Tuesday, 17 February 2004

Who's confused?

Clive Summerfield @ Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Well I am for one. And I daresay, based on recent performances, so are a significant number of Labour MPs.

On 1st May 2004, 10 countries become new members of the EU. Of all the existing members, only Ireland and the UK are going to grant full access to employment and benefits for migratory workers from the new countries.

Except Tony Blair decided that maybe tighter controls were needed. That was on 4th Feb.

Then less than a week later on 9th Feb, David Blunkett said there would be no restrictions.

And now, on 17th Feb, it appears that a deal has been done during talks at No. 10, the details of which will be presented to Parliament on 23rd Feb.

Meanwhile the Common's Home Affairs Committee will be hearing evidence on the subject from Beverley Hughes (Immigration Minister) next month.

Yet by the end of 2002 it was known when the accession of these countries would be taking place. So why all the to-ing and fro-ing so close to the wire, with Parliament being informed a bare 68 days before accession?

This is exactly the sort of issue which Governments can deal with in a proactive manner. They've had 12 months to get the policy pinned down, and yet it is left to the last minute. Or was it? Perhaps the real problem was Tony deciding, at the last minute, that he ought to add his personal touch; show the country that he is in tune with their fears.

Genuine confusion or plain old control-freakery? We'll probably never know, but it is exactly this sort of faffing around that diminishes the credibility of the Government to make reasoned decisions and abide by them.

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