Sketch: Sajid Javid welcomes Europeans to the UK
Parliamentary sketch: Sajid Javid’s attempts to get Europeans to stay in the UK are being undermined by the UK’s attempts to remove them
Image credit: Iain Green
Sajid Javid’s appearance in front of the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee was an informative one, or at least it was if you’d ever wondered what it would be like if you put David Brent in charge of deportations.
Which is not to say his arrival as Home Secretary was anywhere near the top of Theresa May’s list of banter appointments. Have you tried announcing you had no idea the UK relied on its ports for its imports? Have you wrongly claimed your wife was Japanese? Held secret talks over the possibility of handing UK aid money over to the Israeli Defence Force? If not, you’re not even making the shortlist, mate.
To be honest, they’re starting to feel like the sort of plotlines you’d hear from Hollywood movie executives at the end of a tired day pitching cheap comedies. What if you gave Jeremy Hunt foreign affairs? What if David Davis accidentally ended up secretary of state? What if Chris Grayling achieved sentience, and – wait for it – found himself in charge of a country’s transport system?
So, no, Javid as Home Secretary doesn’t come close, even if recent reports claiming he’s started referring to himself in the third person, as ‘The Saj’, suggest a decent attempt at raising his game. In fact, it seems there are really only two places where you can get away with creating your own nickname: the cabinet or primary school. Though there does tend to be a greater sense of collective responsibility in a primary school.
But at least Javid could come to committee armed with the news the government was dropping plans to charge EU nationals in the UK £65 each to stay. That gave him something to cling to, even if it was unclear the extent to which the U-turn constituted a favour.
And so it was that The Sajinator found himself, looking like a sad turtle, explaining to the assembled Lords that the UK is actually desperate for foreigners to stay here. It’s just that it keeps doing things to make that much harder.
The concern, though, as the Lords saw it, was that Home Office communications sent out to warn EU nationals that they might get deported had had been “very heavily criticised”. Someone had called it “Orwellian”, apparently.
But that was wrong. As he explained, “the process itself is very friendly”. And it is friendly. A friendly reminder that you face deportation. It’s kind of like how the mafia can be friendly – nice life you have here, shame if something happened to it.
The problem, it seemed, was that the media had been reporting on planned deportations as though they were a bad thing. “The reason I am Home Secretary is because of Windrush,” he explained, with the air of an up-and-coming musician paying tribute to the artists that inspired them.
And Windrush was certainly a huge scandal. But if Javid is to make his mark then he will need a scandal of his own, rather than riding on Amber Rudd’s back catalogue. Which brought them back to his plans to force Europeans to apply to stay in the country
As he explained: “I, we, the UK Government in its entirety, hugely values the contribution of EU citizens. That they have made in the past and continue to make to the UK. Every single one of them. They are part of our family, clearly part of our society, they make an economic contribution, cultural contributions in so many countless ways. It’s invaluable, what they provide to our country.
“We want them to stay and we want to make that as easy and as straightforward as possible.”
Now obviously, one way to make it as easy and as straightforward as possible for EU citizens to stay would be not to forcibly remove them, but – apart from the news that Javid is now apparently referring to himself as “I, we, the UK Government in its entirety” – it was at least heartening to hear that he, they, the UK Government in its entirety, sees Europeans as family.
Not family they actually like, obviously. More like family they’re stuck with. Family they want rid of.
Europeans are family, just not family that are allowed to visit. They are of course very welcome to try, it’s just that they will need some very specific documentation in order to do so. And they’ll also be subject to counter-terrorism checks. Like everyone does with their family.
But it’s all very positive. “The EU citizens that are here, they’re not doing us a favour,” he said, before realising he was appearing in front of the Lords and not taking part in a Home Office ad campaign. Correcting himself to say the opposite, he explained: “We’re not doing them a favour, they are doing us a favour already, by coming to Britain and doing what they do.”
But still, wasn’t Javid concerned with how sinister Home Office adverts appeared to be, given the department seemed to be making policy decisions based on dystopian fiction?
Apparently not. “That is the correct message,” came the defence, “it wasn’t meant to be threatening, it was meant to be factual.”
Well, exactly. Apply to stay or face the consequences. It’s not a threat, it’s a promise.
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