Numbers under the Brexit bus

The current version of the Brexit deal is the talk of the town, but sadly it’s much ado about nothing.

There’s very little in the current Brexit deal, much of what is there is controversial in one way and/or another and what remains to be talked about (whether people want to talk about it is another matter) is fraught with difficulty.

People are being thrown under the bus, not the trade bus but the Brexit bus.

And it’s not just UK citizens in the EU. It’s any UK citizen who’s made significant life choices based on being an EU citizen, it’s any UK citizen whose future life choices will be limited by Brexit, it’s anybody who’s got family and/or friends who fall into those groups… and more.

The issue about the numbers involved has come up again and now we have a crucial piece of feedback: the majority of the UK citizens registered in the EU are said to be working.

It’s common knowledge to people who live in France and Spain (which between them host the majority of UK expats) that there are large numbers of UK citizens living there who are older, retired, semi-retired, early retired, etc. So it seems to be getting ever more obvious that the official figures are off (for those who still doubted that they were).

However, there are significant geographical variations. In and around places like Paris (big city and capital city) and Toulouse (aerospace), there will almost certainly be a majority of younger, working people drawn by employment and undaunted by higher living costs.

In rural France (which is most of it, by the way), you will find that many UK citizens are over-50s drawn by the weather, the lifestyle, the cheaper cost of living… and (hopefully) undaunted by the distance to the nearest Starbucks.

I have drawn my examples from France because I know the country. The same may be, indeed probably is, true of Spain and perhaps other EU 27 countries.

The point is that you can’t assume a one-size-fits-all solution will do the job, something David Davis needs to wake up to when he assumes that the vast majority of UK citizens living in EU27 countries, i.e. those who have exercised their EU citizenship rights, are retired, only interested in pensions being paid and not interested in freedom of movement.

The point is that we need to work with facts, otherwise we cannot realistically assess what the impact of Brexit will be, and how many people will feel it directly. Generalisations based on unproven figures are easier to come up with, but they aren’t helpful, and worse, they may be extremely misleading.

Citizenship rights apart, many people are already feeling the foreshocks of Brexit as prices rise, crops stay unpicked in the fields and EU 27 nationals prepare to return home or decide not to come to the UK in the first place. The beleaguered NHS, touted (sorry, but that’s the word) as the primary beneficiary of Brexit, is already among its first victims, and the UK is still a member of the EU.

It’s late in the day to still be asking for real information. There is an argument to be made that significant work should have been done on this before the referendum. But it wasn’t. As Dr Phil says, “It is what it is and the only time is now”.

But would you get on a train or a plane, or even a bus, to go somewhere unknown, carrying a ticket that has no price on it? It’s time to press for real information, substantiated facts, unbiased reasoning. Only on this basis can an informed decision be made about what is best for the UK and all its citizens.

The People’s Challenge will shortly, hopefully next week, have the results of the first tranche of work on the Millions in the Margins commissioned from our legal team.

Undoubtedly it will take a little while for us to digest what they say and how best to put it out. They are legal eagles, that’s what we pay for, and so, perhaps somewhat inevitably what they provide us with will to some extent be couched in terms of legal precedents and references. We will get it to you as soon as we can.


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Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.

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