Britain should take the “moral high ground” and allow European Union nationals currently living and working in the UK to remain unconditionally, a former cabinet minister and one of the main architect of Brexit said recently at a meeting of consuls.
Speaking at a lecture of the Consular Corps of London the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith MP said: “We ought to say to all those nationals that by a certain date, if you are here and registered here, working etc, then you are welcome to stay. We are not going to ask you to leave or make you get work permits.
Duncan Smith admitted that his views were “slightly at odds” with officials in Whitehall who believe migrants could be an important negotiating card. “I say to them, what are you going to get back? Massive free trade? I don’t think so. We shouldn’t be using people as pawns in this game. Let’s just take the moral high ground and tell people they are welcome to stay and can continue to work and only future entrants will be subject to work permits after a set date.”
Irish citizens deserved special treatment, added Smith. “Ireland has always had a special relationship with the UK so Irish citizens would be treated like British citizens so you won’t have hard borders.”
Duncan Smith said his proposals for a non-discriminatory immigration system based on controlling access to work using work permits had been well received in Whitehall.
“The purpose of a migration policy is to control migration and not to end it. The myth of a fortress Britain is not true. But what is different is that the system applied to the EU and non-EU becomes the same.”
Commenting on the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on whether Article 50 to leave the EU should be triggered by Royal Prerogative (the method preferred by Government), or by a vote in Parliament, Duncan Smith was critical of the original High Court decision, saying “courts [had] no right” to interfere in the political process.
“If the decision was upheld by the Supreme Court it would be a monumental decision of judicial activism on the scale which has not been seen before in the UK,” he said.