Human bargaining chips


Poker is a game that is not won by playing the hand but by playing the people.

On March 29th, Theresa May will trigger Article 50 that will start the lengthy process of negotiating a deal with the EU. She might feel confident with the size of Britain’s economy, outstanding financial service sector and vast number of international companies behind her. When compared to the might of the Single Market, it might not be enough.

Liam Fox revealed the Prime Minister’s intentions when he said, to give EU nationals the right to stay “before we get into the negotiation would be to hand over one of our main cards in that negotiation.” May is short stacked at the table. She knows her position is poor and will bluff as best she can to get the best deal for Britain.

The key role of a government is to protect its people. Yet since the Brexit vote, hate crimes shot up by 41%.  We have seen no large-scale action to douse the flames of prejudice. Nor any action to reassure those who have been looking after our sick, paying their taxes and contributing to our society, that they have any future in a post-Brexit Britain.

The repercussions have begun. There has been a 92% fall in EU nationals registering as nurses including a 68% increase in EU national resignations. The NHS is already on its knees and these statistics forecast even further hardships. There is no sign of where the £350 million a week the leave campaign promised us will come from and with the lack of funding, how can they train up enough replacement nurses to keep with demand?

EU nationals make up a large part of our workforce but look past the superficial notions of benefits they bring to our economy. You are left with human beings. Thrown around the negotiating table as if they were commodities on a trading floor.

They are our neighbours, colleagues, friends, fathers, mothers, wives and husbands. They might not have been born here but their lives have been made here. Since June 23rd 2016, they have become Theresa May’s poker hand.

The government is on tilt. It is best they fold this hand. There are more ethical ways of guaranteeing a prosperous future for Britain.



* Ryan Lailvaux is an active member of the Bristol Liberal Democrats

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • ethicsgradient 27th Mar '17 - 3:32pm

    My comment is off the main topic but it is a personal annoyance. People keep using terrible poker analogies when they don;t understand what a game of poker is. It is a strategy game based on elucidating information. This includes, player-typing, hand-ranging, position play of yourself and opponent, bet-sizing, tendencies, physicals tells that need to be confirmed. working out %’s of making a hand, how this relates to pot odds. reading the possible combinations (with hand range) the board is showing. How opposition players are likely to act on 4th and 5 street. Is there a bet size which will make a play fold a better hand (not all in).

    So poker is ‘not a game of bluff’, it is not playing the player instead of the cards. It is not any of there easy sounding cliches. It might have elements of this but over all it is a a strategy game; a serious of choices, make more correct ones than wrong ones and you’ll win a tournament.

    The right wing dominance is a good reason for Scotland to be a nation. We have a positive approach to Europe.
    Yet right now LibDems are repeating the same lines from the period before the last Referendum. “This is not the time”, “Nobody wants it”. Repeating a lie over and over does not change the fact that around half the population want it.
    I want to stay in Europe. I want open borders. I don’t want to give only assurances, I want them to stay as a right.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '17 - 4:29pm

    Some EU citizens who came here legally are already getting deported. We need to raise awareness of this and abolish deportations for people who came here legally and minimum income rules for spouses to come over.

    We can have fair immigration controls without tearing apart families.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '17 - 4:31pm

    PS, here is a link of people getting deported because “they have become a burden on the state”. We can all become a burden at times and it might lead to the EU deporting our citizens too.

  • Peter Watson 27th Mar '17 - 5:53pm

    @Eddie Sammon “Some EU citizens who came here legally are already getting deported.”
    However unpleasant this is, since Brexit has not yet begun isn’t it happening under the rules of the system supported by those wanting to remain within the EU?

  • Peter Watson 27th Mar '17 - 6:03pm

    @Eddie Sammon “Some EU citizens who came here legally are already getting deported.”
    It is also worth pointing out how robust Lib Dem policy is on this issue. The link on the party website appears to have disappeared, but as Paul Walter previously posted on this site (

    We’ll ensure people can speak English and are willing to work. We’ll ensure that migrants, including from the EU, come to work or study, not to claim benefits. And when it’s time for them to leave, we will make sure they return home.

  • The key role of a government is to protect its people.
    How are non-UK EU nationals people of the UK and thus the responsibility of Westminster to protect?

    Also can the EU be regarded as a form of government and hence also have a part to play?

    As we all have “skin in the game”, I find it irritating that once again the LibDems are demanding special treatment for non-UK nationals. I suspect that the modern LibDems, if transported back to the 1930’s would be against GB declaring war on Hitler as it would have a negative impact on the German nationals living in the UK.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Mar '17 - 12:41am

    Roland, my close family has two EU migrants and zero expats in. The distinction between “their people” and “our people” is largely meaningless.

  • ethics gradient: that is interesting, having never played the game.
    Though I suspect May and co have 2 of hearts, 6 of clubs, and a 4 and 5 of diamonds and the rest of the EU hold all the aces.

    Roland, your ‘suspicion’ is a false analogy. No EU nation is invading any other with tanks, nor committing genocide. The Liberal Party was part of Churchill’s wartime coalition.
    Appeaser Neville Chamberlain was a Tory.

  • @Eddie – “The distinction between “their people” and “our people” is largely meaningless.
    I disagree, because the phrase that was using in the article was “its people”. Hence the question. I suggest the Libdems need to provide a more coherent and persuasive argument as to why non-UK nationals should be counted as belonging to the UK and thus the responsibility of the UK government.

    “my close family has two EU migrants and zero expats in.”
    I won’t bore you with my family, which also has taken advantage of the opportunities presented to ‘explore’ the world’s gene pool and who have naturally had to “play the game” so that its members have appropriate residency and its children have UK passports. However, we shouldn’t let our personal circumstances stop us from understanding that such arrangements are, over many millennia, the exception rather than the rule.

    @CassieB – Note I deliberately used the phrase “modern LibDems”. I used the backdrop WWII because it has been misused elsewhere with respect to Brexit, but also because it was the last time there were major political upheavals in Europe, where the UK had to take decisions that directly impacted parts of the population, specifically the introduction of internment for German nationals which also impacted mixed heritage families.

  • ethicsgradient 28th Mar '17 - 3:16pm

    Besides going off-topic with a rant about poker analogies, I do think this issue of rights of EU citizens in UK and vice versa will become a non-event.

    Because all sides: Remainers+bexiters in the UK, all the members of the EU: we all want the same thing. For all citizens rights to be guaranteed. May put it forward to solve the issue early but was rejected because the EU wishes to stick to the ‘not talks to A50 is triggered’. Effectively it is being held up on because of legal/formal procedure.

    After Weds this issue will be dealt with and all citizen will be free and legally entitled to stay and carry on as they have been doing previously.

  • Though I suspect May and co have 2 of hearts, 6 of clubs, and a 4 and 5 of diamonds and the rest of the EU hold all the aces.

    If they hold the Aces between them and none has more than one (or another pocket pair), then that puts May in a pretty strong position: four outs for the sevens, plus three each for the 2-6s, and the ones holding an Ace can’t pair it (because the others are already in hands) so they are down to at most three outs to pair their kicker.

    Probably worth May putting a medium-strong bet in, in that case.

  • Sorry, four outs for the threes, not the sevens.

  • ethicsgradient 28th Mar '17 - 5:48pm

    I am trying my best to resist this damn poker analogy, but i am being pulled in…..

    Is this no limits Hold ’em or Omaha? I am taking it as Hold ’em and clarifying the holding hands a May 2H, 6C… Junker AA … board is 4D 5D + unkown….

    I think what is more representative is would be May holding 2D, 6D, board being 4D 5D 7C, and Junker AA… This would give a gut shot on making the straight and 36% on hitting the flush. gives 12 outs (if one of the aces is D.. 8D + 4X3’s)… so 50% chance of beating Junker. 50/50….

    Does that seem a reasonable analogy?

  • @ethicsgradient – or is it Trump? I don’t need to look at my hand as I know it will beat whatever is in your hand, so why bother playing when we know the outcome and simply agree to my terms…

  • Richard Underhill 28th Mar '17 - 8:08pm

    ethicsgradient 27th Mar ’17 – 3:32pm Yes Terence Reese said that poker is a game of skill, whereas bridge contains a large element of luck.

  • Eddie – I thought you were pro Brexit

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Mar '17 - 9:18am

    I Alistair, I voted remain but I’ve been pro soft-brexit since the referendum result.

  • I think what is more representative is would be May holding 2D, 6D, board being 4D 5D 7C, and Junker AA

    Why assume she’s only playing against Juncker? There are 28 people at the table, they didn’t all fold before the flop. Chances are good that none of them has more than one ace.

    Anyway, the real problem with the poker analogies is that poker is a zero-sum game; whatever one person wins, the others lose, by design. The UK / EU negotiations, on the other hand, are a game where either there is a good deal and we all win (the UK and the EU) or there is a bad deal or no deal and we all lose (the UK and the EU).

    There isn’t really a situation here were the EU can win and the UK lose, or vice-versa. Whatever happens, we sink or swim together.

  • mistakenot... 29th Mar '17 - 11:32am

    @ethicsgradient: it would be a reasonable analogy, except that your figures seem to assume that all of the cards are entirely Euclidean, deterministic, and frictionless. It’s probably how most people would have played at the turn of the 1900s, but ever since general relativity became common knowledge, any serious player would factor in the effects of the cards’ differing quantum topographies, and the order in which their waveforms have collapsed. To be fair, you’re probably thinking of Blackjack, which is an easy mistake to make.

  • I prefer Happy Families 🙂

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Mar '17 - 10:54pm

    I have stayed clear of some of the threads as there are very many who feel this Brexit in their hearts more than me.

    But Eddie Sammon talks from the head and heart here as ever is the case with this man who on occasion some criticise , I say three cheers Eddie !

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Mar '17 - 11:08pm

    Thanks Lorenzo. I like Tim Farron’s position of fighting the hard brexit. I’m not down for the second referendum stuff, but yes let’s fight hard brexit.

    We need to make clear that actually the UK has some control over immigration from the EU whilst possibly increasing it, but there should be no deportations of people who arrive legally. Even Farage has agreed to that position!

  • mistakenot... 30th Mar '17 - 10:04am

    @CassieB: It don’t get much better than Happy Families!

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