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1 December 2016

This week, Daniel Hannan was mainly wrong about European immigration policy

Hannan fodder 2: Attack of the clones. 

By Jonn Elledge

Very rarely, perhaps just once in a generation, a politician gives a speech so great that their words will resonate down the decades to come. Cicero’s denunciation of Catiline. Churchill, on the Iron Curtain descending across Europe.

And now, apparently, Ukip’s only MP Douglas Carswell, who just gave a speech in which he singlehandedly turned the tide on Britain’s anti-immigration sentiment.

Pretty impressive, I’m sure you’ll agree.

If you are thinking that this sounds a bit convenient – a bit, “I have a girlfriend, you don’t know her, she goes to another school” – then I have news for you. It is you, Remoaner, who are the real villain of the piece.

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Let us not reveal the true depth of our prejudices on this occasion: we shall take it on trust that such a person exists, and was thusly moved, for Daniel is an honourable man. Instead of questioning the veracity of the story, let’s attempt a close reading of Hannan’s interpretation of it.

“I just met a brilliant young Bulgarian who, upset by Brexit, planned to go home. Then she heard @DouglasCarswell speak and changed her mind.

I can envision such a brilliant young Bulgarian being upset by Brexit, and interpreting it as a signal she should make her excuses. I can even, just about, accept it as plausible that it was Douglas “Abe Lincoln” Carswell who changed her mind: after all, she may reason, if even a Ukip MP is saying, “No, you are welcome here”, then, perhaps, she is.

Where I struggle is that, brilliant as our young Bulgarian is, she must surely be aware that there’s a very good chance she isn’t going to get the slightest say in the matter – and the most inspirational speech in the world isn’t going to change that.

“She was so taken with his vision of an optimistic global UK that she decided to make her life here.”

I feel a bit like somebody’s gaslighting me here. It’s not that I’m questioning the sincerity of Douglas “Demosthenes” Carswell or anything, but are UKIP in favour of an optimistic global UK now?

Is that what it campaigned for in the run up to the referendum?

 

Which party does Douglas Carswell think he’s in?

“Exactly the kind of immigrant we want.”

I am intrigued to know exactly what the words “exactly the kind of immigrant” mean in that sentence, as well as the identity of the “we” in question. But since Daniel Hannan has blocked me on Twitter, I suppose I shall never know.

I don’t wish to imply Hannan is not concerned about the rights of Britain’s European residents: I’m quite sure that he is. Where he seems to struggle, though, is in comprehending exactly how they came to be here in the first place. Here’s another outraged tweet he sent this week on a similar subject:

Leave aside the use of the word “migrants” to mean “refugees fleeing from a war”. Focus instead on the first half of that sentence.

There is, of course, exactly such a reciprocal arrangement on offer right now: it’s membership of the European Union, the body which Daniel Hannan has spent the last 20 years campaigning to remove Britain from.

So a question Hannan and Carswell may wish to ask themselves is why, exactly, the rights of Britain’s European residents are suddenly up for grabs. It was not the Remain campaign which stirred up anti-immigrant feeling in an attempt to win the referendum.  It is not we negative Remoaners who allied with Nigel Farage in order to achieve our open, optimistic goals.

If Britain’s Europeans are feeling frightened and considering leaving the UK right now, then Hannan and Carswell must take a hefty share of the blame for that – and going round convincing them to stay, one bright young Bulgarian at a time, cannot change this uncomfortable reality.

Now, if you happened to have a story about how Douglas “John F. Kennedy” Carswell managed to change the mind of a brilliant young Brexit minister, then that would be an entirely different matter.