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| 2 minutes read

Risk and reward both possible as Johnson reaffirms ties to the British family

The last time a British government allowed an ex-colonial population access to the UK due to political unrest was in the early 1970s when East African Ugandan Indians were expelled under pain of death (or at least the threat of civil unrest and camps organised by military dictator and comical killer Idi Amin). That was an experiment that went very well, the East African Indians, by some measures, are the most successful immigrant population of the 20th Century, with a Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Home Secretary and an attorney general among their number. It is this historical precedent that Boris is looking to, that and a need for migrants post Brexit, and the hope that a large number of rich individuals will come to London to take advantage of the non-domiciled status that they will be eligible for to prop up the London top end housing market. At his core I do believe that Boris believes this is the right thing to do (even politicians occasionally believe things are the right thing to do), his sense of history and continuity of the British State make that entirely consistent with his other actions.

But there is risk here, as Tony Blair or Angela Merkel will tell you, a large and unexpected influx of outsiders can give odd political results. Merkel had the moral right of affording safe haven to hundreds of thousands on her side when she opened the borders in 2015, Blair was convinced the Eastern Europeans wouldn't come, but that protecting the freedom of movement was the right thing to do. The effects of their decisions are still being felt. 2.6 million Hong Kongers is a lot more than 27,000 Ugandan Indians, so the East African parallel may well not be as valid as people would like to think. In 1972 there was a pre-existing Indian community which could absorb the migrants, in 2020 the pre-existing British Chinese population is well established (the first full time resident was one William Macao of Edinburgh in 1779), but its 500,000 people would be dwarfed if the entire eligible population of Hong Kong took the offer.

Gibraltar may well see an influx of applications for its specialised tax statuses Category 2 and HEPSS, and it will undoubtedly be ready to play its part.

Doing the right thing is never easy. Mr Johnson may well learn that in coming months, but either way the Hong Kongers who do take up the offer will make Britain a stronger place for their presence.

In the Times on Wednesday, the prime minister confirmed that if China passes the law, people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports will be allowed to come to the UK for 12 months without a visa. Currently they are allowed to come for six months.

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