The UK General Election campaign has started. My polling card confirming my right to vote arrived through the letterbox yesterday, but there’s still no official sign of party manifestos.
The government called a snap election in part to buttress its support in negotiations to withdraw from the European Union following last year’s Brexit referendum.
The surge in reported hate crime and nasty anti-immigrant slogans daubed on walls that characterised the referendum and its immediate aftermath showed an ugly side to the country. Since then attacks targeting migrants – especially EU citizens from central and eastern Europe – have continued, albeit at a lower level than immediately after the vote.
The referendum’s outcome seems to have been seen by some parts of British society as legitimizing an anti-foreigner sentiment, especially among those who believed wrongly that the Brexit referendum was about putting an end to immigration. It wasn’t, but Brexit will involve curtailing the way EU laws governing freedom of movement of EU citizens working in the UK.
And yet, no one really knows how that issue will be addressed. What status will EU citizens living in the UK have after the UK leaves the union? The government and most Labour MPs rejected the chance to clarify their situation when they voted down a legislative amendment that would have guaranteed EU citizens’ rights.
But when hate crimes and divisive language remain a persistent concern, and people’s life plans hang in the balance as they wait for the outcome of negotiations, the UK parties should offer a simple guarantee that anyone who is an EU citizen and has made the UK their home will continue to enjoy the rights they have now.
That simple manifesto promise would fit neatly on a pamphlet or flyer of whatever color, to be delivered through my letterbox in the coming weeks.