As the row over EU nationals dominates the opening of the Brexit negotiations, Theresa May is once again coming under attack for her refusal to offer them a unilateral guarantee that they be “allowed to stay”.
George Osborne has just alleged, via his newspaper, that the then-Home Secretary single-handedly stopped David Cameron from doing so in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote.
With the EU’s negotiators taking a dim view of what the Government considers to be a “big and generous” offer, the idea seems to be developing that the Prime Minister could have avoided the whole row by taking the high and generous path in the first place.
Yet this is not the case. In fact, by exposing the depth and complexity of the issues at involved the current dispute actually suggests three important countervailing points: that a broad-strokes guarantee would not have avoided the present showdown; that the EU made working out a detailed guarantee before now basically impossible; and that such concessions would have been an extremely ineffective, even counter-productive, negotiating tactic.
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