screamed the news (and screaming is usually the right adjective for the news these days) after the House of Lords voted for an amendment to the government's article 50 bill. But was it really?
It says a lot that this is considered a defeat.
The House of Lords voted for a minor amendment to the Article 50 trigger bill to ensure that the government safeguards the rights of EU citizens living here. It says a lot bout how little the government has been challenged over it's extreme stance on leaving the EU that this is considered a defeat.
At most this would be a very minor concession.
At most this would be a very minor concession to those seeking to limit the damage Brexit will wreak on our country and on the lives of millions of people. Not really a concession actually, more a gesture of goodwill to show we haven't become completely heartless and self-abusing as a nation - the smallest possible way the government could start to pad out it's completely shallow and empty rhetoric that Britain will continue to have a global outlook after we withdraw ourselves from, and any influence over, one of the most important global institutions.
This isn't a defeat then. But, it is significant that it is being represented as such. The government needs to be seen to be given a hard time... and so does the increasingly irrelevant official opposition. Now I would never accuse them of collusion - wait, yes I would. They have found an argument they can 'safely' have, a smokescreen against the fact that they are not really having any arguments of substance at all.
The argument is a smokescreen to cover the lack of any challenge over what Brexit will mean.
This is great for Labour, who just don't seem to know how to challenge the government. Having given up on any meaningful opposition to the extreme elements of the governments Brexit strategy - pulling us out of the single market, ending freedom of movement, ending the common rules and standards that enable us to trade so freely with Europe. This argument means they can ignore the role they should be playing in actually challenging the government over how they will deal with all the multiple and complex issues which Brexit will bring - on N.Ireland and the peace process, on what pulling out of Euratom will mean, on what we will do about security and policing cooperation, on how we will deal with the thousands upon thousands of product and safety standards that currently ensure safe products, on what we do about allowing students to take advantage of Erasmus, on farming subsidies, on research grants and international participation, on replacing the money our poorer areas receive from the EU's regional development fund, on how we will replace the contributions to international aid which currently the EU makes and we count towards our 0.7% spend target, on or whether we will coordinate our foreign affairs, on how we will control pollution and global warming which is not just a domestic problem - in fact how we will tackle anything that does not originate solely from within our borders, but more often than not those of our neighbours?
This is good for the government as they have no answers to the difficult questions.
It may be good for Labour, but it is even better for the government - because when they are occasionally challenged on these things they clearly don't have any answers to any of these difficult and complex questions. This was made abundantly clear in the so-called white paper they released, which addressed nothing, gave no clear way forward but just regurgitated meaningless chest-thumping jingoistic platitudes.
The government is deliberately using EU citizens as a human shield against their own incompetence.
The government could, if it wanted, end this debate right now by simply agreeing to protect the rights of those who have already done so much for our country. But they are not, and likely won't until they have what they want - complete unfettered control over the Brexit negotiations, a blank cheque from parliament and a lack of exposure on just how difficult and damaging these negotiations are likely to be for us, and just how unprepared they are for them. They have been accused of using them as bargaining chips and this may be so. I don't believe, as some would claim, that the UK has nothing to offer the EU in return for continued cooperation - but who knows whether the 3 stooges in charge of this process really do understand our strengths, and certainly they must be aware what they have said they want is basically delusional, whatever we have to offer. No I suspect it is more that the government is using non-UK EU citizens in our country as more of a human shield to deflect attention and scrutiny of what Brexit will actually mean, and hide the complete incompetence with which they are going about it.
Of course their argument goes "we can't guarantee these rights until we agree the rights of UK citizens". Hence the accusation of using them as bargaining chips. This is completely spurious but has a lot of agreement, even amongst some of the more reasonable sections of our society. Supporters of Brexit have seized on this to accuse those remainers arguing for the safeguarding of EU citizen rights over here as 'not caring' about UK citizens; completely ignoring it is Brexit that is stripping them of their protection, of their EU citizen status, in the first place. It's a completely hypocritical argument, but that is hardly new.
Brexiteers and the government like to portray this as some kind of hostage exchange situation, where each side is threatening the rights of each others citizens and this standoff can only be resolved when we negotiate. But this isn't the case. As it stands right now, the rights of UK citizens are totally safe. They are EU citizens with all the rights of in EU countries that that brings (though not an unconditional right to remain - that was always a myth - but that's for another time). The EU, or its member states are not threatening to remove this.
It is the UK, with it's decision to trigger article 50 and leave the EU and refusal to join the EEA or otherwise maintain freedom of movement that is putting our own citizen's rights at risk, as well as those of other, non-UK, EU citizens in our country. It is the UK who is deciding to strip its citizens of the EU citizenship and the rights it affords them. How dare the government and brexit cheerleaders try and absolve themselves of responsibility and blame others for the consequences of this action.
If we threaten the rights of EU citizens against those of UK citizens then this is not bargaining, it is blackmail, with human hostages.
What is even more shameful is that not only are we will-fully pursuing brexit and the threat to our own citizens that this brings, we are threatening the life that other EU citizens in the UK have made, the lives they have built with friends and family, if the other 27 EU members do not pick up the pieces of the mess we have made for our UK citizens resident in the EU.
This is not a negotiation, we are not threatening their rights against an EU threat to our citizens. Those EU citizens living here have contributed to our society, enriched our country and made it more prosperous and we are threatening to repay them by using them as human hostages to blackmail the rest of the EU in to sorting out the problems we have created for our citizens. We are threatening their rights to counter the threat we have made to our own UK citizens rights - to assuage our guilt over having jeopardised their future.
That is inhumane, immoral and unacceptable; it is utterly utterly disgraceful. And it is made all the worse by the fact that so many people are so cheerfully pursuing Brexit with absolutely no recognition that they are even to blame for this by removing EU citizenship, attacking anyone who dares suggest we shouldn't hurt yet more people because our actions have consequences for UK people. It's so typical of the arrogance and entitlement that those pursuing and championing Brexit have displayed time and time and time again.
What we have not heard from the Brexiteers is an apology to UK citizens in the EU for the position they have put them in.
If you injure someone close to you, you do not threaten to hurt somebody else unless their friends help. You show you are sorry about what has happened and want to make it better for them without putting others at risk - you ask for help, not threaten others to get it.
We have heard from the government that they want to secure the rights of UK citizens living in the EU - what we have not heard from them, or from prominent Quiters is any ownership of responsibility for this situation and an apology for putting them in it in the first place.