Priti Patel. Photo: Flickr/DFID Priti Patel. Photo: Flickr/DFID

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel want to create a new hostile environment, but they can be stopped, argues Eleftheria Kousta

Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced tougher restrictions on EU citizens amid a possible no-deal Brexit after the 31st of October. Thus far, no one in the administration has clarified what that means other than that freedom of movement is going to end. The plans have caused havoc as potentially 2 million EU citizens who haven’t registered for the settled status can lose their right to remain in the UK overnight.

This comes right after the pledges of PM Boris Johnson to leave the rights of EU citizens living in the UK intact. The obvious contradictions in those two statements highlights the fact that the Tory party is completely untrustworthy and unable to form a coherent strategy. The Home Office hasn’t set any guidelines on how to distinguish between EU citizens who already live here and newcomers, thus potentially causing trouble for anyone who might be abroad at that time. MPs Diane Abbot and Ed Davey have stated that this abrupt move will wreak chaos and open the door for discriminatory migration policies.

Patel and Johnson are reportedly working on a points-based-system akin to the one in Australia that has often become the subject of scrutiny for its racist overtones, as well as send experts to Singapore in order to gain insights in their draconian border regime. It is evident that the PM and Home Secretary are set to create a non-entry migration system modelled after two of the most exclusionary migrant-receiving countries in the world.

The Tory party has been responsible for the plight of the Windrush generation which led to the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the toning down of anti-immigration proposals. Under Boris Johnson, the Tories are resuming their tough stance which will severely compromise the rights of non-UK passport holders.

No surprises that their policy is incoherent as well as brutal. The hard right clique around Johnson that has taken over the government face a contradiction. On the one hand they want to pursue a neoliberal agenda, which actually requires a continuing flow of skilled and unskilled labour, on the other they are trying to appeal to a right wing base by getting tough on migrants.

Expect more confusion but also that EU citizens and other migrants will be the collateral damage. The left has to get serious about challenging this government’s appallingly reactionary social agenda. That means defending free movement from EU countries but not stopping there. UK immigration policy concerning other parts of the world has long been a disgrace. We need to be clear that it is not immigrants that  are causing the problems faced by ordinary people up and down the country. Four decades of neoliberal policies have devastated services, creating a race to the bottom in pay, conditions and job security

The basis for such a challenge is broad. Evidence shows that attitudes towards immigrants have become more positive since the Brexit vote and outrage around Windrush was one of the factors driving this. In the last two weeks, the new government has been exposed as vindictive and punitive. Anger against them is growing. The left has to channel that anger into a force for change.