Farage’s legacy and continental populist laws put EU expats in UK in impossible quandary


With Farage’s legacy (Britain leaving an EU it never loved) and Trump’s victory in the US (appointing Putin’s friends on key White House and ministerial positions), the world is getting back to the “each for his own, beggar-thy-neighbour”-politics that were such a stunning success in bringing wealth to everybody in the 1930’s.

What the possible success in upcoming European elections of populist parties (many already being sponsored by Putin) will mean to European expats living in the UK (often being married to a British citizen) is becoming clear with the cases of a Dutch engineer/housewife and a German aerospace executive who both received orders from the UK home office to leave the country forthwith, as reported by The Guardian.

In the case of the Dutch woman, who was unjustly rejected in her application for British citizenship, an earlier Dutch political success by convicted racist populist Geert Wilders has aggravated the significance of applying for British citizenship; and will do so in the case of all Dutch inhabitants of the UK. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they are in their thousands).

In the formation of the 2010 coalition government after the general elections, the two biggest parties involved in the first round, PvdA (Labour) and VVD (“National Liberal” would be the adequate British label; see the homonymous British party), finally rejected the option of forming a coalition with D66 (social-liberal; Dutch equivalent of the LibDems) and the “Green-Left” party (much more realist and “political center” than the British Greens).

The VVD, led by Cameron’s good friend and ally Mark Rutte, then opted for a risky innovation: a minority coalition with the CDA (Christian Democrats), and supported by the authoritarian-led PVV of Geert Wilders (Wilders is the only formal party member, all its MPs, councillors etc are “supporters”/employees fully dependent on his benevolence) which had won 16% of parliamentary seats (24 of 150). A minority government was unheard of in Dutch politics.

The best-known aspect of Wilders at that time was that he was refused access to the UK and that (while supporting the Rutte government) he instituted a “Complaints & alarm desk” about especially the Polish workers then entering the western EU countries to work. When the Rutte government had to take tough budgetary decisions, Wilders deserted ship after weeks of secluded coalition negotiations in the spring of 2012. Governing responsibly clearly wasn’t and isn’t his cup of tea.

In 2007, at the parliamentary debut of his PVV, Wilders objected to two members of the new government: Mr. Aboutaleb (from Moroccan descent; now mayor of Rotterdam) and Mrs. Albayrak (of Turkish descent; then Immigration minister); the fact that they descended from two countries who impose their passports on all descendants (it can’t be revoked) made them inadmissible from executive parliamentary posts, Wilders argued. Both also have Dutch passports and serve(d) their country impeccably. Under pressure from the parliaments speaker, Wilders withdrew a motion of no confidence. Later he objected to an advisory role of a Moroccan-Dutch MP, Mrs. Arib (now president of our Commons) in an advisory commission to the Rabat government. This protest also fizzled out). And, curiously, Wilders did not raise one finger when the Rutte government he supported had one minister of dual Dutch and Swedish citizenship.

But under Wilders’ pressure the Rutte government of 2010-’12 initiated a law/bill prohibiting Dutch citizens from having two passports; to mask its anti-Muslim slant this law was presented as being applicable universally.

That act has just become law. That means that any Dutch inhabitant of the UK applying for British citizenship has to renounce his or her Dutch passport.

When Marine Le Pen wins in France, and if Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement wins big in Italy (and especially if it seeks support in government from the Lega North, a Putin fan, a ENF-ally of Wilders and overtly racist even to South Italians), it is probable they will reinforce (or, if absent, introduce) such “No two passports”-laws in France and Italy.  That will mean a similar grave decision facing French and Italian inhabitants of the UK.

To add to the sensitivity of the Home office expulsion order to the Dutch woman, the father, mother and siblings of current (and probable future) prime minister Rutte were victims of the mass expulsion of all Dutch and “Indo-European” citizens and inhabitants by Sukarno’s Indonesia in 1955; Mark Rutte was born after their arrival in the Netherlands. So if many more Dutch UK inhabitants are treated like Mrs. Hawkins, it could spark fierce Dutch comments. And, of course, the last thing Downing Street needs in Brexit negotiations is sympathy from the continent, cutting them some slack.

D66, which is building up a Dutch Expat network (to enhance their voting rights), is now putting parliamentary questions to the Rutte government about this mistreatment of Dutch expats by London.


* Dr. Bernard Aris is a historian, a D66 parliamentary researcher and a LibDem supporting member.

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  • Simon McGrath 2nd Jan '17 - 6:46pm

    Yet another post from this author whose primary purpose seems to be to rubbish the VVD. Worth bearing in mind that both D66 of which he is an activist and the VVD are members of ALDE and Liberal International

  • Peter Martin 2nd Jan '17 - 8:55pm

    The obvious solution is for the EU to agree that existing UK expats to be able to remain in EU countries, and the UK to agree that all existing EU expats are allowed to remain in the UK.

    I understand Mrs May has already suggested this but there’s been no reciprocity from the EU.

    What’s the problem? Why the reluctance?

  • Peter Parsons 2nd Jan '17 - 9:14pm

    @Peter Martin, the problem is that Article 50 has not yet been triggered. The EU’s position is that there will be no discussions or agreements prior to that happening. Theresa May is attempting to engage in pre-negotiations and pre-agreements.

    I understand the EU’s position on this. Once one thing is agreed to pre-Article 50, then everything else becomes fair game on the grounds that “you agreed to that before Article 50, why not this as well?”

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Jan '17 - 10:00pm

    I read the case of the Dutch woman, and it was pretty clear that “mistakenly rejected” is the correct description, not “unjustly rejected”
    The home office has been incompetent, insensitive, and unresponsive, and all that is bad. But there is no way ultimately that a spouse living for 20 years in Britain is going to be rejected for citizenship in the end..

    However I agree that the Dutch single citizenship law is very foolish..

  • Tony Greaves 2nd Jan '17 - 10:32pm

    Do not assume that as well as being very incompetent, the Home Office is not sometimes (or perhaps often) carelessly malevolent. It is clear that quite a few people have received the same letter. And the recent stuff about private health insurance appears to be quite disgraceful. I fear that these stories are going to become more and more frequent, and run and run. But who cares about the effect of such things on people? Not the HO.

  • Bernard Aris 2nd Jan '17 - 10:33pm

    I totally agree with Mr. Parsons.

    Never forget that the European Commission, having a prime responsability for keeping together the Community or Union, and that none of the member countries even acquires the suspicion of getting preferential federal treatment above all others,
    *) not only does not want any informal negotiation about even the slightest aspect of Brexit,
    *) but also wants to show political parties or adventurers in other EU countries that exiting a community with many formal and informal regulations, networks and intra-human relationships like the EU is not without unexpected risks and uncertainties for all citizens, companies and institutions concerned. For starters, it’slikely to upend other political aims and aspirations of new governments. Just read the “six months on” article in the Christmas edition of The Economist.
    And my example of Dutch and German UK inhabitants shows what happens when politicians, administrations start to disentangle laws and institutional arrangements that private citizens have based their life-deciding decisions (jobs; marriage; buying a house) on.
    If you care about “ordinary people”, securing such arrangements should be your first concern; it very obviously is not, and never has been. This human, individual, micro-level aaspect of exiting never got a mention in any Europsceptic or anti-EU literature or pamphlet I am aware of (and I’m following the debate about the evolving EEC/EU for the past 40 years).

  • Bernard Aris 2nd Jan '17 - 10:36pm

    Three cheers for Tony Greaves, the old LibDemNews columnist I always read first of all!


  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Jan '17 - 11:01pm

    The danger is not just that EU migrants might be deported, but that they begin to dislike Britain so much that they leave and split up families in the process. This is the more realistic, common and damaging result of the attitude of Theresa May.

    Migrants who have been working hard and paying taxes here feel that the government is not treating them right. They are not asking for freebies, just that the government respects their rights.

    The Lib Dems also need to speak up for UK expats in Europe, but don’t make helping one conditional on helping the other.

  • Appears that Mr Aris has forgotten that May suggested that the expat situation be settled but this was rejected by Merkel & Junker .

  • jedibeeftrix 3rd Jan '17 - 7:48am

    “If you care about “ordinary people”, securing such arrangements should be your first concern; it very obviously is not, and never has been.”

    Bernard, you don’ get to have it both ways, in arguing that the commission was right to brush aside May’s offer to sort the status of intra-eu migrants, and then castigate britain for not doing enough.

    It was already quite clear to me, at the end of Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ when belgium and Co insisted the deal only apply to Britain, that for many on the continent the project is more important than the people.

  • Little Jackie Paper 3rd Jan '17 - 9:09am

    Eddie Sammon – ‘Migrants who have been working hard and paying taxes here feel that the government is not treating them right. They are not asking for freebies, just that the government respects their rights.’

    I’d have more sympathy for that view if it were the case that the EU had been sold as permanent. Article 50 clearly envisages states leaving – it’s an explicit Treaty provision. Routes to citizenship are there for people who wish to take them, my wife was one of them in the past. It has never been entirely clear to me why European immigrants should be, ‘different.’

    As it is there seems to be this idea doing the rounds that EU migrants (not just in the UK) had some reasonable expectation that they had some permanent status. They most certainly had no such expectation. Mr Sammon, these people are adults with agency and they moved the centre of their life on the basis of a treaty that contained a specific exit clause. That clause was neither hidden nor secret. If, say, Spain decided to use its A50 rights would you say that was somehow wrong?

    EU citizens are far closer to denizens than the EU institutions would dare to admit.

    I’m sorry if this sounds cold, but in years to come I may well move to my wife’s country and with that in mind I will be getting citizenship of that country (possibly involving some national service). I will be doing that because no one, ever has promised me that I will have a permanent right of settlement without such a citizenship. The fact that I would be paying taxes is neither here nor there – citizenships are not sold, or they shouldn’t be. I know some countries do indeed sell citizenship, but park that.

    I’m not totally clear why Mr Aris raises the question of laws preventing multiple passports. Many EU countries have such laws, again these are neither secret nor hidden. The UK is not one of those countries and his argument surely is with those countries. I understand that Australia has passed a law that means that once you have citizenship of Australia that it can not be rescinded whatever that citizen signs in other countries.

  • There are no EU migrants whilst we are in the EU. It’s a super state. The point being the EU redefined the status of the Nation State and citizenship without it really being put to voters in Britain until 2016. What happens next will be down to negotiations and national politics. Since the EU insists that there can be no pre-negotiations pending the triggering of article 50 what we have at the moment is speculation and some might argue fear mongering.

  • Bernard Aris 3rd Jan '17 - 11:25am

    @ John
    And that suggestion by Mrs. May could also have been made to open up a whole series of pre-Article 50 negotiations about such seemingly small, human issues, and at the end the EU would be bound up by a series of small cords across its body, like Gulliver was on the beach of Lilliput.

    The Economist in the 1980’s called exactly that kind of piecemeal negotiotating, slowly tying up the other party, “Gulliverization” (they recommended it in Cold War disarmament and Helsini negotiations, if I remember it right).

    I refer also to Peter Parsons’ response, above.

    Both parties: the May government and the European Commission and European Council, are trying to trip the other one up; so neither takes any offer from the other side at face value; let’s agree on that.

  • Laurence Cox 3rd Jan '17 - 12:43pm

    I am surprised that Bernard Aris is treating Marine Le Pen’s election as the next French President as a certainty. The merit of the French system, with a second-round run-off between the two highest-polling candidates, is that at least the voters can have second thoughts.

  • Bernard Aris 3rd Jan '17 - 1:07pm

    @ Laurence Cox

    Look at French history, the “Action Francaise” and its militia, the “Cagoule” came from solid-Catholic homes; that is how provincial boy Francois Mitterand came into Cagoule circles (see French Wikipedia). And devout catholic De Gaulle employed Pétains helper Papon, who pushed hunderds of Maghrebi demonstrators into the Seine around 1960.

    Even if Marine le Pen, who by the way just lend millions from her dad (reconciliation) for her campaign, according to Le Monde, wins around 35 to 40% that will have a profound impact on all of French politics.
    Fillon may be a liberal in economics (good), but he’s conservative catholic in immaterial things (bad); and the Le Pens are dabbling in catholic conservatism (anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage) themselves.
    If Marine wins much more than her dad against Chirac, Fillon will feel a need to keep that pitbull opposition quiet. And her rebellious niece Maréchal may be even worse…

    I don’t suppose the French will give Macron (sensibly center-left-Liberal) a chance at the second round, so we aoppear to be stick with Le Pen vs. Fillon in the end.
    So even if Marine Le Pen loses with around 30-40%, some pessimism is in order. We won’t have a lucky escape like with (corrupt) Chirac…

  • Bernard Aris 3rd Jan '17 - 1:12pm

    if Fillon liberalises the French economy radically (which needs to be done), many French will run for cover with orthodox-conservative Catholics and the Le Pens, just as the Poles (equally unaccostumed to rasdical liberalization) did under Tusk; that’s how the present disastrous bunch got back in government… And Tusks party is now marginalized; Tusk is part of the hated EU establishment in rightwing circles…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Jan '17 - 1:26pm

    France has needed Francois Bayrou for years , now he should stand but won’t !

    Bernard is sensible here , but the points about the Dutch scenario become heavy and cumbersome when translating them , not literally , but politically , to other situations .

  • Peter Parsons 3rd Jan '17 - 1:50pm

    @Bernard, I agree. I think all sides are currently engaged in pre-negotiation positioning.

  • Andrew McCaig 3rd Jan '17 - 3:27pm

    My vaguely related question is what is Theresa May going to do about her daft £35k salary rule and the NHS once we can no longer stop the gap with EU migrants??

    Put nurse’s salaries up to £35k???

  • @Bernard Aris
    If “many French will run for cover with orthodox-conservative Catholics and the Le Pens” that will be democracy.

    It is in the EU’s gift to show they care for all EU citizens by guaranteeing reciprocal rights. I disagree that it would open the floodgates, they are simply unwilling to give an inch to the UK.

    This situation bodes very badly for both sides and I hope the Netherlands food producers and the UK financial services (amongst the many others to be affected by such childlike stubborn behaviour) can find new markets to secure the soon to be at risk jobs.

    Both sides can win something in the coming negotiations or both sides can lose big. The Juncker / Boris world where they each feel they can walk away victorious at the expense of the other does not exist. We cannot expect all the benefits of the single market but nor can those who wish to trade with us from the other side. If our financial services are targeted so will the remaining 27 nations access to our markets.

    If both are to lose big the fact that one side will lose marginally more than the other will mean little to those who lose their jobs or have to relocate back to their Country of origin.

  • Bernard Aris 4th Jan '17 - 3:54pm

    @ Steve Way

    Alas, Mr. Way, my experience of 40 years of (Dutch) politics, , including 14 years of election campaigning and parliamentary (and local council) debates between rational parties and exited populists (first Pim Fortuyn, now Wilders in the Netherlands) teach me two things
    *) in an election season, and 2017 is certainly that in the EU, “childlike” posturing as you call it, and over-simplifications (or fact-free shouts from poulists and their “establishment” imitators, impersonators) abound, and rational, pragmatic (counter-)standpoints and arguments get you less media coverage (not spectacular enough, not “juicy”) and thus resonate less.
    *) when the issue is: advantages and shameful excesses of the EU and EU-like co-operation and globalization, the same goes, especially in cases (and Brexit clearly sits in that category) where precedents for the whole of EU politics and EU governance /EU reform are being set.

  • Bernard Aris 4th Jan '17 - 4:09pm

    @ Cllor Mark Wright,

    Both the Dutch and the German inhabitants concerned have lived fot years in the UK, and thus have received plenty of correspondence and letters from national, regional and local authorities. They’ve built up experience in reading such letters and notices, and their verdict is unambigous: we’re being summoned to pack our bags.
    The “that’s certainly not what we intended” reaction from prominent Brexiteers (on the news about these EU inhabitants in British media) implies that they too think, fear that that is what the Immigration Office letters say.

    And this argument is reinforced by Tony Greaves (see above) who, being a lifelong Briton and former longtime LibDem councilor, has even more experience in reading such correspondence, and making a political analysis of these writings.

    I am as sorry as you are about it, but that is the way those letters appear to me, and two recipients.

    If authorities through ineptitude (or bureacratic insensitivity) send inappropriate letters, reporting that does not qualify als “fake news”; it’s a tragic fact.

  • Gareth Hartwell 4th Jan '17 - 5:03pm

    @Peter Martin

    I think the other issue is that we (the UK) are massively overestimating our negotiating position. Just because we think that allowing our citizens to stay in other EU countries is a reasonable trade for them being allowed to stay in ours doesn’t mean that they will also think this is reasonable. I’m pretty sure that they will expect the UK to pay for that privilege as well – so we will have to decide how important it really us to us.

    It’s about time we got real about these ‘negotiations’. We want a deal but most of the EU countries don’t care either way and several parliaments will probably veto any deal any way. The only thing we can be sure about is that there definitely will not be a trade deal (within 2 years or 10) because the EU countries wont be able to all agree to a deal which involves services which is the main part which matters to the UK. So we might as well focus on the bits we have some chance of getting such as a cut in our membership costs and for our ex-pats to be able to stay in EU countries and for some reciprocal travel arrangements. And I think that is about all which can be achieved and got through all the parliaments. (Have little sympathy with those who will say this isn’t enough – most of who voted for Brexit anyway).

  • @Bernard Aris
    “Both the Dutch and the German inhabitants concerned have lived fot years in the UK… and their verdict is unambigous: we’re being summoned to pack our bags.”

    That’s simply wrong.

    The original Guardian article about the Dutch lady acknowledged, somewhat grudgingly half way down, that she “never once thought she would be deported” during the process. For the avoidance of all doubt, she also said: “It is important to realise that in applying for permanent residency I am not gaining a right, I am only getting a document stating a right I already have.”

    She understood fully what was going on and what her rights were; the Guardian chose to twist the story and you have fallen for it.

    Incidentally, she could have applied successfully while retaining her passport by simply taking it to her local authority offices and getting them to verify it for her on the spot; the Guardian’s claim that she was expected to be without her passport for “four to six months” is false.

  • Bernard Aris 4th Jan '17 - 9:11pm

    @ Stuart

    The Dutch woman tried to do her best (not knowing the correct alternative procedure; how good is governmental information on that?) by having a sollicitor-approved copy sent along with the massive application form instead of the passport.
    What superhuman effort does it take the Immigration Service (IS) or the Home Office (HO) to write or mail her directly back to point out the procedure at the local authority offices you pointed out? Or is all incoming mail at the IS or HO opened and read by robots, who only record that the passport wasn’t in the envelope; and that some papers the robot isn’t programmed to recognise were included?

    And not only I have “fallen for”what you see as framing by the Guardian; so have a number of Dutch correspondents in the UK (and the week after New Years Eve is a series of “slow news days”), resulting in Dutch news coverage that should worry Downing Street and the Brexit Department. The risk of Brexit-related incidents with EU inhabitants, and resulting bad publicity about their treatment in EU countries alone should be taken into serious account, and dealt with with by fuller, more attentive contact by London authorities with those citizens.

    That The Guardian is not exactly a full blown Brexiteer should surprise no one who knows her origins in the 1820’s voting system agitation and especially the Anti Corn Law League (Manchester manufacturer and MP Cobden) and the same cluster of liberal journalist initiatives The Economist also sprang from. But i’ve come to know The Guardian as a quality newspaper (its Dutch equivalent, De Volkskrant, with which it shares articles and research journalist-projects, certainly is a quality paper) and the framing allegation takes some convincing in my case.

  • Tony Greaves 4th Jan '17 - 9:57pm

    What the letters say is q

  • Tony Greaves 4th Jan '17 - 9:59pm


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