Britain’s world is possible these days.
The UK has indeed signalled that it will allow EU nationals to continue to travel visa-free for tourism and short stays, although its draft Immigration Bill would mean that most EU workers would no longer enjoy the automatic right to live and work in the UK.
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What does this mean? Well, from the point of view of absolute deadlock between Theresa May’s government and that of the EU negotiators, this is a small, and let’s be fair, very small – but very welcome, outbreak of sanity between both parties.
EUactiv goes on to say that “While politicians tie themselves in knots over a form of words to guarantee that Ireland will not have a return to a hard border, they have a duty to ensure that life will probably go on with as little disruption as possible.”
I’m not so sure of that, as disruption to daily life for the 66 million living in the UK is definitely on the cards at the moment – and as for a duty of care – by politicians, let’s not go there.
It at least means that maintaining visa-free travel is one way of ensuring that the 33 kilometres separating Britain from continental Europe will not get any wider after Brexit.