Friday, 2 May 2014

Let's have more walls...

What the world really needs right now is more walls. They’re such fun, after all.

Obviously, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the most edifying we have right now is the one being built in Israel. In the most cheerful and amusing way it divides farmers from their land, families from their relatives and, above all, the good guys (with the money and the massive firepower) from the bad guys (without much money and with a lot less firepower).

Israeli West Bank Barrier
A fine monument to international harmony and inclusiveness
But while Israel may be building the most visible wall, there are plenty more going up round the world which only lack its concrete substance, but are just as good at dividing people.

Take Britain, for instance. In recent weeks, I’ve come across three married couples, each with one partner from outside the EU. One of them even has a child. But the law does not allow them to come freely to Britain or live there. Fortunately for those couples, the other countries involved are less exclusive, or they would simply not be able to build family lives together anywhere.

Now there’s an interesting state of affairs to reconcile with British leaders’ oft-proclaimed insistence that our country is fundamentally Christian.

Incidentally, if these couples could point to a job already won and earning a minimum of £18,600 a year, they could come across. Britain is a Christian country in the sense that it’s decided that the poor should find it as hard to get in as a camel going through the eye of a needle.

I’ve also come across a non-EU couple involved in medical research whose view is simple: getting a visa to a Schengen country (most of the EU) requires some paperwork but it’s straightforward and it can be done. To get into Britain? It takes months and costs as much again as the airfare. They simply won
t bother.

Britain wants to carve itself a niche at the forefront of world scientific research. How will it achieve that if researchers choose not to attend its conferences?

Finally, I know of business people, again from outside the EU, who wished to visit a British company with whom they were considering placing a significant order. It took months to organise, and the British company had to guarantee their visitors’ expenses.

We like to think of ourselves as a major business centre. So where’s the benefit of putting obstacles in the way of clients ordering from us?

What makes all of this particularly extraordinary is that we have an increasing clamour from across the political spectrum, but above all from the right, to increase the severity of limitations on immigration to Britain. UKIP, for instance, has released a manifesto for the European elections which accuses the EU of granting to 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians the right to settle in Britain, which is strictly true – but only if the entire population of both countries upped sticks and moved, en masse, to the UK.

UKIP, with the right wing of the Conservative Party trailing in its wake, clearly feels that making such hysterical statements is appropriate in order to protect our shores more effectively. As though it weren’t already hard enough to get in.

Nor is Britain alone in behaving this way. In France, in Greece, in Holland, in numerous countries across Europe, virulently anti-immigrant parties are making serious progress. It’s possible that the European elections will leave us with a parliament over 25% of which is opposed to the very idea of the European Union.

And walls will be going up in more and more countries across the Continent and beyond.

Because they’re such fun, aren’t they?

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