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Harry and Meghan Markle prove overseas love is uncontroversial – unless you’re poor

In parts of the UK, half of the population can’t afford the privilege of overseas love. 

There’s no denying it: Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle are a beautiful couple. That they look genuinely in love helps too. Their besotted and vaguely embarrassed shared glances don’t say to me that this is a royal approved marriage – they give every impression of loving each other in a way that most people can relate to.

Congratulations to them: I hope they have a long, happy life together.

The outpouring of excitement confirms to me what I already knew: Brits love love. We see young couples with happy years ahead of them and it makes us feel good. We think that one of the basic building blocks of a happy life is a family, at the centre of which is two people who love each other.

The science backs this national view up. Paper after paper shows that children have the best prospects (in terms of education, mental health, you name it) if they’re brought up in a stable, secure household with parents who love them. 

In short, a loving family who live together is a good thing. You’d think that much is uncontroversial.

Sadly, for thousands of people in Britain, that’s not the reality. In 2012, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, changed the rules so that if you fall in love with someone from outside the EU, the Home Office will stop them from being able to live with you in Britain if your salary is less than £18,600 a year. And if you have children together, that amount goes up. Something like four in 10 Britons don’t meet that income requirement. In some regions of the UK, it’s more than half.

In short, we have a visa system which means that almost half of Britain could be denied the chance to live with the person they love.

On top of that, there is a complex regime of fees and administrative proof. A recent court case had to be fought to even get the Home Office to consider income outside a formal salary. Many couples had been split apart just because the Home Office refused to look at, for example, income from investments or from other family members. If the paperwork backing up your claim is even slightly questionable, the Home Office will reject it. Couples can spend thousands of pounds and years of their life trying to prove to the Home Office that they should be allowed to live together as a loving couple.

The result: 15,000 British children will spend this Christmas in a different country from one of their parents because the UK Home Office won’t let them be together. My husband is from Ecuador and I’m thankful beyond words that he’ll be here in the UK with me and our son. But that was never a given. We’ve gone through two years of hell to get here. When my husband’s visa runs out in a couple of years, we’ll go through it all again.

Put aside the emotional hurt this causes the parents. Many kids who can only know their dads through an iPad screen end up needing counselling. They can’t concentrate at school. They don’t understand why their friends have mum or dad around, but they don’t.

I wonder if the Home Secretary would come and explain the reason to them.

So what do we want instead? We want exactly what the whole country came together to celebrate: the chance for two people who love each other to be able to live together and create a happy family. We think that opportunity is a basic part of human life, not something that should only be open to people if they earn enough money.

I will be celebrating the royal couple’s marriage because I think that love between people is a beautiful thing. But I won’t forget the 15,000 kids who, on their letter to Santa, will have only one wish: for the Home Office to let Mummy and Daddy live together.

Caroline Coombs is a founding member of Reuniting Families UK, a coalition of British families asking the UK government to let couples who love each other live together in the UK.

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Will the Brexit Cabinet talks end in a “three baskets” approach?

The joy of the three baskets idea is that everyone gets to tell themselves that it will be their basket that ends up the fullest. 

It's decision day in the Brexit talks. Again.

The Brexit inner Cabinet will meet to hammer out not its final position, but the shape of its negotiating position. The expected result: an agreement on an end state in which the United Kingdom agrees it will follow EU regulations as it were still a member, for example on aviation; will agree to follow EU objectives but go about them in its own way, for example on recycling, where the British government wants to do more on plastic and less on glass; and finally, in some areas, it will go its way completely, for instance on financial services. Or as it has come to be known in Whitehall, the "three baskets" approach.

For all the lengthy run-up, this bit isn't expected to be difficult: the joy of the three baskets idea is that everyone gets to tell themselves that it will be their basket that ends up the fullest. There are two difficulties: the first is that the EU27 won't play ball, and the second is that MPs will kick off when it emerges that their preferred basket is essentially empty.

The objections of the EU27 are perhaps somewhat overwritten. The demands of keeping the Irish border open, maintaining Europol and EU-wide defence operations means that in a large number of areas, a very close regulatory and political relationship is in everyone's interests. But everyone knows that in order for the Conservative government to actually sign the thing, there is going to have to be some divergence somewhere.

The bigger problem is what happens here at home when it turns out that the third basket - that is to say, full regulatory autonomy - is confined to fishing and the "industries of the future". The European Research Group may have a few more letters left to send yet.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.