The Home Office continues scaring the shit out of immigrants

"Go home or face arrest", says a new poster campaign.

The Home Office is to drive billboards warning migrants to "go home or face arrest" around London this week, in the latest attempt to instil fear in the hearts of immigrants. The news follows on from their oppressive Twitter campaign showing pictures of immigrants being bundled into the back of vans with captions like "no hiding place for illegal immigrants".

The Evening Standard's Martin Bentham reports:

The billboards will also display the number of illegal migrants arrested recently in the relevant part of the capital.

Ministers say that the hardline message is intended to encourage visa overstayers or others here unlawfully to return voluntarily.

The vans will be driven around the London boroughs of Ealing, Barnet, Hounslow, Brent, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham, in an effort to strike fear into the hearts of migrants. The six boroughs have been chosen, according to Bentham, because "they currently have either high or low numbers of voluntary returns".

The full billboard reads:

In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070 for free advice, and help with travel documents. We can help you to return home voluntarily without fear of arrest or detention.

It's not difficult to draw comparisons with the latest anti-migrant campaign in Australia, where Cameron's chief political strategist Lynton Crosby cut his teeth. There, the ruling Labour party has started running posters in major newspapers with the slogan "If you come here by boat without a visa you won't be settled in Australia". Many have pointed out that the fact that the slogan is aimed at potential migrants but run in Australian newspapers means that the real aim of the campaign is Australian voters, who like hearing that their government is tough on immigration.

Is the same true here? At least the poster due to be driven around outer London has a chance of being seen by its supposed targets, and according to Bentham:

The new advert will also be displayed on posters and on leaflets distributed to money transfer shops, internet cafes and other places where migrants congregate.

Of course, if anyone who isn't an illegal immigrant should happen to see the poster and decide to vote Tory because of it, well, that would be too bad, wouldn't it?

Photograph: Gov.UK

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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What price would the UK pay to stop Brexit?

The EU could end Britain's budget rebate and demand that we join the euro and the Schengen zone.

Among any group of Remain politicians, discussion soon turns to the likelihood of stopping Brexit. After Theresa May's electoral humbling, and the troubled start to the negotiations, those who oppose EU withdrawal are increasingly optimistic.

“I’m beginning to think that Brexit may never happen,” Vince Cable, the new Liberal Democrat leader, said recently. A growing number, including those who refuse to comment publicly, are of the same view. 

But conversation rarely progresses to the potential consequences of halting Brexit. The assumption that the UK could simply retain the status quo is an unsafe one. Much hinges on whether Article 50 is unilaterally revocable (a matter Britain might have been wise to resolve before triggering withdrawal.) Should the UK require the approval of the EU27 to halt Brexit (as some lawyers believe), or be forced to reapply for membership, Brussels would extract a price. 

Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, recently echoed French president Emmanuel Macron's declaration that “there is always a chance to reopen the door”. But he added: “Like Alice in Wonderland, not all the doors are the same. It will be a brand new door, with a new Europe, a Europe without rebates, without complexity, with real powers and with unity.”

The UK's £5bn budget rebate, achieved by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, has long been in the EU's sights. A demand to halt Brexit would provide the perfect pretext for its removal. 

As Verhofstadt's reference to “unity” implied, the UK's current opt-outs would also be threatened. At present, Britain (like Denmark) enjoys the right to retain its own currency and (like Ireland) an exemption from the passport-free Schengen travel zone. Were the UK to reapply for membership under Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty, it would be automatically required to join the euro and to open its borders.

During last year's Labour leadership election, Owen Smith was candid enough to admit as much. “Potentially,” he replied when asked whether he would accept membership of the euro and the Schengen zone as the price of continued EU membership (a stance that would not have served Labour well in the general election.)

But despite the daily discussion of thwarting Brexit, politicians are rarely confronted by such trade-offs. Remaining within or rejoining the EU, like leaving, is not a cost-free option (though it may be the best available.) Until anti-Brexiteers acknowledge as much, they are vulnerable to the very charge they level at their opponents: that they inhabit a fantasy world. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.