"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Monday 6 May 2013

Breaking the social contract?

In the news today -

'State pensions block for overseas spouses planned' : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22424305

Husbands or wives of British people living abroad will no longer automatically receive a state pension, under plans being drawn up by the government.

Ministers are concerned that some people claiming a married person's allowance have never even visited Britain.

The move is part of an overhaul of the pension system, which will be announced in the Queen's speech this week.

This move raises a few questions. One obvious question is - how on earth is it going to be enforceable when the UKBA don't even know who is in or outside of the country? (A simple example, from my personal experience, is here : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/through-post-following-missive-arrived.html ).

Furthermore, how are the authorities even going to track which overseas Brits are alive or not -who does the overseas partner notify when their beloved has passed on (given there's not much incentive to do so, but never mind)? How will the authorities deal with language differences, and so on? A bereaved, grieving partner in a different country - navigating the morass of British bureaucracy - for what would surely seem like no good reason?

The Telegraph noticed this as well :

'A new law closing the loophole that allows hundreds of thousands of foreigners to receive UK state pensions without paying tax will be a "bureaucratic nightmare" that could cost as much as it saves, experts warn' :

This from the Independent :
Norman Cudmore, who lives in The Philippines after serving in the RAF for 22 years and working overseas for another 16, told the BBC he feared his Filipina wife could be left "destitute and starving to death" when he died.
"I have contributed to the UK pension scheme for all those years and will qualify for a state pension. I did this so my wife would have some security when I finally pass away," he said.


Well, that's a nice way to repay years of service. (While you're at it, read the story of BritCits supporter and ex-serviceman Damar : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/damar-i-served-in-british-army-defended.html )

At a deeper level, this raises questions around the way the government's attack on -immigration-, and therefore -Brits who marry overseas spouses-, is also a fundamental attack on -citizenship itself-. As Nando Sigona says in his excellent piece - 'We need to talk about citizens' : http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/nando-sigona/uk-migration-policy-we-need-to-talk-about-citizens

'There is nevertheless an element of novelty to the way the new family rules, almost as a side effect, intervene and interfere in one of the most intimate and private spheres of a citizen’s life. This raises important questions concerning what exactly it is that the government assesses when evaluating the impact of immigration policy, and how it defines (rather narrowly) the ‘main affected groups’ in a way that consciously leaves aside an analysis of the unequal impacts of its measures on citizens and citizenship.'
Here's the thing about state pensions. The state pension -isn't- a benefit, still less as the Americans would clumsily term it, an -entitlement-. It is paid for by National Insurance.

In a nutshell with National Insurance - you pay into the system (through tax). You get back when you need it.

National Insurance was introduced and expanded by successive British governments in the early 20th century to create a new kind of social compact - one where every -citizen- had a stake in the country, and could depend on the country in their time of need. (Rather than, as in previous, darker ages, having to fall back on the workhouse or send your kids up the chimney, for instance).

Not the British way.

National Insurance was part of the new, democratic social contract which developed after the world wars - as Lloyd George (a real Liberal, not one of the current batch of pretend Liberals) put it, to make 'a country fit for heroes to live in'.

 A proper statesman.

Now, the government is chipping away at that, by denying the state pension to the widows and widowers of British citizens. The state pension that was paid for by National Insurance contributions of the SAME British citizens, who have simply exercised their rights to marry and found families with foreigners.

Remember, the National Insurance -isn't the property of the government-. The government merely holds it in trust, for British citizens who paid into it. Now the government is planning to -deny- the pension to the partners of those -very same- British citizens.

Would the government offer a tax rebate to British citizens with non-EEA partners who will not benefit from the tax the British citizen is paying? I think not! Yet that would be the consistent position for the government to take.

It's a breach of fiduciary duty; a bolder man would say it's tantamount to theft.

As with the introduction of rules which put a monetary value on family ( http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/introduction.html ); as with the spouses (e.g. http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/neil or http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/laura ), partners (e.g. http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/juliet ), children (e.g. http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/andy-my-poor-boys.html or http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/driss ), grandchildren (e.g. http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/anne ), elderly dependants (e.g. http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/anastasia ) of British citizens whose families are facing exile or family breakup ( http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/stories ). And of course, everyone -they- know too.

The current government is making profound and far-reaching decisions about who is and isn't a citizen, or entitled to the full rights of citizenship; people forced into exile ( http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/sean ) and driven to worse ( http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/rip ).

This is surely unsustainable and will fail, one way or the other. But in any event, in a profound way, the social contract has been broken.

It is difficult to see how the British government - maybe even the British state - can possibly hope to regain the loyalty and trust of those who it has abused so badly.

Why wouldn't these citizens - and their families, and friends - simply transfer their loyalties from Britain to, for instance, 'Europe' ( http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/another-resource-for-those-considering.html - http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/free-movement-to-ireland-this-is-one.html ). Because, after all, 'Europe' respects the rights of Britons and their families far more than the current British government does. The shining beacon of liberty on a hill, or across the water if you prefer.

Europa regina.

The silver lining is this, in one sentence :
"Where there is power, there is resistance". - Foucault

Every British citizen with non-EEA family becomes, almost by definition, an activist. This is going to be a large body of people indeed.

Because they can. And, with the Mail ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2300039/The-Government-forcing-I-married-foreigner-Husband-miss-birth-child-new-visa-rules.html ) and the Spectator ( http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8895331/fortress-britain/ ) covering cases of British citizens so abused, the penny -will- drop.

One final point - as this article ( http://www.myfinances.co.uk/pensions/2013/05/06/state-pension-loophole-for-overseas-claimants-to-be-closed ) says, ' the number of people who receive such payments has risen from 190,000 to 220,000 people'.

This, of course, is the way of the world - the world is becoming more global and more integrated, and in particular the UK is becoming more global, and more integrated. This visualisation of migration flows - http://peoplemov.in/ - shows the UK in the top 10 as -both- a source of emigration, and a destination for immigration (only Russia shares the honour of being in the top 10 for both categories).

And, as the Sun explained a few days ago ( http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/4909876/White-Britons-minority-by-2066-claim.html ), Britain is set to become the most diverse country in a few years. It will happen, because history is moving that way. Trying to stop it is like trying to control the sea.

The job of a responsible government is how to manage it, and how to adapt - the Berlin Wall approach, to legislate peoples lives, and loves, simply won't work in this century. This needs to be understood.

 Juggling on the Berlin Wall.

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