April 10, 2017

Brexit 2019, what I expect, letter to my local MP, Mr Chris White (Warwick and Leamington)

Mr Chris White

MP for Warwick and Leamington

10 April 2017

Dear Mr White,

Let me introduce myself as Professor of Physics at the University of Warwick and a German citizen. I hold 3 doctorates from three different universities in 3 countries. My research experience has spanned three continents (USA 1989–1990, 1992–1994, India 1994–1995, Germany 1996–2002, UK 2002–present, China 2015-present). I am author of more than 160 scientific publications, have given more than 140 invited talks and made more than 80 conference presentations. I am Co-Editor of various scientific journals, serve as secretary and treasurer of the Institute of Physics’ Theory of Condensed Matter group, am external under- and postgraduate course examiner at UK and international universities, regularly review UK, EU and international grant proposals and have thus far organized 20+ conferences with national and international remit.

I am, I hope you agree, one of the those “highly skilled European workers” that the UK government wants to attract and retain after the recent decision to leave the EU by 2019. Let me therefore take this opportunity to outline to you what I expect to happen in the UKs negotiations with the EU for me to continue to consider the UK an attractive place to work and live. I hope that you will find the letter instructive since I think it highlights some of the complexities associated with the decision to leave the EU. I will concentrate purely on my personal family circumstances and note that the issue of the UK’s continued involvement in the EU’s research area has been brought to parliament’s attention by various previous routes.

In order to be specific, let me state that our family came to the UK in 2002 after I had been offered an academic position at Warwick. We accepted the offer particularly because of the attractiveness of an academic position inside the EU. My wife originates from a non-EU/EEA country and our daughter was 2 years old at the time of our arrival in the UK. We own a house (via a mortgage) in Warwick.

Residency

- At present, we reside in the UK due to the applicable EU treaties on free movement. I understand that these are likely to cease being applicable from 2019 onwards. It is therefore mandatory that the shape of any new residency regulations is being made public as soon as possible. I travel regularly, mostly work related, and it must be clear at least one year in advance of the UK’s leaving the EU in 2019 what other residency regulations will be put in place. If, for example, the UK would want current EU residents to apply for residency status under current or any future regulations, then this must be made clear as soon as possible. I note that no such guidance has been offered thus far, leading to contradictory and misleading advice from immigration lawyers. Let me also state that the current 85-page residency application document of the Home Office is not fit for service and its online version does, for example, not apply to my wife nor my daughter.

- I hope it is not necessary to point out that by leaving the EU, the UK has put itself in direct worldwide competition for academics with other countries. To illustrate the point, I am writing this letter while on a visiting professorship at a Chinese university.

Work

- I would expect to being able to continue to work in the UK under the same conditions as of now. I would not want to be made to reapply to my current position as part of any home office “crackdown on immigrants”, nor would I want to be subject to lengthy paperwork simply to continue doing the work I am already doing.

- My wife has been enjoying a full work permit since we came in 2002. She only started to work once our daughter was somewhat older, but she now regularly works in the local schools in the Warwick and Leamington Spa area. We would clearly expect her to be able to continue to work in the UK from 2019 onwards.

Social benefits

- In the initial years at Warwick, we received child benefit, but no other social benefits. After 15 years in the UK, with all taxes, national insurance, etc. paid, I expect that my family will be able to enjoy all benefits of a UK national in a similar situation. This is, in particular, in the hopefully unlikely situation, that we would need to apply for jobseeker and/or similar such benefits in the future.

- We currently enjoy full access to the NHS’ services. I had little need to use these until a motorbike accident last year. I would expect that we will continue to have full access to the NHS without additional payment or restrictions.

- Furthermore, as part of the current EU membership privileges of the UK, were we to move back to Germany, our contributions to the UK’s social benefits would be counted towards any potential such benefits in Germany. I would expect that this agreement continues to be honored by both sides after 2019.

Access to education

- Our daughter is currently in her penultimate year at A level, set to graduate in 2018. She will then look for a place at a university. At present, we are considering UK, German and other EU universities. She has a German but no UK passport. We are now concerned that (i) she might have to pay higher university fees in the UK if she were to stay here. Or, (ii) if she were to go and study in the EU, whether she will be able to return to the UK after her 4-5 years abroad? Obviously, we feel strongly that being able for our daughter to continue to come back to the UK after her studies abroad is a crucial issue determining our future in the UK as a family.

Pension

- We do enjoy living in the UK at present. However, upon retirement in 15+ years, we might very well want to return to Germany or indeed, my wife’s home. At present, EU regulations safeguard my pension rights in Germany and the UK. I would want to see that these regulations are being kept and safeguarded for any current EU national in the UK.

- In order to contribute towards my family’s financial security and to supplement our retirement, I have been contributing to a life insurance in Germany since the mid-1990s. It is my understanding that it is current EU law which enables insurance providers to offer their services across EU boundaries. I fear that the insurance company might take the opportunity to cancel the contract when the UK leaves the EU in 2019 (which would be financially beneficial to them). I am therefore asking you to make sure that such existing contracts are being safeguarded in the Brexit negotiations.

Citizenship and disenfranchisement

- Until now, we EU citizen in the UK were welcomed as fellow EU citizen, giving us shared rights and responsibilities. I fear that upon leaving the EU, we will revert to being “foreigners”, or, indeed, “immigrants”. It must be clear that for people with choice of their destination, this is not an acceptable long-term situation. The UK should therefore think hard and innovatively about a way to make such people welcome. If we were to be offered, for example, a quick and easy route to UK citizenship, we would most likely take it. However, the present such system is not attractive as it seems designed to keep people out rather than to welcoming them in.

- The current 3 million EU citizen in the UK are most likely to stay in the UK at least in the short-term. This is already clear from the UK’s need to safeguard its own citizen now in the EU. However, the long-term perspective is less clear. Allow me, as a German national, to suggest that Germany’s treatment of its own, mostly Turkish, immigrant population has not been beneficial to either party. In particular, Germany’s reluctance to grant quick and easy access to citizenship status has led to a core of disenfranchised German-born nominally non-Germans living somewhat isolated in the heart of Germany. The UK would do well to avoid this trap. In this context, I would find it useful if continued voting rights in local elections could be extended to EU citizen in the UK. It is practice at present, has led to no discernible loss of democracy or large-scale local power shifts that I am aware of and is a great way to engage EU citizen in their local communities. Indeed, my wife, as citizen of a Commonwealth country, enjoys already much more inclusive voting rights.

- I have been distressed that, after the Brexit vote last year, parliament has yet to engage with EU citizens in the UK in a broad and inclusive manner. While much importance had been attached to calls for evidence from parliament on the impact of the Brexit vote for UK businesses, UK financial services and UK higher education institutions, I am yet to see a proactive initiative by parliament and, indeed, you as a local MP, to directly engage with the 3M EU citizens currently in your care. This lack of interest does not bode well for the future.

The UK decided to leave the EU. I respect that decision although I did not wish for it to happen. It is now the UK’s responsibility to make sure it has an offer in place to make it attractive for my family to remain after 2019. Such an offer should be in place soon. We will of course follow the EU-UK negotiations with interest, but our family’s future will be decided by how quickly, fairly and welcoming the UK engages with us as current residents and, hopefully, valuable assets it wishes to retain.

Yours faithfully,

Rudolf A Roemer

Professor

PhD, Dr. rer. nat. habil., DSc, FInstP


January 09, 2017

A personal view and explanation of the EU rules on free movement

Writing about web page http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=457

The free movement of EU nationals has in recent years come under increasing scrutiny due to alleged misuses and the rise of the immigration issue. Indeed, it was a central theme of the Brexit campaigns run in the UK with themes such as "take back control of our frontiers". It was quite surprising to me to find that in the discussions leading to and even after the Brexit vote in the UK, the rationale for the freedom of movement, as one of the "four freedoms of the EU", was never fully explained to sceptical voters. In this blog, I will try to give my reasons as to why I see freedom of movement indeed as central to the European idea and an essential part of the other three freedoms.

Let me start by recalling what the four freedoms actually are:

[1] free movement of goods. "Goods", i.e. things that have to be grown or made, can be manufactured anywhere in the EU and sold at any other place in the EU without internal custom tariffs.

[2] freedom of movement for workers. This guarantees every EU citizen in pursuit of a job the right to move freely, to stay and to work in another member state with the right to be treated on equal footing as nationals of their chosen member state.

[3] freedom to provide (and establish) services. "Services" covers a wide field, but for our purposes it suffices to say it encompasses all services that a modern civic society might need, such as e,g, insurance, repairs, warranty, health, etc.

[4] free movement of capital. Largely, this deals with the movement of finances and their services across national boundaries.

Why does the EU need these four freedoms and could one imagine an EU without some or parts of these?

Free movement of goods is not sufficient: Fundamentally, the freedom of goods is what the EU started with in the 1950s, albeit with a much reduced set of goods. Some people argue that a free movement of goods would be sufficient for a European community. However, it should be immediately obvious that this is not the case. Once you have been able to sell your goods across a national boundary, you surely would want to bring at least some of the profits back home. If there was no free movement of capital, this would usually lead to additional charges, such as in the case of trading according to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, cutting profits and making investment hard. Therefore freedom 1 implies freedom 4.

Free movement of goods and capital is not sufficient either: Now imagine that you are selling a product across a national boundary (such as, e.g., a car or a TV set or a shirt). Eventually, you will need to service your product. Indeed, much of your profit margin might even lie in this service aspect of your product. However, without the freedom to provide and establish services, this would again be much harder. Your service for your, e.g. TV set, would without freedom 3 be substandard to your competitors in the country your are selling your product since you cannot provide your service and have to reply with lengthy postal/delivery delays or use an alternative service provider.

Now imagine a EU in which only freedoms 1, 3 and 4 hold, i.e. everything but no freedom of movement. Suppose you manufacture jam and scones. Another EU competitor can, via freedom 1, provide these as well and also sell them in your country via, e.g., a franchise system using freedom 3. Since all trade barriers have fallen, the competitors costs are the same as yours and, since they are more productive (for whatever local reasons), they make more profit which they can easily take back into their home EU country. If this is the case, you will eventually go bankrupt.

This is where freedom 2, the freedom of movement, helps. You can take advantage of the same local productivity gains as your competitor by moving into the same local region. Perhaps your competitor was closer to the fruit-rich areas, perhaps they had land with higher potato yield. No matter, you can do the same and move there. If your role in the jam-and-scones business was as employee, then freedom of movement allows you to go to the more competitive manufacturer in the other EU country and apply for a position there. You do not have to take the decline of your local jam-and-scones business without any options, because of freedom of movement.

Now, I agree that the examples provided above are simple. However, I think they are correct in providing the essential rationale for why only all four freedoms can provide a fair and stable European "community" market. It appears simply impossible to me to take away one of the four freedoms without jeopardizing the whole edifice. Last, one can obviously trade between countries and move goods and services as well as capital with countries that are not part of the EU. However, this is much harder to do and there are obstacles nearly everywhere along the way.


October 10, 2016

Letter to Chris White, MP for Warwick and Leamington

Writing about web page http://www.notforeign.com/

Xenophobia in Britain and at the conservative party conference

Dear Chris,

I was appalled to hear Theresa May’s party speech last week in which she derided “citizens of nowhere” and suggested that “foreigners” would only be able to stay until “home grown” replacements could be trained. I was even more appalled by plans of the home office to force companies to “list” their foreign workers to government under proposals announced last week.

Foreign nationals, such as myself, make an enormous contribution to this country’s culture, economy, and society. We have long helped to shape its common heritage and identity. We are not a separate caste in society – we are your friends, partners, colleagues, and neighbours. A country robbed of these people is a poorer country in every sense: we are a part of who the UK is.

I am sure you are as appalled by this populistic rhetoric as I am. By choosing race and ethnicity as the marker of who belongs and who does not, Theresa May and the current UK government are indulging in xenophobia. As the children and grandchildren of those who fought fascism, you and I, as a German national in whose country the nazis where allowed to rise on similar rhetoric, both have a duty, in defence of our shared humanity, to resist state sanctioned discrimination based on nationality and to condemn policies that seek to restrict the rights and freedoms of citizenship to those who subscribe to an exclusive ethnic or national identity.

I therefore call upon you to express your dissatisfaction to the government’s bitter, racist and divisive language. And hope you will support me in calling on all of those who support an open, tolerant and inclusive vision of our country to join together, in solidarity, to oppose the racist actions of this government over the past week.

With my best regards,
--
Rudolf A. Roemer


April 15, 2016

Please vote in the upcoming EU referendum – and I suggest you vote for the #UKtoStay

Dear students and tutees,

Please vote in the upcoming EU referendum – and I suggest you vote for the #UKtoStay

Today I am writing to encourage you to register (if you have not yet done so) and to vote in the upcoming referendum on the UK’s future membership in the UK. I am taking what you might initially think is an unusual step for your physics tutor and supervisor, but I genuinely believe this vote and decision to be important to you personally as a physicist and to all of us as scientists in the UK.

You, as recent alumni or current student at Warwick, are among those with most to gain if we remain and most to lose if the UK were to leave the EU. Your university degree will enable you to make the most of the opportunities offered in the EU. With a BSc, MPhys, MSc or PhD, now recognized everywhere in the EU, you can access jobs all across the EU – and you can do so with the certainty that your social benefits, your employee rights and your pension will be safeguarded across borders.

In fact, the EU has been working hard in the last decades to make sure that people are at the heart of EU regulations. In my lifetime, I have seen border crossings become welcome centres, costs for financial transactions, telephone and mobile phone calls across EU countries come down, air passenger rights strengthened, safety regulations unified, workers and human rights strengthened and many more. And all this has happened in a fair and largely transparent procedure – certainly at least as fair and transparent as any other democratic government process in individual member states.

As scientists, we encourage our students to work in teams, because team work, openness, trust and fairness are at the heart of science. The EU, with its previous research framework programs and it current Horizon2020 programmes, has been steadily building the case for team work in science and industry across national boundaries in the EU. We in the UK are among the leading beneficiaries of this, not just in the overall amount of funds coming into the country, but also because of the opportunities created by this to us as physicists to engage with partners across the EU and to mutually learn from each other.

I do not wish to comment on individual cost/benefit analyses/opinions offered in the newspapers and news programmes on TV. My own gut feeling is that while there will certainly be some people economically benefitting from the UK leaving, the vast majority of UK citizens will lose out. I reckon on a roughly 20% winners, 80% losers scenario, especially in the long run. Clearly, some of the UK’s most important industrial institutions have warned repeatedly about the dangers to the UK economy if we were to leave.

However, I also think that such a purely economic argument is missing the point: our world is increasingly growing together. When I grew up in the 70/80’s, a phone call to the US was an expensive undertaking, a trip to Asia a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Holidays, if they went abroad at all, were to neighbouring countries. Nowadays, many of you have already travelled to different continents and student fundraisers routinely tend to get to southern Europe. Calls across the globe are down to pennies a minutes while skype/whatsapp/etc reduce costs even for videoconferencing to nearly nil – our world is indeed more interconnected and the speed of the process is getting faster. However, such an interconnected world must make sure that all people are treated fairly and have similar rights. Just as the UN is an important part of this process, so is the EU – making sure that fairness and people’s rights are respected across Europe and the world.

So, as a final word, please think hard about your vote, then go and vote – this is a decision you want to make sure you had your opinion heard and registered!

PS: Of course I’d be happy to discuss in more detail with each and every one of you, just let me know. And yes, I am German and have been happily working and living as a German/EU immigrant in this country for 14 years.


Rudolf A. Roemer
Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK www.warwick.ac.uk/go/rudoroemer, +44 7984 353749


March 11, 2016

The CSC cloud service

Follow-up to Dropbox on the CSC linux machines from Rudo's blog

Please note that CSC does not allow DropBox installations on CSC machines. They offer an alternative service, cloud.csc.warwick.ac.uk. Please follow guidelines on that web page if you wish to use the CSC cloud.


May 06, 2011

New CISCO app for connection to the CISCO UoW VPN

Follow-up to iPad and the CISCO VPN at Warwick from Rudo's blog

Graeme Leng-Ward from our libraries data services pointed out to me that there is now an official procedure on the IT Services website for downloading the Cisco AnyConnect client from the Apple “App Store” and then following the VPN set up instructions on http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/its/servicessupport/networkservices/vpn/faqs/anyconnect/iphone_client_install

Hence IT Services will not now give out the "group name" and "group password/secret" from their helpdesk for use with the preinstalled iPad IPSEC Cisco client. The method described earlier does not work because you can't get the group/secret info any more - though if you already have the group name/secret then it still does work.


November 26, 2010

iPad and the CISCO VPN at Warwick

Follow-up to iPad after 3 months from Rudo's blog

When you want to use the Warwick Virtual Private Network (VPN), for example in order to access library or online journals with the same privileges as if you would be on campus, then this now works! However, unlike the instructions for desktops, it is not enough to point your iPad's safari browser to vpn.warwick.ac.uk. Instead, we can use the preinstalled iPad IPSEC Cisco client (go to "Settings", "General", "VPN").

For the IPSEC VPN client to work, you need to obtain from ITS (via helpdesk) the "group name" and "group password/secret". Then use the standard server vpn.warwick.ac.uk, type in your ITS user id and connect.

After a few seconds, you will be asked your ITS username (prefilled) and password, then a dialog appears asking you to confirm. Done! And now enjoy browsing that 20 page research PDF from Nature/Science while on the beach ;-)


October 06, 2010

iPad after 3 months

Follow-up to recently installed iPad apps from Rudo's blog

This blog has been quiet and you may have wondered: is he still using the iPad? Well, I think my Physics colleagues would have been able to answer this rather affirmatively! They make jokes about the iPad slowly becoming part of my body (not true!).

But seriously, yes, it is moving evermore into the centre of things. Let me give you some examples:

[1] Went to an international conference in Mexico where I was organizer and had to give a talk. Used [Keynote] for the talk. All went well, never missed my laptop at all!

[2] I now tend to give all science talks using the iPad, will do so again this Friday in Leeds. No more laptop for me to carry.

[3] Actually, with the iPad, and its nearly seamless integration via MS eXchange with calendars, emails, contacts, etc. who still needs a smartphone? I have an old HTC smartphone and was sort of desperate for an updated version, but now, this seems much less needed. The only thing I really use the phone for is the talking bit and really I do not do very much of it on the mobile anyhow (yes, sad life, I know).

[4] Am giving lectures with the iPad. Not using [Keynote], but simply displaying PDFs via [GoodReader].

[5] [GoodReader] now allows marking/highlighting/etc in PDFs, so great to go thru papers, theses, reports, etc. Then just mail them back to your students/colleagues/etc.

[6] I still read a lot on the iPad, mostly for pleasure when there is time. With [Stanza], [iBooks] and [Kindle], there is hardly any book (ok, this comment is for the English language readers) which is not available!

So overall, this is an excellent device which reduces the weight of things to carry around while offering nearly all of the flexibility of the laptop. Let's see how I think about it after the term has finished!


July 31, 2010

recently installed iPad apps

Follow-up to iPad on a holiday from Rudo's blog

Some more info on useful apps:

[App Tracker] Free app which allows better browsing of the available apps than the Apple App Store.

[Air Sharing HD] App which allows access to many file-transfer protocols and sites, including SFTP. Hence this allows access to files which are behind proper SSL/SSH/SFTP/FTP-SSL controls. A bit cluncky when dealing with the files, but certainly allows access to files on the CSC servers.

[Periodic Table] Nice and quick summary of properties of all elements in the periodic table. Good reference.

[Dictation] Converts speech to text which can then be used (mostly copied) into other applications. Not sure this is really useful for me, my German accent is clearly a challenge for it.

[iFractal] Plots Mandelbrot and associated Julia sets. Allows "pan and zoom" to zoom into the images. Nice to show the beauty of fractals (to my 10 year old daughter).

[Molecules] PDB viewer for large protein structures. Quick and allows download of .pdb files from the Protein Databank.

[Clinometer] Does what is says on the tin, nicely and graphically: measures angles and inclinations.

[3D Sun] Download past and "current" (from today) images of the sun. Beautiful images and movies of sun flares and more. Should be a runner for our CFSA people.

[FreeFTP] converts the iPad into a Wifi FTP server for quick and easy (if on the same Wifi network) access to data.


iPad on a holiday

Follow-up to iPad, one month on from Rudo's blog

I took the iPad with me on a holiday (lovely, thanks). Loaded it up with (i) work stuff such as PDFs and (ii) in-flight entertainment such as movies, podcasts and songs and also (iii) books.

On the plane, the iPad was *much* better than any laptop. It is so small and slim that it is no problem to take out of a bag when sitting down and quickly back in after landing. During the flight, it easily fits into the seat-storage. The flight-mode setting is also easily accessible. Watching movies/podcats/etc during the flight is easy, the iPad can be held in various positions which makes the whole experience very enjoyable. Same during the airport waiting times. A bit of a problem since Wifi was not available, so the initial download of data was needed.

During the holidays, it was a great advantage to have just one iPad and not many heavy books and papers to carry. Read a 500+ pages book (Lee Smolin, "Trouble with Physics") and half a dozen scientific papers (PDFs). All worked great and was a pleasure.

No Wifi during all of the 7 days of the trip, but had downloaded enough off-line content before to be quite content.

Summary: the iPad is great for travel, particularly when you need to read manuscripts, papers and more as well as books.


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