There is much more that Britain can do for Ukraine. We have done more than most: sent 2,000 anti-tank missiles and stationed troops in eastern Europe. But as thousands flee Kiev – not knowing if Putin will turn it into the next Grozny – there is something immediate and pretty profound that Britain can do: offer asylum.
The opportunity is to use Brexit powers of border control to allow anyone with a Ukrainian passport to settle here. Given that it wasn’t so long ago that we said the same to anyone with a Hungarian or Bulgarian passport without toppling over, it would be doable and a clear demonisation that Britain is an ally worth having. Our country is suffering an acute labour shortage, so the economics are right. But even if they weren’t, we are in a crisis where the notion of solidarity with allies is being tested.
The wave of Polish immigration – a stunning success – has shown well Britain can accommodate newcomers. A wave that started when Polish exiles from the Nazis helped defend Britain and then settled here. There’s no reason to believe that Ukrainian migrants would be any less successful.
This need not be complicated. Anyone with a Ukrainian passport ought to be allowed to stay here: for a year or two at first, longer if needed. The last twenty years have shown just how well Britain can handle this – we have the apparatus, the economic need and (through Putin’s war) the moral imperative.
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