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EU citizens should worry about what Johnson left out of his second Queen’s Speech

Simon Rite
Simon Rite

is a writer based in London for RT, in charge of several projects including the political satire group #ICYMI. Follow him on Twitter @SiWrites

is a writer based in London for RT, in charge of several projects including the political satire group #ICYMI. Follow him on Twitter @SiWrites

EU citizens should worry about what Johnson left out of his second Queen’s Speech
Queen’s Speeches are like London buses: there’s none for years and then two turn up at once - and the comparison between October’s speech and today’s should worry EU citizens living in Britain.

A week after newly re-elected Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a Labour Party-destroying majority, he has drawn up and handed his revamped plans to the Queen to read out at the opening of (yet another) Parliament, as is the tradition. Quite an annoying tradition for her, because she only did this for Johnson a couple of months ago, and it’s fair to say little progress has been made. 

It’s hard to know whether she finds the whole process dull or laborious, because the Queen reads like a well-bred automaton who’s seeing the words for the first time. Presumably this is so she doesn’t let slip any political leanings that may influence events. I think, however, we can safely assume she would vote Conservative.

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With two Boris masterplans published since October, it’s telling how a stonking majority has changed the Tory government’s aims.

The first difference is not hard to spot. October’s speech started “My government’s priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on 31 October.” 

Fast forward to December and we get: “My government’s priority is to deliver the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union on 31 January.” 

I wonder what date they’ll give in five years’ time.

A potentially more significant change can be seen in the way October’s version promised a future relationship with the European Union based on “free trade and friendly cooperation”, but December’s version morphed into a pledge for a “free trade agreement that benefits the whole of the United Kingdom”.  

Where did the friendly cooperation bit go?  

The missing reference to being ‘friendly’ is not the only concern for EU citizens living in Britain. In October, the government promised it was “committed to ensuring that resident European citizens, who have built their lives in, and contributed so much to, the United Kingdom, have the right to remain.”

There was no mention of that in the updated version. When you combine that omission with Johnson’s suggestion during the election campaign that European citizens had been able to “treat the UK as if it’s part of their own country” for too long, I’d suggest that Germans, French people and anyone else from the continent that have built lives in Britain should be at least a little bit worried.

The European Parliament is already threatening that any Brexit deal could be blocked over the treatment of EU citizens, so this could be the next frontier in the fight to extricate Britain.

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There are definite signs of an even more hostile environment for immigrants in Britain, which is intent on replacing free movement with the ability to cherry pick who it wants: the ever in-demand ‘skilled migrant’. Hence the announcement of a “modern, fair, points-based immigration system” (I always worry when something is deliberately described as fair) and a new visa for doctors and nurses to staff the National Health Service.  

So the future of Britain brought to us by the Queen via Boris creates a vision of highly skilled immigrants healing our sick and keeping the NHS running, but there is one thing that isn’t at all clear: who exactly is going to be driving the Ubers, picking the fruit or delivering dinner by moped? Those are the essential services that keep a modern nation running but are likely to fall victim to a points-based system.

But the Tories don’t need to worry about all that everyday life stuff, or the stress being put on the EU citizens who have no idea what happens next, do they? Especially as it’s now obvious they could change their mind again in three months anyway.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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